A brazen attack on Pakistan’s free media

We got this freedom after a very long struggle and we should not let it die.

Mazhar Abbas December 03, 2013
The writer is a former secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists

The attack on Express Media Group’s Karachi office is a direct assault on ‘freedom of the press’. It is not simply a wake-up call, but perhaps, a final call for the media. Sadly, an attack on one group or journalists has never been considered as an attack on the ‘media Industry’ as in the past.

I wonder why we never took such attacks, collectively? Marketing or competition should not come in the way when it is terrorism we are dealing with, because it is like a fatal disease which can affect us all.

No one has, so far, claimed responsibility for the attack but apparently the failure of the police and intelligence in the first probe resulted in the second assault on December 2. This time, the attackers were more organised and picked the peak time when journalists were busy rushing to the office to meet the ‘deadline’. Safety measures taken after the first attack and rapid response from the security guards also foiled the possible attempt to enter the office premises.

However, police and intelligence agencies never probed into the previous attack and closed the investigation as a ‘blind case’. The question is why? No report on the investigation of the first attack was filed? No arrests were made? All this gave encouragement to the assailants. In the first attack, they came on two motor bikes. This time, there were more. Where were the police mobiles and why were they removed?

It’s time to rise and defend press freedom. Silence will not save you. Today, it is Express, tomorrow it could be another group. Remember the famous lines, ‘when they came for me, there was no one left to speak for me’.

Here, I may recall the time when we fought a battle from a united platform with all the media stakeholders including owners, editors, journalists, hawkers with one voice observed a ‘One Day Strike’ and shut down newspapers when journalists came under attack and were killed.

I remembered the 1989 strike against the killing of three journalists. APNS, CPNE, PFUJ, APNEC, Akbar Faroosh Federation were on one platform. Again in 1995, when the then government closed six Karachi evening newspapers, a Joint Action Committee was formed and threatened to go on strike, if the ban was not lifted. The warning worked and within three days, the ban was lifted.

The next attack could be on another group or on another group of journalists, which God forbid could be fatal. If we act today, it can give a strong message to all those who are planning to supress the people’s voice, this time through terror.

Every media house must take any attack on any one group as an attack on the entire media. If in the 1950s there could be a joint editorial demanding the ban on “Civil and Military Gazette”, why can’t we do it for the ‘right reason’. Why can’t we have a joint editorial duly approved by APNS, CPNE, PBA, condemning the attack on the media and show resolve to fight this battle from united platform?

The symptoms of December 2’s attack indicate that the assailants were highly professional. Despite this being very congested area and with the traffic jam around the bridge and adjacent lanes, they managed to escape. The assailants must have been provided proper cover, by their accomplices.

Pakistani journalists have already paid huge prices. Post 9/11, over 100 journalists had been killed; some of them were brutally murdered after being kidnapped. Media houses or their bureaus in different parts of the country, particularly in K-P, Fata and Balochistan are under constant threat. Their cases have never been properly investigated or prosecuted. Yet, journalism has expanded from print to electronic, online to social media.

Will we all rise to the occasion? Silent will be as fatal and risky as in the battle field. We got this freedom after a very long struggle and we should not let it die.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2013.

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Insaan | 7 years ago | Reply

@Habib ur Rahman: They came for journalists, I didn’t care because I was not a journalist. Finally they came for me, there was no one left to save me!

WHO ARE THEY? They have managed to brainwash Pakistanis into believing that without them Pakistan can't survive. They use Islam and non-State actors to control every one. Mian Shariff is talking about peace and 4th war at the same time. I am sure THEY have planted their agents in ET too.

John the Baptist | 7 years ago | Reply

I did not know PPP card carrying members are also considered "azad" media! My o my, media has really "progressed" in Pakistan.

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