Express News attack: Zip your lips or we will kill you

There are two choices for journalists in Pakistan; either kill freedom of speech or dig your own grave.

Zahra Peer Mohammed December 04, 2013
It sounded like thunder. My colleague and I stared at each other for a good 30 seconds, wondering what that noise could possibly be. Then, just as suddenly as it started, it stopped.
“Maybe someone was moving furniture upstairs”, offered my colleague to my quizzical expression.

And then the storm came.

Chaos. Panic. Fear.

That wasn’t thunder, nor was it people moving furniture; somebody had emptied entire magazines on our office. The Express Tribune was under fire, literally.

They say when you are scared, you go numb and every minute feels like an hour. Let me tell you that I have never experienced fear like that. Not only did we not know what had happened, who had attacked us and why we were targeted, we had no idea if the danger still existed.

News started pouring in; a staffer had been shot as had one of the guards of the company. Men on motorcycles had opened fire on us and the message was clear as crystal.

Zip your lips or we will kill you.

Express Media employees and security personnel gather at the entrance of the office after the attack. PHOTO: EXPRESS

But what do you do when your job requires you to do the very opposite? What do you do when you are meant to inform and to educate no matter what the risk?

It was really a no-brainer. The interns went home, the staff kept working like nothing had happened.

Yet, the taste of fear lingered in our mouth. Going back home that day was the worst, because it required stepping out of the building. I remember vividly that I stuck my head out from behind the gate, peeped to left and asked the guard,
Koi goli toh nai maar de ga?”

(Will anyone shoot me?)

It was funny at the moment, but the fear was all real.

The next day, we had some security here and there, and some barriers erected, but when someone has a gun in their hands and a mission, the goal is painfully easy.

Sure enough it happened again.

On December 2, 2013, from the safety of the KPT bypass, grenades were flung at Express News’s office again and just like the last time, firing ensued. Just like the last time, a guard was injured and just like the last time, terror prevailed.

Security forces rushed to the Express Media Group’s offices following an attack on Monday evening. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS

It seems as though in Pakistan, you have a choice; either kill freedom of speech or dig your own grave.

The difference here though is that journalists are ready to give their lives up, so committed are they to seeing a better Pakistan. My former colleagues stayed at work and put the paper to bed before they went home as per usual; they worked as though nothing happened because no amount of intimidation can silence this committed bunch.

The journalist community protested outside the press-club and a 72 hour ultimatum has been given to the government to arrest those behind the attacks. I doubt anything of the sort will happen, but my community too has sent out a message and that is ‘we will not be silenced’.

It’s a step - albeit a baby step - but a step nonetheless.

Journalists protest at the Karachi Press Club. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS TRIBUNE

Like Atticus Finch said,
“Simply because we were licked a 100 years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win”

I am certain that attempts to intimidate the journalist community will continue for the foreseeable future, but I am also certain that we will not stop – such is the strength of my community.

We will continue to look left for bullets and right for grenades before we cross the road to come to work. We will do this till the ruffians realise that their attempts are futile.

A demonstrator at the Karachi Press Club displays his badge. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS TRIBUNE
WRITTEN BY:
Zahra Peer Mohammed Former Blogs Desk Head and Senior Sub-Editor at The Express Tribune. She is a business graduate from the Queen's School of Business who tweets @ZahraPeer (https://twitter.com/ZahraPeer). She blogs at zahrapeer.wordpress.com
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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COMMENTS (19)

Zufishan Ghani | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend I'm uncertain how Zahra would've responded to this, but given me, I'd tell you, Deen Sheikh, that one doesn't have to be serious only when they're on board. One doesn't have to be scared only being in their home country, or being connected to the critical profession. At or away, within or without, concerns be, one- humanity; two- oppression of rights; three- national and individual security (from the govt.); and four- WHY JOURNALISTS... OR SAY, ANYBODY... AND UNTIL WHEN???
Arooj Ahmed | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend Liked it a lot. Thanks. Stay blessed. :)
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