Should I be afraid of becoming a journalist?

Published: March 12, 2011
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The dangers of journalism aren’t just confined to the threat from extremists.

When I was a little girl, my father bought me all the books I wanted and told me that one day, his little girl would be a writer. Unfortunately for him, his little girl decided to be more than that; she decided to be a journalist.

As I flounder my way through my sixth semester at university, I am horrified at the idea that I’m a year away from graduation – a year away from becoming a journalist.

I love writing, and I love writing for a cause. But the events of the past year have left me and my classmates rattled and disillusioned. I was never under the impression that journalism was a glamorous or a safe career. But the situation in Pakistan has grown so volatile that extremists have the courage to murder ministers. Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were both powerful men; they were men with influential friends and personal security guards and despite that, they were killed in broad daylight.

What chance would an ordinary journalist have, when chances are that people don’t even notice a byline?

Our job starts when you hide

For an ordinary civilian, the current state of affairs is bad enough; for a journalist, it’s even worse. Civilians can stay holed up in their homes and will probably be safe. But journalists don’t just get to hear the gun shots; they are right there, hunkering down and trying to stay alive. There’s nothing glamorous about that.

Pakistan topped the list of the Committee to Protect Journalists as being the deadliest country to work in last year with good reason. Be it in Swat, or Islamabad, or good old Karachi, the fact that you’re a journalist is reason enough for any gun-toting trigger-happy freak to play God with your life.

The frightening reality of life in the field

Last year, my journalism teacher invited the respected senior journalist and secretary general of the PFUJ Mazhar Abbas to my class for a guest speaker session. He talked about how he’d switch routes on his way to work, or leave home for work at different times, how every journalist should carry a first-aid kit and know basic first aid so you know how to at least stop the bleeding from a bullet wound.

As he told us about how some people had once gotten into his home and threatened his family, causing his maid to miscarry her child, I realised with a feeling of dread that this was what I would face as well.

A passion that proves deadly

The dangers of journalism aren’t just confined to the threat from extremists and other parties one writes against. The six people that died in Karachi on Thursday night are just nameless statistics to us, as are all the innocents that lose their violence in sectarian and target killings. Not a day goes by in Karachi when something violent does not happen, and when it does, the journalists covering such stories are again placed at greater risk.

Wali Khan Babar is a prime example of the kind of danger I’m talking about. What was he thinking about as he drove home? Was he thinking about what he’d have for dinner? Or about his plans with friends? Or about taking a nap? Whatever it was, he certainly wasn’t thinking about that too soon, he wouldn’t be going home but rather, six feet under.

A journalist’s family

Is it any wonder then, that a prospective career in journalism has been the cause of far too many fights between me and my parents? It’s easy to make sweeping statements like,

“I’ve made my peace with it, and I’m willing to be the change or die trying”.

What isn’t easy is that your loved ones accept this fact as well. I’m lucky to have a family that encourages me to be brave and speak up for all the good in the world, as Wali Khan Babar’s family probably did. But they lost their son when he was not even 30.

I think more than the journalist, his family is braver for understanding the risks he might take in the future, and letting him continue on this path anyway.

Facing my fears

So why, you might ask, am I pursuing journalism? Why am I picking a profession that I am genuinely afraid of pursuing? Because the alternative is not doing something.

I’m too fond of this country to just stand back and give up. So all I can do is try, in the midst of all this terrifying violence that surrounds us is write on and hope I have done my best.

ghausia.rashid

Ghausia Rashid

A BSS student majoring in journalism at Bahria University. She enjoys writing about anything that matters, is an avid reader, talks more than she should, and to her bemusement, is frequently asked if people find her annoying! She is interested in activism, politics and culture.

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

  • faraz

    How can someone threaten Mazhar Abbas, his brother is DG ISPRRecommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    On the contrary, WE should be afraid of you becoming a journalist Ghausia. Recommend

  • http://saidcanblog.blogspot.com Said Chaudhry

    nothing good comes easy.Recommend

  • Raza

    We have enough wannabe martyrs as it is. Please don’t add to the list by joining journalism. As someone rightly pointed out we should be afraid of you becoming a journalist. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/143/taha-kerar/ Taha Kehar

    @Ghausia: I salute your courage Ghausia and hope that the current state of affairs doesn’t discourage you from following the path you’ve chosen for yourself.
    @The Only Person Normal Person Here: And for the rest of us it will be a source of pride :)Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    Also, that pic up there is so freaking scary in all the insane, disgusting, yet very very right ways. Whichever editor picked that and thus made my blog look cool is awesome! :DRecommend

  • Sabir Shah Hoti

    you just tried to make your block attrative & u succededRecommend

  • http://ykhan.wordpress.com Yasser

    Yeah Journalism is a difficult job especially in Pakistan but seems so many are against the De-weaponisation of Pakistan for one reason or another ? NO ?

