Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Free Press in a Free World

Saleem has found his calling

(Mr. Saleem Iqbal Qadri, 24, was born in Duroo, Sopore. He did his schooling in the Government Higher Secondary School in Sopore, and is currently a student in the Government Degree College in Baramulla, studying for the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Journalism.)

Journalism and Democracy

In any democratic set up, there are three types of identities: the politicians, the public, and the publication. The three elite “P’s” of the democratic process which, through their correlation with each other, make modern democracy unique compared to other political philosophies. The relationship between the politician and the public, through the media and journalism particularly, is distinctive in a democracy, and has a very special connection with the electoral process, which separates true democracies from imitations. Remember, even the USSR had elections, but that certainly did not make them a democracy. Liberated media is fundamentally crucial in genuine democratic societies because it practices the theory of including the public in governmental affairs and commemorates the democratic idea that reality can only be relative and truth and facts are to be deemed authentic by individuals, not administrators.

Journalism is necessary because direct democracy is obsolete. People do not really have a say in modern democracy, aside from their vote, unless they are a politician themselves. Journalism serves as a window; however it could be rose coloured glass, to the bureaucracy that is democratic process. From there you can see what polices and philosophies you buy into. Journalism, relating to the politicians, is the glass display counter that lets the audience see what kind of watches there are to buy. Some are fake and some are real. You buy the one you like, but in an eerie “twilight zone” plot twist, the appreciated watches stay under the display, and the under appreciated watches disappear. The average man is discreetly unconnected in a democracy, his opinions and beliefs have no real influence on anything. The only real reason there is journalism in a democracy is so the average man is aware that there is an election, so he can vote!

And to vote for whom, largely depends on which newspaper and journalist you subscribe to. While politics might make up less than a quarter of a newspaper, make no mistake, journalism is the advertising agency of politicians. The rest is simply marketable brain fodder.

Journalists serve as cocaine dealers. But also the wholesaler and retailer. If journalism was like a cocaine supply trade, journalism would be the “internal supply chain”, consisting of purchasing, producing, and distribution. Cocaine, consisting of interviews, government “leaks”, and alleged scandals would be bought at a low price, refined with sweetener, and sold to the men, women, and bloggers of the country. To be a journalist is to have the freedom to modify the raw facts given from sources, to change information so that the audience can see the world from different perspectives. Journalists have the freedom, and should be encouraged, to have and publish their own opinions because many journalists lack the courage to have diverse opinions in publications, also by ignoring and un-publishing individual opinions, free journalism and press would become futile.

The main difference between a democratic and non- democratic country is not determined by elections, but by how free their journalists are.

Journalism is an anarchist dimension where individuals can choose to relay the truth, or make their own. Governments don’t need free press, but free journalism needs democracy. Free journalism is simply impossible without one. A democracy would be unattainable without attempting to include the public into governmental affairs. A French novelist once said, “Free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.” Journalism, for better or for worse, is the best example of the freedom of individuals and the importance of free thought in a democracy.

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