Pakistan’s media shows the way

Published: June 16, 2011
The writer has written for the Indian Express, Times of India, Khaleej Times and Wall Street Journal. She currently writes for the Business Standard in Delhi

The writer has written for the Indian Express, Times of India, Khaleej Times and Wall Street Journal. She currently writes for the Business Standard in Delhi

The sheer bravery and courage with which the press in Pakistan has taken on the establishment over the killing of Saleem Shahzad, a former editor of Asia Times Online, as well as forced the Sindh government to run for cover over the daylight murder of a 18-year-old boy by the Rangers, makes me bow my head both in salute and wonderment — but also in gratitude.

Incredibly, the Pakistani press is in the act of covering a rare moment in its nation’s history, a moment that is precious yet fragile. These journalists have put their careers, their bank balances and their reputations on the line by going after He Who Shall Not Be Named.

Was it the ISI who killed Saleem Shahzad? Why did the Rangers confront a young man by pointing a gun at his chest? And in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing, the robust criticism of the Pakistani Army by the Pakistani press seems to have forced open a debate within the army on its role in nation-building.

The army was tormented enough to point its finger at ‘some quarters…trying to deliberately run down the armed forces and army in particular…This is an effort to drive a wedge between the army, different organs of the state and more seriously, the people of Pakistan.’

Of course, the Pakistani press is no stranger to threat and physical intimidation. During the Ziaul Haq era, several journalists were whipped with metal chains, but they stood their ground.

As a member of the South Asian fraternity of journalists, I think it’s time to salute the rare courage Pakistan’s media continues to display by just going about earning its daily wages: Reporting the story as it takes place and writing it without fear or favour.

So is the fact that I am an Indian matter here? Nirupama Subramanian, a well-known journalist from India’s The Hindu, who recently returned home after a particularly engaging tour of duty in Islamabad, wrote in the aftermath of the Bin Laden killing that India should stay out of the debate on democracy currently gathering ground within Pakistan because each time Delhi opens its mouth to say something, it puts its foot right into it.

Nirupama’s analysis is well-taken, and some would say it applies to the Indian press as well. I disagree. I think the time has come for Indians and Pakistanis, as well as Sri Lankans, Maldivians, Bangladeshis, the Bhutanese, the Nepalis — and yes, even the Afghans — to say our piece, as we see it, across the South Asian landscape.

The time has come, I think, for each of us to reassert our South Asian identities, along with our individual citizenships. We need to applaud and encourage and criticise our fellow communities across South Asia, as they build their histories and their nations. Naturally, the press is an integral part of this unfolding story.

But watch what really happens. If any state doesn’t like what you report — well, then, you won’t get a visa the next time around to report it. This is especially true of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

But states have power over civil societies only because we let them. India — or Pakistan, as the case may be — is the enemy, because we’ve grown up with that idea. But imagine if we employ an alternative idea of simply of not being afraid/hostile.

The press in Pakistan is showing South Asia’s media the way. We need each other. Let us stand up for one another.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Jun 16, 2011 - 2:30AM

    Indeed Pakistani Media is the greatest and Zaid Hamid is the king, wearing the red crown proudly in every show and blaming CIA/RAW/MOSSAD/Darth Vader for Pakistans ills.Recommend

  • AT
    Jun 16, 2011 - 4:54AM

    Very well said….I hope more people from the subcontinent can have a open mind and look for similarity among us then the differences and live in piece. Over sixty years of hostalities have gained us nothing and made the arm merchants of Europe, Asia and North America rich and people of the subcontinent really the poorest in the world. We should be smarter than that.

  • R
    Jun 16, 2011 - 6:31AM

    Which Press in Pakistan is showing the way?
    – Urdu TV or newspapers or English?
    – Unless the urdu media take a responsible view, no amount of protests in angrezi will amount to anything. Recommend

  • Awais Ibrahim
    Jun 16, 2011 - 6:59AM

    Unfortunate times, but nice piece. Yes, we all need to stand together. I am away from Pakistan since 2009, but while working as a journalist, I did come across with lots of such unusual situations. Hats off to Shahzad and people like him who sacrificed their lives for writing the truth.

  • Arindom
    Jun 16, 2011 - 7:01AM

    Yes, we can start with India’s most prestigious newspaper Times of India by asking it to stop dedicating realms of space on sex and bollywood and start writing more mature material.Recommend

  • Amlan Chatterjee
    Jun 16, 2011 - 8:28AM

    There was an idea of “Not being afraid” and that is why we are free today. I applaud the Pakistani press as they call a spade a spade without fear or bias. I simply wish the democracy nascent that it is will take a deeper root in Pakistan and finally that country will have an army instead of the Army having a country!Recommend

  • Muhammad Aleem
    Jun 16, 2011 - 8:36AM

    The times of indian’s news paper is good Papers.Recommend

  • ashok sai
    Jun 16, 2011 - 8:53AM

    But madam, those Mullahs rooted deeply in Pakistan won’t allow for the South Asian unity.Recommend

  • M. Salim
    Jun 16, 2011 - 9:52AM

    Fully endorsed. Confidence building measures within the SEA fraternity will strengthen people to people contacts Recommend

  • Ali Kazmi
    Jun 16, 2011 - 12:44PM

    Pakistani blog writers must adopt the way this lady has expressed her narrative here. simple, to the point, polite and above all in easy language. this is the art of adressing. one must know the audience he or she is adressing to. There is litterally no need to add lustures to the scripts with hyper intensive, rare and very profound dictions. We are not here to test our GRE verbal scorings here:) but to spread what one benefiaclly feels good for the other.

