By Zaffar Iqbal
Srinagar, Aug 23 (IANS) For the last fortnight, the Sarovar hotel at Durganag in Srinagar has emerged as a window to report Kashmir to the world for journalists working for local, national and international media organisations, in the midst of a communications lockdown in the valley.
A media centre has been set up by the government in the basement of the hotel to facilitate reporting out of the valley after a communications blockade was imposed in Kashmir.
The media centre initially armed with four internet-enabled computer terminals and a mobile phone for voice calls has two more terminals added to it, one exclusively for women journalists.
“We have added more terminals to help the media centre to cater to the needs of the journalists, senior officers of the state information department are present all the time at the centre to ensure that journalists don’t face any problems,” said Sehrish Asghar, Director, Information, Jammu and Kashmir.
But journalists complain that they are constantly facing a problem of slow internet at the media centre and there is no wi-fi connectivity which has restricted the working of the journalists.
There are long lines of journalists waiting for their turns at the terminals to access the internet for filing their stories.
“Journalists are facing a lot of problems, we are not able to send our stories to Delhi, we request the state and central governments to let us do our work, the media centre is not enough, we need the internet to be restored in our offices,” said Saleem Pandit, senior journalist with the Times of India.
And the media centre just doesn’t cater to the journalists of capital Srinagar, but it is the only hope for journalists from other districts of the Kashmir Valley as well.
“They should expand the facilities and extend those to journalists from other districts as well and restore the mobile phone connections, if not of all the journalists, at least for the accredited journalists,” said Fareed Mir, Bureau Chief J&K, Times Now.
But it is not just reporting, the buzzing media centre has helped journalists thronging in large numbers to band together and talk and chat about the present situation.
For many journalists the mobile phones in the media centre are the only way to make calls to their head offices.
“The media centre is a great platform for journalists to come together and chat about issues in Kashmir, we can make phone calls and by virtue of the media centre stay in touch with our head office and relatives outside Kashmir,” said Zahid Wafai, cameraman for a national news channel.
The media centre is also the venue for daily government briefings. Senior civil and police officers brief the journalists in the media centre only.
Clearly, the media centre is emerging as the information and communication centre for reporting Kashmir to audiences across the world in the absence of all forms of connectivity.