Wearing brown T-shirts that read ‘Save the Journalists’ and carrying the national flag, two journalists started a country-wide tour from Peshawar Press Club to Karachi Press Club on Thursday. Salman Shahzad, from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Muhammad Wali, from Fata, are expected to reach the Karachi Press Club on Monday.
“I planned this road trip after the brutal murder of news reporter Nasrullah Afridi. It occurred to me to draw attention to the insecurity journalists face,” Salman Shahzad told The Express Tribune upon reaching the Islamabad Press Club.
He said most journalists write about the dangers they face to make the public aware , but he decided to do it through a unique way and use a bike for the purpose. Shahzad said he faced severe criticism from his colleagues. “Some of them commented on the weather being too hot for such a journey while others were of the opinion that I was putting my life in danger by protesting against the Taliban,” he added. Despite the discouragement, Shahzad did not lose heart and went ahead with his plan.
“First I had planned to go alone but later decided to ask one of the journalists from the tribal areas to join me, “ he said.
Wali, a young man who started his journalism career a year ago, welcomed the idea and joined Shahzad in his mission.
Meanwhile, lack of financial resources turned out to be a huge challenge for Shahzad.”I had a four-year-old bike which I sold for Rs 25,000, bought an old model bike for Rs 15,000 through down payment and saved Rs 10, 000,” said Shahzad. However, the saved amount was not sufficient for the tour, and Wali contributed another Rs 10,000.
“To make our journey more meaningful, we bought two T-shirts and printed our message on it,” he added. Later, their community financially supported them as well.
“We have around Rs 45,000 and are trying to complete our journey in this limited amount,” he said. To avoid the scorching heat, both journalists prefer to travel late at night.
Both were glad that it rained in Peshawar and Islamabad the day they started their journey. “Upon reaching Islamabad, we did not know the exact location of the National Press Club and kept on wandering for an hour. We were surprised to know that many people were not aware of the term Press Club,” said Shahzad.
The two received a warm welcome from Islamabad’s journalist community which made them more passionate about completing their journey.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2011.