Reporting from within a conflict zone requires an extra amount of effort and understanding to ensure that news is set in a proper context and perspective, to avoid misinformation and spreading rumours.
The two-decade long conflict in the Indian administered region of Kashmir has an impact on everything for people living there, from education to general lifestyle, and the field of journalism is no exception.
Over the years, more women have begun to register their presence in the field of journalism for a number of
reasons, and Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF) spoke to some of these journalists to explore how and why they have taken up this work, and the challenges they face.
Afsana Bhat has been reporting in Kashmir for around 15 years, and believes it has helped her to better understand general issues and to engage socially.
“Reporting helped me to know about many things in detail. It has both merits and demerits but in the end it matters how you report, and to me it has never been gender specific,” she said.
“Reporting in conflict is in fact never tough provided you report without taking sides or churning it into an opinionated piece. Besides, you have to not only report the story but stand by it,” she added
Keeping yourself separate from the story is the real test, according to Afsana: “Just report it – but don’t be a part of it.”
Reporting beyong breaking news
Aaliya Bashir has over seven year experience in the field, reporting mostly on women’s and developmental issues for both national and international media.
“Reporting in Kashmir gave me an insight into delving into the personal lives of people and reporting beyond the breaking news,” said Bashir.
“As a women journalist based in Kashmir, I have been able to look at the different issues through a gender lens. Women sources have been often subjected to domestic violence and rapes in Kashmir.
“Often times environment, business, education, sports technology and politics have been stereotyped and completely dominated by men, but my sincere efforts have always been to break this cliché and at least try to change the mindset and report.”
“Throughout my career, I have seen women being silenced, and that’s why I decided to give them a voice through my work.”
Social media: “opening up a space”
Sana Altaf, currently working in Dubai, has reported extensively from the valley and has remained in constant touch with the reality on the ground.
Sana has also received an award for best conflict reporting in women issues.
“As a female reporter I was able to explore different aspects of women’s issues in this conflict region,” she told
DCMF, adding “this helped me in extensively covering women issues in Kashmir for national and international media.”
“I worked for six years in Kashmir and at present I am working as a web journalist in Dubai,” she said.
“I think it has become easier as people and youth are much more aware about the power of media. Social media had opened up a space for Kashmiris who are eager to share their stories.”
Fareed Ahmad Rafiqui, an assistant professor at the University of Kashmir’s department of law, spoke to DCMF about his take on females working as journalists in the valley.
“I am very glad to see young girls coming up on the front and recording statements. This to me is very important as certain voices are almost silenced in the milieu of conflict, and women can bring that out very effectively,” said Fareed.
“In every conflict zone women are the worst sufferers and if they come up in light and make their stories public, nothing can stop the truth to come out,” he added.
Women’s contribution to reporting the conflict
Nayeema Akhter, a high school teacher who has witnessed the conflict very closely, said that she wants to record her ordeal, and believes that women can actually report such stories with a more humane touch and sympathy.
“Women can relate to atrocities, injustice done to other women and hence can come up with a more informed piece rather than just citing facts and figures,” she said.
In a nutshell women have heavily contributed to reporting from this conflict zone, and one reporter, Aasiya Geelani even lost her life while covering elections in 2004.
Despite these obvious risks and the threats associated with reporting from Kashmir, there has been a trend in recent years that has seen more women and young girls taking up journalism, writing or broadcasting their stories with the aim of getting their voices heard.