When swords and pens collide

Published: January 6, 2011

A journalist’s first and last duty is to always tell the truth.

Pakistan is the deadliest place in South Asia to pursue the profession of journalism. When one thinks of journalism as a profession, deadly is rarely the first word that comes to mind.

Sadly, for 12 of our colleagues, that is exactly what 2010 proved to be. Suicide bombings, grenade attacks and indiscriminate fire by terrorists and anti-social elements took their lives, but there is a much more scary side to the story – one that every Pakistani needs to take note of.

Two members of the fraternity were kidnapped and tortured, not by al Qaeda or the Taliban, but reportedly by our very own security forces. What Umar Cheema and Sirmed Manzoor endured at the hands of security forces is not just illegal; it is an affront to humanity.  And they were ‘guilty’ of just one thing – telling the truth.

The fact that journalists are being bought off to maintain their silence is nothing new. The real problem is that for a majority of us who are in this profession for the sake of unveiling the truth, physical violence has always been an issue.

Those whose self-respect is not for sale know that people will try to intimidate them, and they accept it as an occupational hazard. But when we, as taxpayers and as proud Pakistanis, are attacked by the recipients of those taxes, we need to stand together, not as journalists, but as Pakistanis, to demand an end to such acts of brutality and high-handedness.

A journalist’s first and last duty is to always tell the truth – a result of which causes some ‘esteemed’ personalities to often be ‘maligned’ in the press.

If they kept their affairs clean in the first place, they wouldn’t be victims of the media’s ‘ulterior motives’ – whatever those are.

To print lies about someone is indeed a miscarriage of justice and a breach of professional ethics, but to silence the holder of the truth is a betrayal to every oath that one takes.

Honourable men may be in short supply, but for the sake of every Pakistani and for Pakistan they must continue to voice their reasons without fear of consequences.

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

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

  • Nojeba

    True. Journalists are the voice of Pakistan. They should continue to expose the truth as people have the right to know the truth. According to an International Freedom of Expression Exchange report published in August 2009, about 11 journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2008-2009.Recommend

  • http://www.noor-ul-ainhanif.blogspot.com Noor-ul-ain Hanif

    Journalists are the one who unveil the truth to the public and it is their responsibility also but many people don’t like such patriotic and humanly acts and as a result as you said they torture them or put barriers by closing the transmission of news channels. Recommend

  • http://islamabad Maryam

    i have one problem with the media/journalists…
    when we want you to tell the truth always….y is that u twist it , twist it to a level that in most cases i have felt that its not only me who is confused but the media….so first u twist it , then confuse us and finally brush it under the carpet……. WHY?

    e.g….the sialkot case of brothers….first u proved them innocent and condemned the act, then u after a month confused us…by telling us that they were thieves n bla bla…n then u very easily brushed it under the carpet….WHY no follow up…??

    n now Salman Taseer’s case….first u were after his life…and now when he is no more…u are praising him like anything….WHY is this confusion…Recommend

  • parvez

    The power of the pen lies in the journalists hand. Where power is involved there will always be threats and danger.
    When the ordinary man on the road is unsafe, it makes imminent sense for a journalist to be extra cautious. Every profession has its pit falls and in Pakistan they just get magnified.Recommend