Who’s afraid of Najam Sethi?

Oct 1st, 2011 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Spats between politicians are a regular occurrence – Altaf and Nawaz’s verbal back and forths are the stuff of legend. This can be somewhat expected between politicians as they are competing for votes and attention from many of the same constituencies. Though journalists are also competitive, this is usually carried out on the merits of reporting and commentary and not in petty insults and accusations. Usually, though not always. In the past week, actually, we have seen a growing number of attacks aimed at one particular journalist, Najam Sethi. But rather than being part of a personal feud, it appears that these attacks may be part of a coordinated campaign.

On Monday, Mubashir Luqman discussed the supposed American threat of attack on his show Khari Baat. At the end of the programme, though, surrounded by his invited guests Maleeha Lodhi and Hamid Gul, Luqman lashes out at Najam Sethi (forward to 8:51).

This seemed to be a strange turn for the conversation to take, but what was even more strange was when Luqman went out of his way to attack Najam Sethi on PTV’s Morning Show.

As you can see, Noor becomes visibly uncomfortable with Luqman’s unprompted attack on Najam Sethi. Some might think that Luqman’s strange behaviour was the result of a personal feud between the two men, but then our attention was pointed to another article attacking Mr Sethi which appeared on a website ‘Views Times‘.

Like Mubashir Luqman’s attacks, the article accuses Mr Sethi as a tool of American policy. Only, this piece goes even further and makes the bizarre claim that Najam Sethi is advising the American government.

The Americans were left with no choice–they halted the 800 million in aid to the Pakistani military. They were banking on the advice given to them by Mr. Njam Sethi and gang.

Though he is an internationally renowned and award-winning journalist, it’s rather far fetched to claim the American government was taking policy dictation from Najam Sethi.

In stark contrast to Najam Sethi’s career, his attackers are mostly non-entities from an exposed propaganda ring. The website, Views Times is one of several fake news sites associated with propagandists like Ahmed Quraishi and Major Raja Mujtaba.

Actually, a Google search for a random line in the piece on Views Times found 49 results – all fake news sites like ‘Times of Bombay’ and ‘Times of Kabul’ and ‘Karachi Telegraph’. Oh, and the incredibly well funded PKKH, a project of Ahmed Quraishi, Shireen Mazari, and Hamid Gul.

Like too many of our fellow journalists, Najam Sethi has already suffered for giving voice to views that were unpopular in some quarters. He was ‘preventatively detained’ by Gen Zia, and later imprisoned by the government of Nawaz Sharif for exposing corruption. Of course he was accused then with the all-too-familiar charge of ‘treason’.

For his unwillingness to cower in the face of intimidation, Najam Sethi has received the Journalism Under Threat award from Amnesty International and the International Press Freedom award from Committee to Protect Journalists.

Whoever is behind this campaign to attack Najam Sethi, the question that must be asked is whether Pakistan’s media is truly ‘free’ so long as journalists are smeared, threatened, or worse when they report views that some do not like.

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