Showing posts from April, 2014

Write at your own peril

Pakistani journalists are no strangers to danger. In the old days, they faced threats from the government, military establishment, political parties, goons, mafia and odd militant groups but now things have changed for the worse. From their phones being tapped by state agencies to their movements being monitored both by state and non-state actors, not only are their lives devoid of any privacy but also those who have received threats from either state or non-state actors, have to constantly look over their shoulder. When journalists become news themselves, it shows how precarious the situation really is.

We have known for a long time now that non-state actors have become as powerful as state actors. The Express Media Group was targeted by the Taliban twice in the span of a few months. The state was not willing to guarantee its security so the group's liberal English daily, Express Tribune, had to change its policy. It stopped criticising the Taliban.

March 28 further proved the po…

Interview with Imtiaz Alam on media-military conflict

Veteran journalist and SAFMA secretary-general Imtiaz Alam says journalists must unite to systemically address the problems of press freedom in Pakistan

Mehmal Sarfraz: Is it correct to say that the media is under attack and those who target journalists operate with impunity?

Imtiaz Alam:
The media is indeed under attack. According to SAFMA’s South Asia Media Monitor, Pakistan was among the top five countries deemed dangerous for journalists. Last year, 10 journalists were killed in Pakistan while in the last four months, five journalists have already been killed. The complexity of the threat to journalists makes it worse. You don’t know who will target you. Sometimes you can be a better judge of the attackers knowing your own situation, while sometimes you are caught in the crossfire.

The extremist forces have expanded their tentacles everywhere. They now have mass pockets and a wider support-base. They have become more resourceful, more organized, and have efficient logistics. They n…

Dirty media wars

In my last column for this paper, I had written about a near-fatal attack on my friend and fellow journalist, Raza Rumi. It was an emotional piece because my friend could have died in that attack. Having been through a near-death experience and seeing his driver dying in front of him, Raza Rumi is not sure if journalists can work with freedom under these circumstances. The state has virtually told journalists under threat that they are on their own and the state cannot protect them. “Pakistan’s media has always been under some kind of threat. After a long struggle it gained freedoms only to be muzzled by non-state actors and private militias and gangs, which act with impunity. Often they are linked to state institutions that patronise them and in other cases more powerful than the law enforcement apparatus,” says Raza. He is spot on.

Barely three weeks had passed when another journalist — Hamid Mir — received six bullets in Karachi. Thankfully, he survived. Mir is no ordinary journali…

We, the eternal losers

A senior journalist once said to me: “It’s good to see that you are still an idealist. Don’t ever change.” We were discussing the situation in Pakistan. The optimist — or rather ‘idealist’ — in me kept arguing with him that sanity will one day prevail in the land of the pure and this country will change for the better.

The next time I see him, I will let him know that I am no more an idealist. That the idealist in me has died. Even after the martyrdoms of Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, Bashir Bilour and countless others, I remained an optimist. I thought things could not get any worse. Despite death threats to my friends and colleagues, I thought we must continue our battle against extremist narrative and challenge the status quo. The night my dear friend Raza Rumi was attacked, it finally dawned on me that I was wrong all along.

It was a miracle that Raza survived. His guard was critically injured while his 25-year-old driver Mustafa succumbed to injuries. Why was …