    What i understand from @The Only Normal Person here comment is every tom, dick and harry shouldn’t be allowed to become Journalist, which we are seeing in the faces of Ansar Abbasi, Hamid Mir and Javed Chaudhry, who are apologist of one party or another.Recommend

  • Lelomaye

    Like someone rightly said : Nothing comes easy. Good Luck though, Ghausia :). We hope you become a fine journalist.

    @The Only Normal Person Here: Your nick is a contradiction to your statements on all the blogs on ET. Seems like you are a bitter soul trapped in an old house with a computer and an internet connection. Please wake up, smell the fresh air outside, clear your mind. Maybe, MAYBE, you will make some sense then.Recommend

  • predictions

    @The Only Normal Person Here.: Hun, you need to make some sense. Your comments are so completely out of context. I mean you’ve really got to be a pessimist to come up with such stuff all the time. And who are you to decide what someone should do and should not do with their lives? I suggest you make something of yourself before you try to point fingers at people who are making an effort to do something other than whine and criticize for the sake of being noticed.
    No doubt you must be a fabulous person with loads of innovative ideas, but what gives you the audacity to speak like that about anyone? It reflects nothing but a weak personality. I recommend yoga, some background reading on basic etiquette and, of course, an open mind.Recommend

  • Farhan Zaheer

    If i am not mistaken a Leutinent-General (Three star general) and a Brigadier have been recently gunned down in Islamabad. And, more importantly Pakistanis clearly remember the recent attack on GHQ in which half a dozen high rank army officers were shot dead.

    So, i think Mr Mazhar Abbas can be threatened even though he is the brother of DG ISPR.

    Anyways, a very interesting piece to read. Recommend

  • http://adpdiaries.blogspot.com Omar Akhtar

    Wonderful post Ghausia! It really does bring home the reality of things we take for granted in the media.Recommend

  • wajeeha abbasi

    very interesting. Recommend

  • Neeraj, India

    Let me suggest you something. Pen down a few venomous words against Hindustan, Amreeka, Burtania, Israyal, Roos and if needed, pour scorn on Papua New Guinea as well, on, at least, weekly basis if not daily.
    You will be safe. You will be darling of Mullhas. Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    @ sabir I have no idea what you said my friend, but it sounds like a compliment so thanks.

    @Yasser I’m strongly against deweaponization because that doesn’t mean crime rates will instantly drop, and people will just be rendered helpless. Frankly, if I wasn’t a student and living with my family, I’d buy a gun or at least a taser. Papa won’t let me though so what can you do. :D
    And I’m pretty sure TONPH didn’t mean what you said, but instead was being catty and petty. And even if she did mean that, then how can she judge what I should or shouldn’t do? Its a lamentable trait of us Pakistanis, judging everyone and declaring verdicts like we’re gods. I see no more need to comment on useless pettiness that isn’t constructive criticism in any way.

    @lelomaye thank you, very kind of you. :)

    @FarhanZaheer that’s precisely my point, forget brigadiers, the governor of Punjab wasn’t safe, and journalists don’t even have heavy security like Taseer did. Glad you liked my piece sir, and might I add, I’m a big fan of your work. :)
    @OmarAkhtar dude. Okay look someone commented on my blog once pretending to be Ian Somerhalder linking to his Twitter even, so I gotta ask, judging by your link, are you THE Omar Bilal Akhtar, or just someone pretending to be him? Because if its you for real, I may have to spaz out like a loser that you read my blog. I ADORE your writing!

