What about the Charlie Hebdos of Pakistan?

Published: January 13, 2015

Wasn't an attack on one journalist equivalent to an attack on journalists everywhere?

I am not Charlie Hebdo.

Does that make me less valuable as an organisation? As a journalist? As a human life? The answer to all of the above is a distasteful yes.

I am a journalist based in Karachi, Pakistan. I am part of a news organisation that was attacked by militants thrice in 2014 for its stance on extremism and militancy. Gunmen pelted our office entrance with bullets, threw grenades at the building and attacked an office news van on assignment. Three people lost their lives while another was injured and paralysed for life.

But you do not know this and you probably never will.

It is not your fault.

How could you when your newspapers hardly dedicated a single story to this attack? And your TV channels were not splashed with the faces of the three victims who like the staff members at Charlie Hebdo, never suspected that their job would one day cost them their lives.

None of you changed your Facebook display pictures to black. No one screamed in rage at the attack on freedom of speech. No one took to the streets and no one lit candles. And in this darkness, we went back to work– the only way of moving forward known to us.

The gruesome attack on Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015 was hence, much closer to home even though we were separated by thousands of miles. Our hearts went out to the staff members who had to endure the same gut-wrenching fear that we knew too well. We seethed in anger at the barbarians who seemed determined to soak a noble profession in innocent blood. We watched in awe as the global community stood by the deceased and the publication in solidarity.

But, we also felt disappointed as we realised that who mourned for you, how and for how long was to a great extent determined by your geographical and political realities. We wished the international community had created an equal uproar when we lost one of our own. Because wasn’t an attack on one journalist equivalent to an attack on journalists everywhere? Wasn’t killing even one person in cold blood synonymous to murdering humanity everywhere?

But we had asked these questions for too long and too many times. When our men and women were blown to smithereens in crowded markets. When our children were slaughtered in cold blood in schools. When an attack on Muslims was brushed aside as a ‘consequence’ while an attack on anyone else became a call to action. When we are blamed for a war that has robbed us of the most. Because even as journalists, we knew that this was one of those questions that we would rather leave unanswered.

This post originally appeared here.


Sarah Munir

A graduate from the Columbia Journalism School and is currently heading the Magazine Desk at The Express Tribune. She tweets @SarahMunir1 (twitter.com/SarahMunir1)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.