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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

During blackout, radio was the only news source

On August 5, as union home minister Amit Shah announced the government’s decision to nullify Article 370 that provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the state was put under a lockdown; mobile phone services and internet services are currently available in limited areas.

india Updated: Aug 13, 2019 01:12 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Security personnel stop Muslims for questioning during a lockdown in Srinagar on August 12, 2019.
Security personnel stop Muslims for questioning during a lockdown in Srinagar on August 12, 2019.(Reuters)
         

Armed with microphones and digital recorders, 95 teams from Radio Kashmir (owned by Prasar Bharti) hit the ground every day in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh bringing not only news from the ground to the people outside, but also helping build a bridge with the people in the state, currently under a lockdown.

On August 5, as union home minister Amit Shah announced the government’s decision to nullify Article 370 that provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the state was put under a lockdown; mobile phone services and internet services are currently available in limited areas.

“In such circumstances, with limited means of communication, it is the humble radio that is helping connect people,” said an official on condition of anonymity.

The official said radio broadcast are helping people stay abreast with developments vis-à-vis the state’s transformation to a union territory. “Fortunately, radio broadcasts are still considered as credible sources of information. And what it is helping do is create an information highway; people are getting news updates and there are programmes aimed at addressing concerns that the locals in the three regions, particularly in Kashmir, have about the abrogation of Article 370,” the official said.

Radio Kashmir in Srinagar and Jammu has unbroken reach across both the divisions through Medium Wave and FM. Started as a counter to the propaganda emanating over the airwaves from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Radio Kashmir has started dial-in programmes where Kashmiris outside the state call in to share their experiences of living away from the region.

“We’ve had callers from Asansol, from Bangalore, from Chennai reaching out with messages to people in the region. Post the reorganisation, we have lessened studio based activities and swung into action with roving microphones and mobile digital recording apparatus, capturing words and voices as they emanate,” the official said.

The broadcast of important speeches and announcements, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation on the reorganisation of the state, have been translated and aired in local languages Kashmiri, Gojri, Dogri and Boti for wider dissemination.

Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, of which AIR and Doordarshan are broadcast arms, has also amped up the service to counter fake or incorrect news from the ground. After a few broadcasts on foreign television channels showed instances of stone pelting in Kashmir, its Prasar Bharati News Service posted updates from the ground with statements, pictures and videos to deny the news.

“We are totally focused on providing real time news from teams on the ground in all three regions. Through Free-Dish set top boxes (Doordarshan DTH) that were given out recently, people can keep abreast with the news on AIR as well as DD,” said Shashi Shekhar Vempanti, CEO of PB.

One of the foreign reports was by the BBC, which issued a statement saying it stood by its reporting. “…we strongly refute any claims that we have misrepresented events in Kashmir. We are covering the situation impartially and accurately. Like other broadcasters, we are currently operating under severe restrictions in Kashmir, but we will continue to report what is happening,” the broadcaster reported.

First Published: Aug 13, 2019 00:07 IST

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