Press attacked again
TRAGICALLY, journalists in Pakistan are under fire not only from shadowy security agencies and religious extremists. They must also contend with local hooligans, often supporters of one or the other political party or belonging to a particular group.
This observation is underscored by Thursday’s horrendous incident in Hyderabad in which Dawn’s correspondent M.H. Khan was attacked, allegedly by activists of Mumtaz Bhutto’s Sindh National Front. According to our badly injured correspondent, his assailants, who used iron rods in the attack, abused him for daring to question the SNF chief, whose statement, and a subsequent clarification, on the NFC award had been carried in Dawn recently. If investigations – and we hope that a thorough, unbiased enquiry is carried out soon and the perpetrators brought to justice – prove the SNF’s involvement then it would not be the first time that the party has indulged in such lawless behaviour. Last year, the SNF, taking umbrage at another report, had set fire to Dawn offices in Hyderabad and other places in Sindh. Besides, its activists have been held responsible for beating up reporters of Sindhi-language papers and ransacking the latter’s offices.
Surely there are more civilised ways of refuting a report or putting across a point of view. With the Pakistani media freer than it has ever been before, the SNF, or any other group or party that indulges in such strong-arm tactics, can hardly hope to muzzle it. True, the media should be held responsible for biased or factually incorrect reporting. But violence serves no purpose, and the government must step in to actively discourage those who display a propensity for it. This is needed not only to prevent disgruntled elements from taking the law into their own hands, it is also important for promoting a culture of tolerance.