Any pretense of media freedom was washed away by the ink in Kamal Siddiqi’s pen when he wrote to instruct Express Tribune reporters to write “nothing against any militant organisationand its allies like the Jamaat-e-Islami, religious parties and the Tehrik-e-Insaf”. This is not a judgment against Express Media Group which has suffered repeated terrorist attacks, including the recent life attack against Raza Rumi. But it is worth noting that while pro-democracy voices of reason are being silenced both under threat and at the instruction of the media groups themselves, there is another voice that remains free to spread its ideology: jihadi militants.
A perfect example of this is the decision by The News (Jang Group) to publish an extensive pro-Taliban interview with jihadi leader Hafiz Saeed. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief excused militant violence inside Pakistan by blaming ‘foreign enemies’ and claiming that ‘Those who are destroying peace in Pakistan are directly or indirectly working on the foreign agenda’.
Meanwhile, the jihadi leader also justified use of terrorism.
“The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba is active in Indian-held Kashmir and pursing a legitimate struggle. It has no presence in Pakistan.”
This clever distinction between condemning terrorism inside Pakistan while promoting terrorism outside Pakistan has been Hafiz Saeed’s practise for long. He is known to give interviews where he condemns blasts inside Pakistan, but he also collects money and weapons and recruits militants to carry out terrorist attacks outside Pakistan.
In a fiery Friday sermon, Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed called on the people to wage jihad against America in order to save Pakistan and Islam. “Come to us. We will teach you the meaning of jihad… The time to fight has come.”
The sermon was held at the JuD head office Jamia Markaz al-Qadsia in Lahore, where Saeed had his own security. Some of the security personnel were also seen carrying weapons with silencers. A box was placed at the exit and men asked for people exiting the mosque to give funds for jihad.
Media gives a platform for militant leader Hafiz Saeed to project jihadi ideology, but silences moderate voices that criticise all violence and promote peaceful solutions and communal harmony. Ironically, by publishing jihadi propaganda and silencing moderate voices, media is contributing to the problem which has resulted in increased attacks on media. There is no easy solution to this situation, but promoting religious extremists like Hafiz Saeed is not the answer.