Terror and media
As the ‘War on Terror’ continues to unfold, with its many twists, turns and loops, many of us have become addicted to the news and events that at times unravel like a lurid soap opera, complete with a cast of heroes, villains, and side characters. It is easy to forget while following these dramas that they are brought to us by people who put their own lives at risk to keep us informed and to keep the news flowing in to the desks that process it before it appears on TV screens or the pages of newspapers. Since the ‘War on Terror’ began in 2001, 31 journalists have been killed in Pakistan, according to the New York-based watchdog body, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The CPJ has also reported that Pakistan is now the most dangerous place in the world for media professionals, crawling ahead of Iraq, Somalia, and other war-torn countries.
This is not a comforting thought. The issue has also perhaps not received the degree of attention it deserves. The seminar held in Lahore and addressed by senior newsmen who sought better protection for their colleagues is therefore good news. Reporters, stringers in remote areas, and cameramen who most often come under fire need to be better protected. The authorities need to act to make this possible. But rules also need to be laid down by media organisations, especially at a time when the fierce competition to “get there first” pushes reporters into more and more dangerous situations. Insurance schemes are required and safety must be made a bigger priority. Most disturbing of all is the possible involvement of authorities in some of these acts of violence against journalists. The murder of Saleem Shahzad just weeks ago led to allegations of ISI involvement in the abduction and murder of the investigative journalist. Following strong protests from the journalist community, the government was forced to take the matter more seriously than it first intended, but still not seriously enough. The way it has been dealing with the issue of the commission to enquire into the incident does not offer much hope in terms of government protection for media persons. In many cases, the police have been known to brutally punish newsmen. The latest example of this comes from Lahore where a cameraman for Geo TV reportedly suffered a beating and his equipment was broken because he attempted to film the torture of a boy held by the police. Such acts depict a climate of brutality and must not go unpunished.
Allowing this to happen can only add to the climate of violence that prevents journalists from performing their work and endangers their lives. Too many lives have been lost to brutality over the last decade. The trend must stop before more lives are lost in other such tragedies.
Source: The News