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There is no denying the fact that journalism in Pakistan has never been easier. Every government tries to get journalists to do only “positive reporting” and to keep the truth to a minimum until the government runs out of time and the “king” does not feel safe. Giving medals to the people is not a tradition today and beheading a rebel is not uncommon. Those who walk with their heads bowed are the trustees of loyalty and those who walk with their heads held high are traitors everywhere.
Those who adorn the chess pieces of power and move the pawns back and forth of their own free will do not like spoiling the game and that is why journalists have always been defeated, traitors and faith peddlers. Some of them are destined for jail, some of them are flogged, some of them are fired from their jobs and some of them are also given pills for the wacky Mansoor. But despite all adversity, one thing is certain: these strong souls are not ready to back down under any situation.
This is not today’s tragedy; this is the misery of every era that only journalists are targeted. According to international media reports, Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for journalism; another worrying reason is that Pakistan has generally been witness to dictatorial regimes for most of the period, which is why democratic norms could not flourish as they should have. The meddling of the state institutions is not hidden from anyone. The enforced disappearances and the government’s silence on them are not hidden from anyone and there is no denying that there is a serious fault line in the relationship. Journalists have perennially been blamed for crossing the “red lines”, and have invariably been threatened with dire consequences.
However, there is no denying that efforts have been made to improve the relationship from this side as well and today those who raised their fingers were present there as guests yesterday and sometimes as hosts, they also paid their respects. If you look at the 2020 report of the International Federation of Journalists, the situation with regard to Pakistan is as follows: The number of journalists killed worldwide in the last 30 years is second only to Pakistan, Iraq, Mexico and the Philippines. It ranks fourth with 138 journalists killed in the last 30 years.
According to the Freedom Network, threats and attacks on journalists increased by 40% between May 2020 and April 2021, and there were 148 such incidents in just one year. Out of 148 incidents against journalists, 51 have been reported in Islamabad. Seven journalists were assassinated, five were abducted and 25 were arrested, 15 were tortured and 27 were charged.
The latest in a series of alleged attacks was on Asad Toor, who was tortured in his flat. Absar Alam was fired at in Islamabad five weeks ago. Matiullah Jan was abducted in July last year and so did Aizaz Syed in which fingers were raised to one side.
However, one should not look at the other side of the picture. Is it right to point fingers to one side without proof? The answer to this question is that the realm of law is not for them. So isn’t the question here that even if the scope of journalists is fixed, they should not lean to one side in the war of interests.
Hamid Mir’s fiery statement about Asad Toor set fire to all sides. He was accompanied by senior journalists when Hamid Mir was challenging the state institutions on the alleged attack of Asad Toor. But here a question arises: there are currently 43 international and 112 local channels in the country but a large number of media workers have been laid off by the employers, either for economic reasons or for political pressure. Even worse, the media workers have been running from pillar to post for months for their salaries. Have voices been raised on this issue with the same force?
Different journalist organizations raise their voices; sometimes they are heard and sometimes not because they are probably not as strong as the big and famous journalists who are close not only to the owners but also to the corridors of power. As much as the fiery rhetoric and voices are rising for Asad, should it rise for ordinary journalists and media workers who are still running from door to door with their CVs in their hands. Why didn’t you ask these powerful elites in an equally sharp tone as to who is responsible for the people who are dying in agony, in sheer poverty?
If fingers and signals are pointing in the direction “Vigo” has taken, then the question will always be this: why have the big names in the country’s journalism not shown so much anger for the thousands of laid-off journalists? But the fact of the matter is that voices will never be raised in favor of those whose children are dying of utter squalor. That’s the real face of those whose own pockets are deep but are doing virtually nothing for the welfare and uplift of the downtrodden people of their own fraternity.