Suppressed voices: Remembering the struggle of journalists in 1977
KARACHI: While many journalists today seem to have forgotten the time when they worked under the martial law of 1977, Ahfazur Rahman remembers.
Journalist and writer Rahman has written a book about the journalists’ movement of 1977-1978. The book titled ‘Sab se Bari Jang‘ was launched on Saturday at the Arts Council of Pakistan. Many eminent journalists were present at the event.
According to Rahman’s wife and journalist, Mehnaz Rahman, the book was written on the importance of ‘freedom of speech’.
She went on to describe the hardships the couple faced together in the wake of 1977 movement. “We were asked to leave our house after the police came looking for Ahfaz, who wasn’t home,” she said. She added that during the movement for journalists’ freedom, male and female journalists alike were arrested. “Even the women journalists went on a hunger strike.”
The writer has fought cancer while writing this book, said Mehnaz. According to her, this book is also an example of how to fight for your life.
“All the journalists and the people of Pakistan should thank him for fighting for freedom of speech in 1977 and for writing this book,” said the editor of Roznama Express, Tahir Najmi. Talking about the movement, he said the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) had no funds at that time. “The movement only stood firm because of its motivational members.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, the writer said the struggle of 1977 was not only for the freedom of press; it was a fight against military dictatorship. He said that during General Zia ul Haq’s era, democratic rights were usurped, freedom of expression was gagged and censorship was imposed by the authorities.
According to Rahman, the then union of journalists decided to challenge the tyranny. “Hundreds of journalists were arrested and were sentenced to jail by military courts for periods of six months to a year,” said Rahman, recalling how five journalists were given five lashes each.
Talking about his book, the writer said that it is about the unique war of the journalist community, which was small in number but had fought for their rights and compelled the martial law authorities to surrender.
“I have written this book to narrate how the journalists of today are losing integrity,” said Rahman. According to him, in 1977, the then union of journalists had a devoted leadership and a constitution based on democratic values. He added that his book reminds the newcomers in the field of journalism that they must live with integrity and work hard against the corrupt elements of society.
Rahman has been the president of PFUJ. During the movement of 1977, he was the secretary-general of the union. Currently, he is the magazine editor of Roznama Express.
Giving a message to those stepping into the world of journalism, Rahman advised them to read. According to him, one can only increase information and vocabulary through reading. “An armless man cannot fight for his survival and the arms of a journalist are his words — words that he derives from more and more study,” he said.