Falling Short: Untrained Digital Journalists Undermine Media Integrity In AJK

Digital media plays vital role in informing people but due to the lack of proper training, journalistic ethics are being significantly impacted.

Falling Short: Untrained Digital Journalists Undermine Media Integrity In AJK

For the past several decades the quality of journalism in Azad Kashmir has been on the decline. This decline can be attributed to individuals who, without proper training and understanding of journalism, purchase microphones from the market for few rupees, hold mobile devices in their hands, and consider themselves journalists.

This freedom has been granted to them by digital media. There is no doubt that digital media is playing a vital role in informing people at this time. However, due to the lack of proper training, journalistic ethics are being significantly impacted. When traditional media moved to the internet, many unregistered online pages started popping up. These pages having odd names began sharing news-like content. 

However, they didn't follow the established standards of journalism. This situation has raised worries about the reliability of online news and emphasizes the significance of keeping a check on these unregulated platforms in the digital media world of AJK.

The pages operate with a level of anonymity, making it difficult to determine their ownership or management. This lack of transparency adds to the challenge of identifying the individuals responsible for running these pages and establishing any form of communication with them.

Raja Usama Zain Khan who is the news anchor at the online channel Domel News said that he always make an effort to gather any upcoming news from all available sources and thoroughly cross-verify the information to ensure its accuracy. The aim is to avoid stating anything incorrect or based on falsehood that could harm anyone's reputation. Their complete endeavor is to refrain from engaging in unethical journalism like some other pages do.

“If false information is accidentally published by us, our immediate effort is to follow up with a correction post." He added.

A school teacher, Manzoor, said that some time ago a so called news page run by unknown person spread false news about him on Facebook without verification or evidence. The post portrayed him in a negative light, making baseless allegations against his character and actions. When he reported this, an investigation was conducted, but no evidence could substantiate the claims.  

"My entire family and I went through a challenging ordeal, dealing with false accusations and defamation. When I lodged a formal complaint at the police station to investigate the matter, no proof was discovered to support the claims made against me. Interestingly, the news had been removed from that page shortly after I filed the complaint." He concluded.

Muhammad Din Mughal, commonly known as MD Mughal, serves as the CEO of MD Production digital channel. He has also initiated journalistic work on his page under his own name. Speaking with him, he highlighted the challenges associated with journalistic practice amidst the digital media landscape, where new opportunities have emerged. He highlighted the changing patterns in the digital media landscape and the unique types of digital journalism resulting from the widespread use of online platforms and recent advancements in digital communication. Additionally, he talked about the necessary skills and qualifications for journalists skilled in creating online news, taking into account the ever-changing nature of contemporary digital journalism.

" I like to prioritize adherence to journalistic language and ethical standards in my work. I don't rush to share news, whether it's sensational or breaking, unless I'm certain about its accuracy. When working on a feature or news story, I start by gathering essential information following the appropriate guidelines. Once I have all the necessary details, I put together the story and frequently include video interviews.”MD said.

Mubashar Naqvi, a Media Scholar, academic, and prolific writer from Muzaffarabad, has devoted his research to exploring the multifaceted dimensions of journalism in the divided regions of Jammu and Kashmir. He emphasizes the pivotal role that journalism plays in conflict zones, underscoring the necessity for journalists operating in such areas to receive comprehensive professional training, aligning their practices with modern standards.

"Regrettably, in Azad Kashmir, much like other facets of life, journalism still clings to traditional approaches. However, the realm of journalism has not remained impervious to the sweeping technological advancements, with a gradual shift from print media towards the burgeoning domain of digital journalism. Consequently, individuals unfamiliar with the requisite skillset for contemporary communication are progressively finding themselves marginalized." – Naqvi expressed.

He said that the critical challenge lies in the lack of access to proficient trainers who can impart the essential skills, alongside an absence of institutions equipped to deliver effective technology-centric training. While certain universities in the state have initiated mass communication programs featuring media education at the undergraduate level, the pressing need remains for instructors with practical industry experience. These instructors should be capable of aligning their teaching with the demands of the market while also anticipating and accommodating future requirements.

The conversation took place with the Chief Editor of Parliament Times newspaper Javed Iqbal to understand the reasons behind these issues. During the discussion, he explained that Azad Kashmir is a disputed region, and here online journalism is not managed properly. Furthermore, there is also a shortage of professional individuals in this area.

While giving an example, he emphasized that if someone is starting journalism from a neighborhood or street, the first thing to consider is their “level of qualification”. And if they are perceiving things from a “typical mindset”, it is detrimental not only for our society but also for the younger generation.

"In order to enhance the standards of online journalism, he presented several recommendations. He highlighted the necessity of illuminating journalists in AJK through basic ethics and qualifications. It was emphasized that there should be a proper mechanism in AJK for digital journalism. Furthermore, he advocated for the registration of various social media channels that have been established without any record. An authoritative body should be established to register all these pages and define their print ethics. Additionally, criteria for online journalism accreditation should be in place to address issues such as blackmailing or engaging in unethical journalism."

An official from Information department emphasizes the need for training journalists in the region, but unfortunately, it is not happening. He says, 'it’s unfortunate that no such initiatives have been taken at the local level. We are advocating for such training and urging for the allocation of funds at the local level to be spent on journalists.

In Azad Kashmir, cyber security laws and social media laws have not been introduced yet. When speaking to the Section Law Officer, it was explained that there are several other laws as well on which action has not been taken due to a lack of interest from our leaders. However, efforts will continue to initiate work on these laws in the future.