    My request persisits, as i generally evaluate the way our writters skill the art of making their writeups difficult for a non “A” level student , pls know your audience and do not narrow down your reader count by making your beautiful writtings complex.

    just a though, when we write urdu coloumns we dont use typical hardest way words from Mirza ghalib Era, likewise we can stick to humble attittude when writting english lines too.

    I stay positive to get my notes pursuaded by writers in an affirmative node:)

    Thanks for your 2 minutes.Recommend

  • Jun 16, 2011 - 1:19PM

    There was young Pakistani man who was in India. He narrated a story about his experience He said that when he was at crossing, the traffic stopped a policeman went ahead the rest of the crowd which waited for him. But he (the young man) went alongside with policeman , bumped into him and was ahead of the him when he crossed the road. When he was on the other side – someone surprised him by asking him if he was from Pakistan. The young man said he was.
    “Here in India we let the policeman go ahead us, the people cross the road only after the policeman has crossed it. Only Pakistanis do what you did”
    It is obvious Pakistanis have grown up with utter disdain of any authoritarian environment – forced upon them by the reign of several dictators. The police have ceased to enjoy the respect it may have had once..Recommend

  • Ali
    Jun 16, 2011 - 2:38PM

    Well said Jyoti Ji, We need all our press people in all our countries to work together and to encourage each other. The press palys a valuable role and this is becoming more and more apparent now as many govt. and army foul ups are being laid bare to the public.Recommend

  • Ali
    Jun 16, 2011 - 3:42PM

    Yes we need more such articles so that we can blame our ARMY for everything. and innocent & naive Pakistanis will love it. Recommend

  • Jun 16, 2011 - 3:44PM

    I will only say a GOOD PROVOCATION .

    She is following the line of Global Establishment who are after Pak Army and ISI because they are the only stumbling blocks in its way to achieve set objective of disarming Pakistan.Recommend

  • maryum
    Jun 16, 2011 - 7:48PM

    i disagree!! the media is very over confident here… they start debating on critical issues without any information or clue.. and if they made any mistake they even cannot send an excuse to the people???? the media should work for country not for money……………. did any one check latest media scandal reports on net?? if not please go and search!!

    btw as a student of IR i have very different point of view about media!Recommend

  • BruteForce
    Jun 16, 2011 - 8:24PM

    This article is actually a slap on the face if you think about it.

    Here is an Indian citizen applauding the brave journalist who stood up against the forces of darkness in Pakistan. But, a very nice way of hiding the condescending tone.

    Shahbash from the big brother, if you will.Recommend

  • stuka
    Jun 16, 2011 - 9:52PM

    Well, if the Times of India is a point of comparison, then yes, any rag from anywhere in the world will look good in comparison. Recommend

  • Pakistani in US
    Jun 17, 2011 - 6:06AM

    @Jeddy You are right in your analysis that we don’t really have much respect for the law enforcement agencies in Pakistan (for obvious reasons). But even if one does, there is no reason to stop and wait for someone in authority to clear the road. This is the same culture that creates problem and promotes this belief among authoritative figures that they are superior. Everyone should enjoy equal benefits as citizens of the state (while being aware of our civic duties as well as extending due courtesy to others). We need to move beyond this archaic customs ingrained into our psyche by our colonial masters.Recommend

  • Ali
    Jun 17, 2011 - 8:57AM

    Absolutely rite. I wish these naive Pakistanis can understand this. Its sad to see how easily we are manipulated. Recommend

  • camaro
    Jun 18, 2011 - 8:49PM

    As a Pakistani I thank Ms.Malhotra, an Indian journalist, for expressing her support and solidarity with the Pakistani media in their struggle against the “Dark Side” “Who Shall Not Be Named”. I also applaud her plea for understanding and harmony among the peoples of South Asia who have so much in common and who have so much to gain if only they would transcend or by pass their biases on account of religion or memories of recent history and learn to coexist peacefully and cooperate for mutual benefit. In this spirit it is imperative to ignore the rabid rants of the likes of Zaid Hamids. Recommend

  • amjad
    Jun 20, 2011 - 2:43AM

    Except for PTV, which is probably still a mouthpiece of the government, rest of the media is relatively independent. It does faces threats from extremists and certain sectors of the establishment. Over all it is doing a commendable job, despite all the hurdles. I hope, some day media will lead the way for ending corruption and extremism in Pakistan, thus making the country strong. It also need to handle the freedom achieved, with responsibility and maturity.Recommend

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