When mobs gather, there is always the risk of violence – and at the PTI gathering in Islamabad, the media seems to have become a favourite victim. After several incidents in the past – at least two of them involving Geo TV teams – in which reporters or cameramen were manhandled, with a female reporter among those targeted, on Monday the crowd turned on an Aaj TV cameraman, who was attempting to do his job by covering the event. The unfortunate individual was badly beaten and had to be taken to hospital for treatment. It is not quite clear what incited the mob to lash out at him as they did, but clearly things are out of control and taking an increasingly dangerous direction. It seems likely the PTI chief’s harsh language, much of it directed against Geo TV and the media house associated with it may be a factor in the attacks on media professionals.
It is important to gain a hold on things. They cannot continue like this. Media professionals out in the field have no agenda; they play no part in policy decisions – but as those reporting from the ground they face the greatest risks simply for performing the duties they are paid for. In the past cameramen have died in bomb blasts and reporters have been shot dead; and it seems the environment for them is becoming even more bleak. Attacks such those on Aaj and Geo personnel simply add an unwanted facet of danger to the work of media professionals. Pakistan has already been declared the most dangerous country in the world for journalists by international monitoring bodies, and it seems things are getting worse. We must protect media professionals out in the field. The government needs to take action for this; so do all political parties and players as well as media groups. There have been too many incidents in which journalists and media persons have been attacked for no reason at all. Their presence is necessary to bring news out to people, and the right to information is one that belongs to all of us. We must not allow anyone to deny us this right.