By Ummar Jamal
On Saturday soon after police arrested Ashiq Mir, one of the associates of Shahid Imran, running a social media page –Kashmir Crown—in connection with a case of exhortation under section 383 of IPC, social media journalism became the recent talk of the street. Social media journalism was targeted for inauthenticity and unreliability. Journalists associated with print and television media voiced that social media journalism had degraded the prestige of journalism. They exclaimed that nowadays every Tom, Dick, and Harry buy a mic and put on an identity card and masquerades as a journalist. In fact, the mushroom growth of unlicensed news portals has earned journalism in Kashmir, a bad name.
A PIL was filed in J&K High court against the mushroom growth of news portals, especially on Facebook. The PIL affirmed that there was a rapid increase in the news portals on social media platforms, responsible for the circulation of fake news and other unethical and unprofessional acts.
The J&K High Court accepted the PIL and the division bench comprising Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar directed the government to file a response specifically pointing out provisions of law under which such news portals, if at all, are required to be registered or licensed.
There is indeed an urgent need for regulating news portals on social media platforms. License and registration should be made compulsory. The owner and reporters associated with such news portals should be required to have some basic qualifications as well as competence in the field of journalism. Journalists involved in unprofessional and unethical practices should be dealt with strictly through provisions under the law.
One more climacteric measure as the one YouTube took can be considered in this regard. Earlier, YouTube required channels to have 10,000-lifetime views to be eligible for monetization. In 2018, YouTube tightened the rules and made it mandatory for a creator to meet some basic requirements in order to monetize videos. The requirements included that the creators must have tallied 4,000 hours of overall watch time on their channel within the past 12 months and have at least 1,000 subscribers. This requirement was put in place to improve the quality of content on YouTube. Similar measures need to be taken in order to regulate news portals. News portals should be given provisional licenses for six months and permanent licenses should be issued subject to the fulfillment of the essential criteria of crossing the required number of followers and watch time for the specified time of six months.
But at the same time, we must understand change is inexorable. John F. Kennedy has said, “change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”. The same is true of journalism.
Journalism has undergone a drastic change in the past two decades. Traditionally, it was print, TV, and radio broadcasts that ruled the roost. But with the advent of the internet and social media, journalism has evolved. This democratisation of media isn’t essentially wrong but needs to be streamlined. Citizen journalism has also garnered some level of credibility and many do rely on social media posts as reliable sources for news.
Everything has its pros and cons. The same goes for mobile journalism as well. It is fast and responsive. It has the potential to grow the audience faster and is more accessible. This opening up of news to the world in an interactive way can be used productively.
For instance, some local issues which people would find hard to amplify through conventional media are easily being brought into the public’s attention through new ways of new media. With the advent of social media journalism, the aforementioned issues are now highlighted and put forward to concerned authorities in an apt manner. Thus, social media journalism has helped in making people’s grievances more redressable and the authorities more accountable.
We cannot paint all news portals with the same brush. Few among them are carrying out work up to scratch. Their existence is both beneficial as well as inevitable. We must have a balanced attitude about social media journalism. We can’t close our eyes to the advantages of it. Rather than complaining about the drawbacks of social media journalism, we should try to focus on eradicating the shortcomings associated with it. We have to get rid of the ailment and not the one who is ailing.