    @Neeraj haha first off, which country is Roos? I got all the others except that. And hey, if I did that, I wouldn’t be a very good journalist, if its one thing my teachers have managed to hammer in my brain, its the importance of fairness and objectivity in journalism. Recommend

  • yeast&eggs

    g00d work. Let’s hope cynics who claim to be normal get over their pretentiousness Recommend

  • parvez

    The write up nicely portrays the existing conditions in the profession in the country today.
    The writer has the ability to introduce a bit of drama, so that it becomes interesting.
    Now the comment made by The Only Normal Person has been criticised even by Ghausia.
    The way I see it is that in his/her own way he/she is paying Ghausia a rather subtle compliment, as Ghausia is known for her forthright, honest and at times caustic comments and so he/she says ‘ World, beware Ghausia is becoming a journalist and will write all about you.’ Anyway, thats my take on it. Recommend

  • Shazray

    Lets not get ahead of ourselves. Now we have another person who thinks she has done a great service to the country by joining journalism. Lets get our facts right. You have joined journalism just because of the herd mentality. Everyone is doing journalism so should I logic applies over here. Just like there was a computer science degree and a MBA or a doctor rush. You are no different then the same sheep who follow the herd. Either that or you sadly couldnt get admitted anywhere else. So enough with the martyrdom rant. The whole country is at war and under the threat of extremism and everyone is suffering because of it. Journalists are no exception. So plz give us a break and grow up. Recommend

  • Khan

    your point is very valid. it has become a very dangerous job, Minhaj Barna & Mir khalil ur rehman might also have had such thoughts, but we all know what they decided to go with. Journalism, has become a powerful profession as well, and we know that power corrupts.So good luck for your physical safety. Also, you may never get a hit on your journalistic integrity.Recommend

  • Nefer

    Spot on Ghausia! But the world should fear you becoming journalist, your honesty and writing skills will bring many issues into the light in the future. I cant wait.Recommend

  • http://[email protected] Ghausia

    @yeast&eggs:
    I like your screenname. Reminds me of a chap that used to go by Pakistani Aloo.

    @parvez haha I love your description of my bi**ness, I do. Pretty sure that’s not what she meant though. :D

    @Shazray I wish ET didn’t censor so much, so I could call you the words I really want to call you. If this was someone else’s blog, I’d tear you a new one, but I always do my best to give proper feedback on mt own blogs instead of getting defensive, so I’m gonna try to do the same. First of all, are you sure you’re not TONPH with a different screen name? Secondly, you do not, I repeat, do not know me. You don’t know my educational background, or whether I’m a good student or not, or what my ambitions are. I think back in 1997, when I first decided to be a writer upon reading my first Enid Blyton book when I was 6, journalism didn’t really have the scope it does now, does it? And secondly, like I mentioned in the blog, had you bothered to actually read instead of skimming through, it wasn’t till Mazhar Abbas mentioned the precautions etc. that the dangers of journalism were brought home to me. I’d been committed to becoming a journalist long before that. Oh and btw, a word of advice? Writing in netspeak on a public forum where adults talk is highly immature, so do us a favour and please grow up. I don’t need any morons judging me or my dreams, or questioning my dedication to my field. Now if you’ll excuse me, my Doritos and salsa breakfast can’t be put on hold for bleep bleep bleep like you.

    @Khan thank you, I hope I never end up in a position where I have to compromise my journalistic integrity. :)

    @Nefer haha lets hope I become a big enough journalist for that, that’s exactly what I would love to do. Recommend

  • parvez

    @Shazray:
    OOOooooooh !!! not good, not good, sucker punch not allowed. Cat fight ! Cat fight !Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    Quite essay like but you have it in you.

    I think sound women in journalism is a requirement. Someone like you can break taboos. Do your thing I would say. For a journalist, life is too short to be worried.Recommend

  • Safi

    woahhh…nice one! Go for journalism. I mean this country does need some good journalists who can speak their mind. I am sure you will do great. Very few of us get to live our dreams…u are on the right track! All the best

    as far as the shazray is concerned they are the sort of people who have itchy fingers…i mean criticizing for the sake of criticism..wtf? I mean really..y do u want to fall so low..u want people to visit ur blog through this? increasing the hits on your blog? is that what you want?
    PLEASE SOMEONE VISIT SHAZRAY’S BLOGRecommend

  • maheen usmani

    We need bright, independent and feisty voices like you in journalism, Ghausia. Don’t veer off course and forget about this field, no matter what the obstacles. We are living in increasingly dangerous times, so there will always be risks, but I’m confident you’ll take it in your stride. Best of luck :) Recommend

