“The kinds of threats journalists face today cannot be fought by individuals…we have to fight them together. And yet, when there is an attack on one media house, other media houses remain silent. It is not only the government’s responsibility to provide security to journalists, the media must unite on this front as well,” columnist Ejaz Haider said on Sunday at a protest rally condemning terrorist threats to South Asian Free Media Association Secretary General Imtiaz Alam.
Several journalists and civil society representatives gathered in front of the Lahore Press Club on Sunday. They held banners carrying slogans like Ban Media Coverage of Terrorists Collectively; Freedom of Expression Under Threat; and Attack on One Attack on All. Shouts of “Not scared of threats!” rang through the crowd of protesters. They chanted slogans and vowed to continue fighting for freedom of the press. “Stop threatening journalists, we want peace,” the participants said in unison.
Hussain Naqi said the government must realise that it is not only the journalists’ freedoms on the line, “it’s all of us…it’s the state on the line”. He said it was time the nation got together and rejected terrorists once and for all. Pakistan achieved independence through the struggle and sacrifices of reporters, photojournalists and editors…the government of the Punjab must provide them security.
“The struggle for the freedom of press in the subcontinent is more than 150 years old…it will continue,” he said.
“Militant groups can’t stop us from doing our duties as journalists. Journalism is our vocation and I strongly condemn the threats to Imtiaz Alam,” said Najam Sethi. “We must forget personal differences and professional rivalries and work together for the freedom of press.”
Lahore Press Club secretary Shahbaz Mian said, “Once again, cowardly terrorists and militants scared of the pen and the camera have threatened Imtiaz Alam. A few days ago, they attacked our fellow journalist Raza Rumi. They are ganging up against liberal and progressive journalists…now all of them are on their hit list. But we will remain united and won’t surrender.”
Journalist Ahmed Waleed said Pakistan was one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to be in. “We are here to express solidarity with journalists who are threatened but continue doing their job.”
This is so uncivilised, columnist Kamran Shafi said, “Terrorists should agree to a dialogue with media representatives. They can try to convince us, or write about their views instead of resorting to threats. But if they want to kill us, so be it, we are not scared.”
Fawad Chaudhry, media adviser to the Pakistan Peoples Party chairman, said, “If we want to make Pakistan a liberal and progressive country, we have to work for it together. On behalf of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the PPP, I strongly condemn the terrorists’ threats to journalist and SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam.”
Chaudhry said Zardari and he had also received threats. “We are all threatened on a daily basis but we will continue to work for a progressive Pakistan and will not stop till we reach our destiny.”
Punjab Union of Journalists president Wasim Farooq, Lahore Press Club president Arshad Ansari and Riaz Durrani of Jamat-i-Ulema Islam also spoke at the occasion and urged the government to provide security to journalists.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2014.