This Sunday, the bureau chief of Express News in Peshawar, Jamshed Baghwan, woke up to the sound of explosions at the gate of his house at around 6.30AM. Grenades had been hurled at his doorstep by unidentified persons for reasons best known to them. Mercifully both Baghwan and his family remained unhurt although the house has been damaged.
What makes this more troublesome is that this is the second such attack within a space of two weeks. Earlier, a two kilogram bomb was discovered outside the entrance of Baghwan’s house. It took him, as well as the members of the local police and the bomb disposal squad, a lot of bravery to have the bomb removed to a safe distance where it was detonated. It was only after the detonation, Baghwan told me, that he realized how powerful the bomb was.
Why would someone want to target Baghwan? A professional journalist and former president of the Peshawar Press Club, Jamshed Baghwan is a much loved and highly respected member of Peshawar’s journalistic fraternity. He is known to be impartial and unbiased in his work. He told me that he has received no threats.
We still have not forgotten the attack on Raza Rumi, editor of The Friday Times, and an anchor and analyst on Express News besides being a columnist for this paper, who was targeted on a busy Lahore street.
Raza Rumi, as is the case with Jamshed Baghwan, is a thorough professional and an honest and astute political analyst. He is not a spin doctor and neither does he pursue anybody else’s agenda. He is respected in the profession. One can only wonder why someone would want to silence him.
We can gauge the level of government concern in the matter from the fact that none of these attacks have been followed up. The Senate Standing Committee on Information ordered the Punjab police to present a report on the attack. But how seriously the Punjab police takes the matter can be seen from the fact that no one from the force appeared before the committee during the hearing.
Another media icon who also appears on a TV show on Express News, Imtiaz Alam, and who is also the secretary general of the South Asia Free Media Association, has said he has also received threats.
At the protest held in Lahore on Sunday to condemn the threats to Alam, columnist Ejaz Haider stated the obvious when he noted that the kind of threats journalists faced today cannot be tackled individually. He told the gathering that unfortunately if there is an attack on a journalist of one media house, the other media houses remain silent.
It is fact that there is no unity amongst the journalist community. We have a great tradition of abiding by democratic traditions but at the same time we have done poorly in terms of sticking together. There are splinters within splinters.
A book written by Adnan Rehmat titled “Reporting Under Threat” was launched recently. The book is a collection of personal experiences of a number of journalists. It catalogues the threats and the hardships of journalists all over Pakistan in the past several years. Since 2000, informs the book, more than 100 journalists have lost their lives in the line of duty.
We can continue to lament our state or do something about it. In a meeting I attended recently in Lahore, lawyer Hina Jilani asked me why journalists themselves cannot get together and figure out a way to keep safe on the one hand and on the other present a united front to those who threaten them. Efforts have been made in this regard, but more needs to be done.
For those who say that we are fussing for no reason because as journalists this is what to be expected, one cannot argue. Our profession asks us to report truthfully, not to die silently.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2014.