Their stories have datelines from the frontlines of the war on terrorism. They are witnesses almost every day to unspeakable violence visited upon their own neighbours by the Taliban, US drones and the Pakistani military. They are the forgotten scribes of a secret war: the journalists from the tribal areas.
As the world prepares to mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the journalists of Fata are being recognised as unsung heroes by some of the residents of the areas that they report from.
At a gathering of Fata journalists in Khyber Agency, Malik Faizullah Jan, a tribal elder and locally well-known social worker, spoke in glowing terms of the sacrifices made by the journalist fraternity in the region.
Reporters in the tribal areas have had an exceptionally challenging job over the past decade, said Jan. Not only do they face threats on a regular basis about their reporting, Fata journalists also risk their own lives and are frequently displaced along with the rest of their communities by the impact of the war.
At least ten journalists have been killed in Fata while trying to report on the war during the past decade, said Jan. “The journalists, along with the common masses, have sacrificed their lives and property during the war,” said the tribal leader.
Jan called on the people of the tribal areas, as well as the government, to support the journalists in their midst. “It will be impossible for them to file balanced and accurate news stories without the support of the people and the government,” said Jan.
“It is the duty of the security agencies, the local government and the people of the tribal areas to extend their moral and social support to the tribal reporters,” said Jan.
The tribal leader claimed that the people of Fata, as well as the journalists of the area, had always remained loyal to Pakistan and have always defended the borders of the nation. He urged the journalist community to continue that tradition of loyal service to the nation in their reporting.
Jan was critical of the United States, saying that Washington had imposed a war on the people of the tribal areas, a reference to the pilotless drone attacks conducted by the US government, a programme whose existence is still officially denied by Washington.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2011.