PTI’s ‘naya’ media
An unfortunate trend in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI’s) protests was repeated in the Lahore manifestation. Journalists of one media group in particular, and other media groups the party considers not toeing the PTI’s line, have been targeted time and again. Reporters, anchormen and even women anchorpersons have not been spared. In Lahore, that particular media group’s woman anchorperson was reduced to tears on live television by having water bottles and stones launched from slingshots thrown at her. A DSNG van of the same media group was pelted with stones at Chungi Amer Sidu. One reporter was injured badly elsewhere by one such missile that struck him on the head. If anyone thinks such treatment was reserved only for that particular media group, another media group’s DSNG van was also attacked.
The ‘favourite’ target of the PTI rowdies however, remains the media group that ran into a fair controversy after one of its anchorpersons was ambushed in Karachi and almost killed. Immediately after this incident, when the group fell out of favour with the security establishment, Imran Khan turned his verbal guns on the group and its top management. This has acted as a catalyst for PTI protestors to target the group’s women reporters in the Islamabad and Karachi protests. Whether there is a link between the media group’s falling out of favour with the powers-that-be and Imran Khan’s verbal attacks on it, which have translated into physical attacks on its journalists, must be left in the realm of conjecture. Nevertheless, the development gives pause for thought why the weapon of language if the PTI or Imran Khan disagree with the reportage and analysis of the group has been increasingly replaced by the language of weapons. Could it be that this is an indication of the PTI and its leader’s lack of argument to refute any criticism that may have come their way from the group?
Naturally, these acts have been roundly condemned by the journalists’ bodies, including the PFUJ, PUJ, KUJ, and Press Clubs throughout the country. On Monday, after these latest incidents, these bodies had announced a series of countrywide protests against these physical attacks on the media. At the time of writing these lines, it is not known whether the planned protests could be carried out or were overtaken by the horrendous and tragic attack on a school/college in Peshawar. Even if that was the case, the issue is not going to go away so easily since there appears by now to be a pattern to the attacks on the media: anyone who does not praise Imran Khan and the PTI to the skies or dares to criticise it will be taken to task (physically). After the Lahore events, Imran Khan issued a mealy-mouthed statement instructing his supporters not to target the media. But this may prove insufficient or even be ignored by the hotheads in the PTI’s ranks who have not heeded similar appeals in the past. The journalists’ bodies are threatening to boycott the PTI unless such attacks stop. In its own interests, if not those of freedom of the media and a democratic attitude, the PTI’s leaders need to rein in such elements before things get out of hand and some new tragedy is played out. *