Someone to Speak for Us!

Published: April 28, 2014

Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) was a pastor and he was so appalled by the German concentration camps that he said that till the German intellectuals did not speak up as the Nazis started arresting groups of people: socialists, trade unionists, Jews, etc, nobody was safe. Is this what we are witnessing in Pakistan today? I do not need to marshal impressive statistical figures of journalists threatened, abused, abducted, tortured, injured and killed in the line of duty all over the world. Everybody who has anything to do with the media knows about them. In simple words, Pakistan’s best media persons are being threatened and shot with alarming frequency. Within a month we heard of Raza Rumi and then Hamid Mir being fired upon. The former escaped but the latter is in hospital battling his injuries. The discussion should have been about providing safety to our media, about protecting vulnerable journalists, about creating an office dealing with threats to media people; about tracing out the sources of the threats. But look what has happened. The discussion is all about the criminality of blaming the ISI; about the transgressions of Hamid Mir himself and so on. The conspiracy theories are the most bizarre of all — that Mir did it himself to let down the ISI; that someone wanted to distract the public from the Musharraf case; that the ‘third hand’ (which is left undefined) did it to create chaos and ‘destabilise’ Pakistan. I remember that exactly the same thing happened when Malala was shot at. First there was a cacophony of outrage. Then the tables turned and we heard that Malala had got herself shot to malign the Taliban or Pakistan. And now Malala is highly controversial and many people still call her encounter a drama and a conspiracy. So, once again, we are talking about the wrong things while one of our bravest journalists lies combating his injuries.

How did the debate go all wrong? Well, because Hamid’s brother Amir Mir — himself a journalist whose many books about the spread of militancy in Pakistan should be compulsory reading for all — said that his brother had named the ISI and its head as suspects if anything happened to him. Such suspicions are normally expressed by the victims or their families on the basis of previous experience such as the pattern or type of threat. They may well be incorrect and the law does not consider the people named as guilty till there is evidence to prove them so. Sometimes, the high and mighty are also named. Famously, the prime minister, Mr ZA Bhutto, was named in the murder of Ahmad Raza Kasuri and the FIR was dug out later to hang the former when he was out of power. More recently, Benazir Bhutto named the sitting president of Pakistan, General Musharraf, as well as the Taliban. So, if Amir Mir repeated what his brother had told him it was something which has precedents. That the Geo Channel showed it on TV was also something which has happened before. However, I would agree that the picture of the head of the ISI need not have been shown for such a long time. I also agree that the whole thing need not be repeated ad nauseam nor made into a media trial. This was done by someone in the channel and, of course, Hamid Mir was unconscious at that time. However, all channels, in most parts of the world, do repeat visuals over and over again. They also carry out what amounts to a media trial and this is something which does need to be changed by a responsible code of fair conduct.

While nobody can be sure who shot Hamid Mir; on the basis of our past history, I am sure that nobody will ever know for sure. Moreover, intelligence agencies, set up to protect people, are blamed for misdeeds all over the world. This is either because their perception of national interest is too chauvinistic or distorted or because they have rogue elements. John Stockwell, once a star of the CIA, wrote about the crimes of the agency in his book The Secret Wars of the CIA. The MI6 is said to have killed Princess Diana because she was going to marry a Muslim (Dodi). The British yellow press defamed the intelligence and did not even spare the royal family. Savak, Mossad, KGB — you name it! All intelligence agencies have had stories told about them. Ideally speaking, this is incorrect as these agencies are blamed without solid proof. I am not saying this is ideal but I am saying this is normal. Even in Pakistan, senior military officers have told us about the rigging they carried out in the elections. Moreover, Generals Pasha and Musharraf talked about the possibility of there being rogue agents in the ISI. Our interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar, used to blame the ISI for supporting Imran Khan against the other political parties. These allegations were all offered without proof so this is not the first time a suspicion was expressed without proof.

The gist of the matter is that if all journalists do not unite now to save the freedom of the press, to save media personnel, to save democratic rights we will slide towards a reign of terror. If the civil society does not take the side of the victims we will repeat what Niemoller said:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

And then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me!”

So, we should defend the media and the media persons to leave somebody to speak out for us.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2014.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (15)

  • nadeem
    Apr 28, 2014 - 11:32PM

    My heartfelt gratitude to brave journalists who face the wrath of the military when they expose the adventurism, greed, misdeeds and crimes of generals – committed over the past 55+ years.


  • ali
    Apr 28, 2014 - 11:37PM

    well said sir media should defend themselves ..Recommend

  • Ahad
    Apr 29, 2014 - 12:40AM

    Although u have given a number of examples of different countries where agencies are involved in high profile murders, but u failed to give an example where the picture of there DG was shown on television as a suspect for 8 hrs.
    Excess of everything is bad so does the untamed freedom of speech. Inaddition to becoming the champions of freedom of speech, media needs to rectify its own shortcommings and mark ots boundaries.
    Secondly media houses should realize there job is reporting and not to carve out economical or foreign policies of a country.


  • saeed
    Apr 29, 2014 - 12:41AM

    The writer says “…if all journalists do not unite now to save the freedom of the press, to save media personnel, to save democratic rights we will slide towards a reign of terror.”

