In an editorial published on Friday, The News (Jang Group) belittles Husain Haqqani’s concerns for his safety as there have “been no fulminating clerics calling for Haqqani’s demise, nor protests or rallies against his alleged treachery”. As journalists, we find it particularly troubling that The News would require such a burden of proof of threats to ones security.
Who was the fulminating cleric calling for Saleem Shahzad’s demise? Where were the protests or rallies against his alleged treachery? Were there protests or rallies before Zahid Qureshi was tortured and mutilated? Who was the fulminating cleric calling for Umar Cheema to be kidnapped and tortured? Where were the protests or rallies that preeceded Kamran Shafi’s home being strafed with gunfire? Which fulminating cleric was it that threatened Hamid Mir? Where were the protests and rallies that led to Samaa TV’s Ghulamuddin being forced into hiding in his own country? Who is the fulminating cleric that is threatening Najam Sethi?
For Jang Group to suggest that fatwas and street rallies are required prerequisites for one’s health and safety to be in grave danger in this country is insulting to the brave men and women of the Pakistani press who every day live in fear of those we are reduced to referring to as ‘powerful quarters’ lest they find us in disfavour. How many times has an editor requested of a reporter to remove any names and references, knowing all too well the chilling crackle on a phone call, the ringing of a doorbell at 4am, or the Corolla that becomes increasingly familiar on one’s regular route?
Perhaps there has been no street protest against Husain Haqqani, but what about when Jang Group itself publishes articles terming him a traitor? Or when Jang Group publishes articles by mysterious authors that term Blackberry data as “the hammer that nails the coffin shut of those who stand accused of committing such heinous crimes against the state”. What about the production and distribution of videos like this one by “security consultant and defence analyst” Zaid Hamid.
Being on the bad side of powerful quarters is not a safe place to be. Something we as journalists know perfectly well. The issue of the memo is presently sub judice as the Supreme Court has initiated a commission to separate truth from rumours. In the meantime, responsible media groups should not engage in publishing articles terming those involved as ‘traitors’ who have committed ‘heinous crimes against the state’. They should also refrain from making light of the very serious issue of security and safety for individuals who are accused of such acts without ever having been even charged with such crimes, much less convicted. The consequences, we know, can be severe. In short, facts please. Or is that just too much to ask?