The pen under threat
It is impossible to carry out the task of journalism in fear. This is what employees of the Geo/Jang Group are being asked to do. The group has now brought the increased intimidation and harassment it is facing to the notice of international media bodies and expressed the apprehension that this is part of a carefully orchestrated campaign. Letters have also been written to the chief of army staff, the interior ministry and the information ministry with copies to other organisations to make sure there is no uncertainty about the kind of danger the largest media group in the country feels itself living under. There is much evidence proving that what is being said is true. The threat is not an imaginary one. As has been pointed out in the letter, being labelled ‘traitors’ or ‘anti-army’ has placed all those who work for the group in grave danger. This is especially true of journalists out in the field with no protection at all as they go about their professional duties. A cameraman in Rawalpindi has been beaten up by a ‘pro-army’ mob as he attempted to cover an anti-Geo rally. Another correspondent in Sehwan has been attacked, and even those at the very top of the Geo hierarchy have not been spared, with the windows of the chief executive’s car smashed and threatening letters delivered to editorial writers, warning them not to put pen to paper to produce columns or other material for the group or else face consequences.
This is an extraordinary situation. An attack of this magnitude on a single media organ has rarely been witnessed before. It is being driven forward by remarks from military officers at various places, by comments such as those made by Imran Khan in a recent briefing and by rival media organisations that fail to see how unwise it would be to abandon unity at this point in time. Right now, the government needs to act to protect Geo and all the employees of the giant group. It will be responsible if any harm comes to them. Hamid Mir, lying in a hospital bed since April 19 with six bullet wounds, is an example of just what kind of harm can be inflicted. There is simply no time to wait. The vilification of the group has to stop now. Things must not be allowed to escalate any further. The organisation has done well to call attention to its plight. The thousands of people who work for it are after all at risk. These are ordinary men and women who make a living through their work. It is the duty of all of us to rise to their defence.