    In the present context he is saying that journalists should unite to save a particular media group, no matter how wrong this group is. What kind of logic is this? Journalists are supposed to provide true picture and speak truth to the best of their knowledge even if it is against their own kind. Recommend

  • Naresh
    Apr 29, 2014 - 2:09AM

    Dr Tariq Rahman : R E S P E C T!


  • Taimoor
    Apr 29, 2014 - 3:39AM

    I lost all respect for journalists when you they are openly asking for favors off camera from a real estate mogul, or when anchors are appointed government positions by the government. If that is not conflict of interest than what is it. Pakistani media like the pakistani awaam and the government can be bought, they are no different. They may act like they are on this high altar of justice or whatever but their pedestal is rotten.


  • shahida .kazi
    Apr 29, 2014 - 11:21AM

    First sensible article I have read in a long time.We must all unite for the sake of our journalists and the freedom of the media in our country.


  • Usman Ansari
    Apr 29, 2014 - 12:31PM

    Hamid Mir is a brave journalist? He’s a crackpot and glorified blogger with a slot on a major “news” channel. While we’re on the topic, GEO is akin to Fox News.


  • Apr 29, 2014 - 4:10PM

    Do not worry Mr. Rehman, the current Nawaz Sharif government has a sharp resemblance with
    Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin eras of former Soviet Union.How much Pakistan,s style of Glasnost
    and Peristrioka would you suggest to the current rulers.


  • Norozyousafzai
    Apr 29, 2014 - 5:02PM

    We must stick to journalistic ethics in first place to avoid such situation. Arrogant behaviour of Geo News and certain anchor persons was badly damaging the overall reputation and impression of media in the eyes of the general public. Ratings and commercial considerations shouldn’t be the top priority of the media houses. Military institutions, parliament or any other public or private institution should be given the due respect and opportunity to explain themselves instead of unwarranted criticism in any situation.Recommend

  • Z H Hashmi
    Apr 29, 2014 - 7:38PM

    what abut the responsibilities on media men . Media is blowing issues out of proportions creating chaos and panic for the poor , innocent masses. Instead of doing the job of perception management positively it is spreading negativity all along. In this knowledge based , technology driven context media has to realise its potentials with which it can at least keep the hope alive.. there are anchors and programmes every night , after watching it one feel like to quit Pakistan as it has been projected as a failed state by own media. We are reinforcing whose idea? and carrying whose flag ? Media better decide it is the part of solution or part of problem.


  • NotSoCommon
    Apr 29, 2014 - 9:06PM

    @saeed and @Ahad

    You are going against Geo because they accused ISI and Army wrongly but you are conveniently forgetting what has happened to the journalist. This is exactly the point that the author is trying to make. It looks like the Pakistani society is missing the woods for the tree.


  • Rex Minor
    Apr 29, 2014 - 11:10PM

    Notwithstanding the reference to the controversial Pastor Martin Möller….. who was anti- communist and infact the supporter of the Nazi party, who later fell out with the Third Reich because of Hitler curbing the power of the church and establishing a secular Government. He was not a jew but landed in the concentration camp and later freed by the American forces……, the authors conclusions, however, that those in the civil society unite now in solidarity with the journalists victims and the media as a whole, simply to uphold our freedom which is guaranteed by democracy. Consiparicies or merely suspicions, ISI and all other intelligence units of the Army and the detention centres, set up during the military rule,must be brought under the democratic order of the civilian Government and the control of the parliamentry gremium.

    Rex Minor


  • Genius
    Apr 30, 2014 - 11:49AM

    Thank you dear author for ” The gist of the matter is that if all journalists do not unite now to save the freedom of the press, to save media personnel, to save democratic rights we will slide towards a reign of terror.”
    Dear all the journalists, thinkers, writers, intellectuals, you all need unite yourself and then go on to make continuous effort to exhort the people, yes the people, to come together and unite. Unite to organise a party of the people by the people in control of the people guided by the collective of intellectuals among the people.
    To this end all the journalists, thinkers, writers, intellectuals and educated people can play a very useful part in exhorting people to come to unite. Unite to look after each other.
    Failure to do so will make every one see even worse days than what the Germans saw under Hitler.
    The Egyptian people, as we all can see are today getting the taste of their folly in coming to unite when they had to opportunity to do so. Ignoring the call of the intellectuals and command of the Lord Creator to come to unite is the biggest folly people commit. Wher will people go to unite? In the localities where they live and where everything good or bad happens.


  • the whole truth
    Apr 30, 2014 - 11:01PM

    I know Tariq Rahman is right in asking journalist to unite or other wise they will loose earnings in the name of democracy, free judiciary, human rights etc., etc.,,,,,

    I know that Pakistan is run by different groups of self interest. The Journalist, the judges, the lawyers, the media, the politicians, the Generals, the political Maulvis, all have their own interest in uniting themselves.

    I know that the common man, is the most stupid commodity in Pakistan. We can be fooled as long as people like you are around us. We can be manipulated according to your thinking as long as you have rights and access of freedom to speak out. You earn this way like others.

    I know my fourth generation, in years to come, will be living in the same stagnant position. Nothing will change.
    and that why I do not want freedom of speech, I do not want freedom of vote, I do not want free journalist or free anchors. I need basic rights Roti, Kapra and Makan and off course drinkable water. So we the common man should unite against all the cartels who are exploiting us in different ways.


More in Opinion