When swords and pens collide

Published: January 6, 2011
Email

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.