  • Shazray

    The virulent outburst and the lengthy defence despite the claim that would not do so in the same sentence suggests I WAS right. Touchy touchy !!! The poor thing didnt get admission anywhere good did she. My sympathies are with you. There has always been something in Enid Blyton’s books which has inspired so many journalists out there. Hurray to another make believe martyr. Recommend

  • Shazray

    By the way if you had even a tiny whif of real journalistic skills which enid blyton inspired in you, you would not have required mazhar abbas’s lecture to inform you of the dangers associated with journalist. I hope this one does not hurt you that much. Ouch !!!Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    @Saad Durrani:
    For a journalist life is too short, thanks a lot, that makes me feel better. :D But yes, I get what you mean. Better to just keep doing what you can and worry about death when its staring you in the face.

    @Safi lol thank you, for the compliment and vociferous defense.

    @Maheen I think you’re the first person that’s ever called me feisty, yay. Thank you.

    Thank you all for the positive feedback, lord knows my tiny self-esteem could use it. :) And as for the haters, well as my mom always says, “The best answer to a fool is silence”. Not to mention, I’m past the age where I sit and have flame wars with sad little Internet trolls that live in their parent’s basement. :)Recommend

  • http://wasioabbasi.wordpress.com Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    @Shazray:
    As kids most boys back in late 80s and throughout 90s wanted to be fighter pilots. I guess Tom Cruise’s acting in Top Gun influenced us much more than he ever dreamed. Did we realized at that time the dangers of flying or the tough training that would be for naught if I crashed and died on my first solo flight? My own dream for becoming a pilot was gone when my eyesight was declared terribly weak and ended up wearing glasses, but often reading in paper that PAF plane crashed during routine flight does give a flashback to the days when I wanted to be a pilot and a possible future when my friends and family might have read the same news about me crashing and dying. That doesn’t sound as a martyr at all and no heroism as well. As kids the dangers seemed more fun and thrilling than anything else while now I can see how dangerous flying really is, especially if you are a commercial pilot responsible for hundreds of lives.
    The same way the journalistic dream of Ghausia is inspired by a book and she is not limited by any serious means the way I was, so the whole package of Journalism was attractive to her. Only now that she has grown up and realized what it actually entails to be a journalist did she felt the real dangers that come with the job. It’s nothing about being a hero or a martyr … hell, it’s not even about having second thoughts. It is just about finally getting into the depths and fishing out the real deal of becoming a journalist.
    So if you don’t have anything to say in support of someone’s dream, at least don’t troll around in an attempt to garner cheap publicity.Recommend

  • Ain

    @ Ghausia: Nope girl you shouldn’t be afraid to achieve your dreams. you ‘re a talented writer .good luckRecommend

  • Mahvesh

    I love how Ghausia gets so defensive and offended at comments.Recommend

  • http://dosrarukh.com/ Daniyal Danish

    Journalism is not a nine to five job.Its passion, passion to change the country.Only brave people come in this profession, who wants to deliver for this beloved country.
    I am a journalist and welcome you.
    Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    @Wasio much obliged for the defense. I’d like to point out btw, that I never said Enid Blyton inspired me to be a journalist, but rather, to write, and that love of writing led me to where I am today. :)

    @Ain thank you, very kind of you.

    @Mahvesh aww you’re welcome honey, I’m glad I was able to brighten up an otherwise dull existence for you. :)

    @Daniyal thank you, that’s very nice of you. It truly does require a lot of courage, I just hope I can step up to the task, because I really want to, more than anything in the world.Recommend

  • Ramisha

    @Shazray: Ignorant commenters like yourself need to learn to stop pre-judging. It really does make you seem like a “Bleep Bleep Bleep”Recommend

  • JS

    A very neat piece of writing indeed!

    Journalism is somehow related to politics and everything related to politics is dangerous in Pakistan because people are intolerant.

    One has to think long and hard before entering into such domain, as once the choice is made, there is no coming back.

