Taliban plan attacks on media outlets, journalists
By: Mushtaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR: Enraged by widespread media coverage of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot and critically injured by the militants in Swat, the Pakistani Taliban led by Hakimullah Mehsud reportedly planned to target media organisations, particularly television channels and some journalists in the country, well-placed sources told this correspondent on Sunday.
According to sources, the Taliban felt that the media has become biased against them and was giving ‘undue’ coverage to the attack on Malala and portraying them as the ‘worst people on earth’.
The militants were reported to have held meetings and decided to suspend all their current operations and activities in the country and directed field commanders and fighters to divert their attention towards media organisations instead of the government and security forces.
In this regard, the sources said, the militants had selected12 suicide bombers and tasked them to target media organisations, particularly the electronic media and some foreign media organisations and their workers, in Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi and wherever they found them.
“The suicide bombers have particularly been directed to target offices, vehicles and journalists individually who had become a party and were issuing fatwas or decrees against the Taliban,” TTP sources said.
They said the Taliban had deputed people to closely monitor various media organisations, Pakistani and foreign media, after the attack on Malala to assess which media outlet was giving how much coverage to her and how the journalists remained impartial and unbiased while reporting the incident.
The sources said the militants were divided over planning to target media organisations and it was decided later that they would target those outlets, which according to the Taliban, “crossed all limits” in maligning the militants in their non-stop transmissions dedicated to the aftermath of the attack.
Also, the militants reportedly planned to individually target some journalists who openly spoke out in favour of the 14-year brave girl and against perpetrators of the incident and also gave an opportunity to the people to not only condemn but termed the attack on innocent Malala as against Islamic Shariah and Pakhtun culture.
The journalists in Swat said they were receiving threatening telephone calls and text messages from unknown people warning them of serious consequences for giving coverage to Malala.After the threats to the media, security has been beefed up around offices of various media organisations while some of the journalists in Swat have been provided security to protect them from becoming victims of the Taliban’s target killers.
It seems the Taliban did not expect such an unprecedented reaction to the attack on a school-going girl and now felt that the media had in fact played a key role in tarnishing their image all over the world.
The TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan argued they would ‘continue to respect journalists’ but some media people had shown their bias and enmity with the Taliban in recent days. Sirajuddin Ahmad, the spokesman for the Maulana Fazlullah-led Swat Taliban, was however, very critical of the media and journalists.
He said media provided an opportunity to all those people who were opposed to the Taliban and their activities and used insulting language against them on media. “Right from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Hillary Clinton and President Obama, all of them used whatever bad language and words they could use on the media but when we tried to reply to them, no media organisation was willing to give us importance. The media is not even allowed to use the real name for Maulana Fazlullah but calling him derogatory names like Mulla Radio,” Sirajuddin complained, but refused to admit that they planned attacks on the media.