Stories about journalists

The thick blood of a journalist

Two journalists died on February 22, 2012 in the Syrian city of Homs after Syrian government forces shelled the house that they were staying in. One was an American and a reporter for the British paper, The Sunday Times, while the other was a 28-year-old Frenchman who had his own photography agency. The American journalist, Marie Colvin, was a veteran war correspondent and had just the night before her death sent a detailed dispatch on various western news channels about the deteriorating situation in the city, believed to be the stronghold of the Syrian resistance to Bashar al-Assad. The French photojournalist, Remi ...

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A dummy’s guide for journalists in Pakistan

Two years ago, I took a course in war reporting. In one year, we learned what we could about embedding within the military, media effects, propaganda, and censorship, amongst other things. Most importantly, we learned the basics of all basics: the nine principles of journalism. We were asked to memorise, interpret, scrutinise, and above all apply them in context. In Pakistan, the media has taken on various roles, often acting as analyst, policy maker and even judge.  At times it has lost the entire notion of censorship and theconcept of contextual objectivity (as difficult as that may be). Over the past ...

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Predicament of journalists in Balochistan

Balochistan is often in the news because of its ongoing low-level insurgency, recovery of bullet-riddled bodies, explosions, target killings or the alleged presence of the so-called Quetta Shura. But very few people realise that the province has also become a very difficult place to work for journalists. In fact, ten journalists have lost their lives in the line of duty this year alone. Three of them lost their lives in explosions or after being caught in the crossfire, while the rest were killed in targeted attacks because of their professional work or perceived sympathies with the province’s suffering citizens. Recently, ...

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Chronicles from FATA: Your story or your life?

Two powerful stakeholders of Fata, the armed forces and the militants, are not happy with the work of tribal journalists. They are constantly warring with each other and each wants the media on its side. In the end, a journalist can report either a factual account and get killed, or craft a vague story and save his skin.   In situations like these, tribal journalists undergo immense pressure. They fear the potential wrath of one party but win support from the other. Usually, their writings miss the main ‘who’ and ‘why’ without which a story cannot be complete, accurate or fair. It is ...

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Who’s keeping the media honest?

There was once a famous conspiracy theory which accused news media of pandering to a select lobby and manipulating the masses. For quite some time, I dismissed such claims as grade ‘A’ YouTube regurgitations. However, as social media evolved and began providing more than just couch entertainment, it became increasingly clear that everything is not black and white. The events of this year, from the Arab Spring to the ongoing ‘Occupy’ protests world wide remind us that technology has, as always, favoured freedom. Real time availability of news from all quarters of the world is a press of a button away on ...

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Islamabad Diary: Spinning around in numbers

Like most journalists I took up the profession because I was useless at math. It is ironic – and quite painful – then that I was surrounded by numbers for the first month after I moved to Islamabad. Even worse I, an English and History graduate, was expected to make sense of numbers that often ran into seven or eight digits. It was budget season in Islamabad, a time when people pretend to know what encumbrance control and interfund agreements mean and then proceed to thoughtfully ponder their significance to Pakistan’s financial future. Since mathematical nous isn’t native to most journalists, ...

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The last refuge of a scoundrel

Not a day goes by when I don’t feel disgusted by some within my own profession. They range from journalists who will do almost anything for a free lunch and those who will rub shoulders with almost any man in power in order to gain whatever personal favours they can fathom. Recently I was accused of being ‘anti-state,’ and a ‘RAW agent’. And all this because I pointed out how one particular TV talk show host was claiming to be working for free in an event paid for by taxpayer money. Since then, many powerful people have called me up and ...

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Saleem Shahzad: When journalists bite the dust

I hope we live to see the day when journalists in Pakistan boast about a prosperous economy, medical breakthroughs, and life security. I hope most of us never see the day when things are actually worse than how newspapers make them out to be. Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau Chief of Asia Times Online (a Hong Kong-based news website), disappeared from Islamabad on May 29, 2011, just days after publishing an article for the Asia Times which implicated that officials in the Pakistani Navy had links with al Qaeda (The second part of Saleem Shahzad’s report, ‘Recruitment and training of ...

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The Rahat fiasco: Sacrificing freedom to safeguard what?

After singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s recent India fiasco, our interior ministry came up with an order binding artistes to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) for travelling to foreign countries. The order does not seem to achieve any objectives and only slaps severe restrictions on the artiste fraternity. Local artistes, showcase their talent in foreign countries and help promote the culture of Pakistan this become a means of raising awareness about the values and traditions of our society the world over. In Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s case, India proceeded to take action against him under its law simply because he ...

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A consensus on water

I was one of some 30 journalists from all parts of Pakistan who recently spent five days together in Swat to discuss water and flood-related issues. Swat was the place where one of the most devastating floods in the country’s history originated last year so it was a befitting venue for a talk on water and flood-related issues. Almost every one of these journalists has covered and witnessed the devastation caused by the floods. The geographical areas that they covered might have been different but the miseries and their scale that the reporters based their stories upon were more or less ...

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