    Anyway, best of luck in your future endeavours.Recommend

  • shazray

    I am surprised that you get so offended in the first place. So what you couldnt get admitted into a good place. There was always journalism and the self hypothesized martyrdom to look forward to.Recommend

  • Fatimah

    Ghausia that was a very good article…
    i am a student of journalism myself and I can completely relate to this.Recommend

  • Sheraryar X

    @shazray:
    So where did you go to school? And why is it so relevant? A few of the most successful people in the world are college and high school dropouts. Recommend

  • Anum

    D writing covered all d basic perspectives of fear of becoming a journalist…Hats off to u lady!Recommend

  • Ramisha

    That’s a bit too harsh Shazray. No one has the right to say something like this. Personal attacks on the writer ought to be condemned on this forum. Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    Thanks for the feedback everyone! :)Recommend

  • Sadaf Khan

    Ah! Reminds me of my younger days :) Good,atleast start with enthusiasm and some good will hopefully come out of it.
    Random coincidence, I decided to become a writer after reading The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, isnt Blyton amazing,atleast as far as her writing goes. Inspiring to say the least.
    Which book inspired you?Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    @Sadaf Khan:
    I think it was just Enid Blyton on the whole, the very first books I started reading were by her, I started off with Secret Seven and the Famous Five, and then I started rezading her faerietales, The Faraway Tree was my favorite too! And I was just so happy reading her books, I wanted to be that kind of person, someone who spreads joy to others through writing. That actually stayed with me for all of my life, faerietales morphed into tales of gods and vampires and werewolves, but while I still adore that genre, I realized that I wanted to at least try to change the world somehow, and writing about vampires wasn’t the way to do it. But you know, I wouldn’t have come to that point if I hadn’t read Enid Blyton. Oh and The Naughtiest Girl In The School! And St. Clare’s and Mallory Towers were soooo lame but I loved them anyway. :DRecommend

  • Hala

    Good luck on your journey
    I think you have the writing skills to become a journalist
    And you certainly have the courage
    But you might have to develop a thicker skin
    criticism is another danger of journalism
    and you need to be able to take that in strideRecommend

  • http://bakedsunshine.wordpress.com/ Shumaila

    I like reading your blogs Along with the pile of comments they inspire, so I was putting it off until there were loads. Quite some haters and supporters you got there, eh?

    I’m glad you’re so passionate about your work :) I’ve always held the line that ANY work one does is noble if one does it with a passion, whether one is a fruit-vendor or a judge at court. But some professions are riskier than others, and journalism is certainly in the former category these days. So good luck to you :)Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    @Hala thank you for the praise. :) I don’t mind constructive criticism or healthy debates, but personal attacks like thus ones here just annoy the bleep out of me, and if its one think I absolutely can’t and refuse to tolerate, its internet trolls, thus my replies. Thank you for the feedback though, truly appreciate it. :)

    @Shumaila Hah, they really upped their game this time, didn’t they? I keep telling myself, behave, there’s no knowing who’s reading my comments, but this time they really pissed me off. I can take their abuse, but that doesn’t mean I have to, so I didn’t. :P

    Hey, good news is, if I get hurt a lot, I have you for free medical care! :DRecommend

  • Fatimah

    Mr.Pink-Whistle,The Adventurous Four and Children of the Willow farm were my favourites.
    Ms.Enid Blyton is my inspiration as well. Now i like you even more as a writer! :)Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    @Fatimah:
    I can’t beliieve I forgot Mr. Pink Whistle! Remember when he helped the cat owned by the old lady whose ‘friend’ used to rob her? Ohhh Willow Farm, that was the one with the hawt wild man of the woods the kids were friends with, I actually liked nature back then and loved the farm books. haha thank you, I’m truly humbled, high praise indeed. :)Recommend

  • Mahvesh

    I see another Ansar Abbasi in the making – hold on to your patience, folks! Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    You know you’re famous when the internet trolls start crawling out of the woodwork. I love you guys, you fill my days with laughter and hilarity. xoxo.Recommend

  • maleeha sami

    inetersting piece of writing ghausia! m having second thoughts of being a writer, specifically journalist.Recommend

  • qaisar farooq

    @Ghausia:
    Yes Ghausia you are very much right that journalism now become a very risky profession in Pakistan,i am also a journalist working for a TV Channel.but here i wana say you one thing that journalism is a profession of passionate people if you have passion,courage,fearlessness then you can fight with any danger,and journalist always love to work in danger because if we people get scared then how can we serve our society.best wishes for you for your journalist career hope you will never get feared of anything.Recommend