Our society today faces a collective challenge of unprecedented proportions, the likes of which can hardly be seen in recent history. A virus that has disrupted everything that was taken as ‘normal’ earlier, has spread amongst us.
When all of this is over, hopefully, the world may not necessarily be the same. Whether for good or worse, remains to be seen.
Reminiscent of our very recent past, medical professionals today are at the front-lines of another war forced upon the people. In times like these, authentic information is necessary. Information that helps make sense of things. Information that allows us to critically look at issues, not a top down briefing from the powers that be, which cannot be questioned. But a bottom up approach, where everyday stories are used to see the gaping holes in the structure we live in.
Kashmir has been under a complete clampdown and an information blockade since August 5, 2019, when the Government of India unanimously scrapped the autonomy of the region.
As phone services have been restored, internet is still censored.
With zero income, thousands of online and offline businesses have been forced to shut down. It is no different for news organisations which depend on a healthy market and are driven by advertisement models of revenue. Today the market economy stands decimated.
While this has been the norm in Kashmir for sometime now, it is in this scenario that Free Press Kashmir (FPK) was launched eight years back, and relaunched amid internet shutdown in 2017. August 2019 came as a near death-blow, and the current pandemic has only made things worse.
Threat to independent media that questions the official narratives is a trend growing worldwide, in Kashmir, the problems compound. Governments around the world are using the COVID crises to do things now that remain unquestioned, and Kashmir is no exception.
Today, a free press is more important than ever, with regards to authentic information about the healthcare crises, how to keep yourself safe, and combating misinformation. Authentic information that helps add clarity, and not add to the confusion, is the need.
World media has always looked at Kashmir through a breaking news lens, and press in India toes the official line that is deeply problematic. It is the local news which has represented authentic Kashmiri voices, and maintained reportage of credibility under testing times. And it is this that we need now, more than ever.
Our readers who have been following our work, are well aware that the FPK newsroom has reported on positives, while not ignoring the elephant in the room. Covering the raging conflict that has devastated lives, FPK has not ignored positive aspects of life in Kashmir, including stories of success in academics, sports and entrepreneurship.
The nuances of debate that celebrate success and positivity as resilience that comes from within, and not as cloaking the ugliness of the conflict, that comes from outside to show a fake normalcy, has been an editorial policy that is carefully crafted, and debated in our opinions section.
After a forced closure in August, 2019, when a complete information blackout was imposed, our team is back, regrouped to tell stories that matter. We had to change our domain from .com to .news due to immense damage to not just our revenue model, but our digital properties too.
And now, with another monster at our doorstep, new battle lines may have to be drawn, new alliances made, and a new way to function imagined.
We urge our readers to be a part of the process, and help us tell stories that are important, that matter, and must be told, and retold.
The Free Press Kashmir team.