Journalism is a profession that requires the bravest of hearts and souls. Highlighting and investigating hard-hitting stories is a major undertaking in itself. And sooner or later, the stories that journalists write may render them afoul of some influential personalities. In short, in the midst of uncovering the truth, reporters may find themselves painted with a bull’s eye.
This is exactly what a recent episode of BBC’s current affairs program Saibeen took a look at. Monday’s episode dealt with the dangers of being a journalist in Pakistan.
Independent sources quote that as much as 47 journalists have been slain in Pakistan for the last one year, making it one of the most lethal places in the world for journalism. In the face of such grim statistics, comes the recent (and brazen) gun attack on Pak journalist Raza Rumi. Rumi’s car was sprayed with bullets from unknown gunmen. He was injured and his driver succumbed to his wounds on the way to hospital.
Recent reports have put the affiliation of the assailants with TTP, the militant terrorist outfit.
Rumi was based in Lahore, a city that has largely been spared the fate of almost daily terrorist attacks that afflict Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi. That’s why the attack on the reporter-cum-TV-news-anchor represents a new front in Pakistan’s ongoing anti-terrorism efforts.
BBC spoke to Raza Rumi following the aftermath of the attack. He opined that how could anybody perform their journalistic duty when things had gotten so dire. Fearing for the safety of his family and well-wishers, it’s no surprise that Raza Rumi has left Pakistan. Reportedly, 15 of his colleagues in the media circles have followed suit as well.
According to the CJP (Committee to Protect Journalists), Pakistan ranks at 10th place on countries that have fell short of providing adequate security to the media.
This does not bode well for the issue of press freedom in Pakistan. It is commonly held view that the press faces threats from militants as well as the government (and military) that does not take kindly to reports that tend to criticize their shortcomings. The government needs to provide better security to the press fraternity as its duty to uphold the law of the state.
The English dailies are harder hit as they tend to give no space for the anti-obstructionist narrative.
Whether it is safe for the journalistic fraternity to keep doing their job in such dire conditions or leave the country for good, that’s a question to ponder by media organizations across Pakistan.
Something that BBC’s Saibeen program highlighted prominently. With the space for anti-TTP narrative rapidly shrinking, the job of journalists in ascertaining the facts on ground grows ever so important.
Pakistan needs to do more to protect those who are motivated with the desire to set the record straight.