Perils of reporting in Balochistan
A senior journalist chose his words very carefully while explaining to a guest who had come to Quetta from Islamabad to compile a report on difficulties and circumstances under which journalists work in Balochistan.
“The deteriorating situation is a result of war and terror that Pakistan has been fighting for the past three decades. There is lawlessness in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal regions but Balochistan is the worst affected,” he told him.
His fears and calculations were understandable following the multifaceted threats journalists face on a daily basis.
Journalists who received threats lodged complaints and said they could not edit the news of banned organisations and some politicians. Even state functionaries pressurise journalists, so they do not create problems for them in dealing with political opponents. The recent killings of journalists sent shockwaves to the newcomers who now prefer government jobs rather than becoming media men.
The experience of reporting in this conflict zone is horrifying; witnessing bloodshed, violence, threatening messages, warnings and most importantly, avoiding several crucial stories owing to security reasons. One can judge this from the fact that 14 journalists were shot dead in broad daylight in two years without warning. The prevailing sense of insecurity among people has not only left a great impact on education, health care and development but also on journalism. People may find a comprehensive report on Balochistan but not from the local writer.
Journalists are not even willing to share their problems out of fear and try to settle the issues by holding direct talks with the people issuing the threats. No one relies on law enforcement agencies as they are unable to protect them. Journalists from other provinces may report and analyse the Balochistan situation but it is difficult for those living in the province to enlighten readers with their own analysis of events.
Another problem I observed is that media outlets had a few reporters in the province, unpaid correspondents in some districts and no reporters at all in a few districts. The province has been burning since 2006, following the assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti, but its issues came under the spotlight when a United States congressman tabled a resolution seeking the right of self-determination for the people of Balochistan.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.