THOUGH there is no official guideline in place yet, the authorities seem to have started feeling the heat of the constant media glare on their rather questionable policies in various spheres of life, mostly the government’s strategy in the war on terror in the north.
This is evident from the rising number of incidents against media practitioners and outlets. News reports in the last fortnight or so have been speaking of incidents taking place from Karachi to Gilgit and from Toba Tek Singh to Quetta. Forced suspension of transmissions through cable operators, bans on publications and threatening text messages are all being employed to seriously restrain the national media from carrying out its professional duties.
Along-side the government apparatus there is also pressure from certain political and religious parties that have no qualms about using violence as a means to instil fear and a sense of subjugation. Every profession has its hazards and journalists tend to take it all in their stride but the situation, as acknowledged by the federal information minister the other day in Islamabad, is getting worse by the day. Surprisingly, the minister didn’t say anything about the government’s continued reluctance to publicly deal with cases in which the security and intelligence forces have been implicated by victims or their families.
The cases of Hayatullah in the NWFP and Mukesh in Sindh are just two examples in this connection. Both relate to the tenure of the previous government, but the incumbent administration cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to go public with the detailed inquiries which it has not conducted despite assurances to the contrary. Seen together with all such incidents that have taken place since it assumed the reins of power, the government is not proving to be any different at all when it comes to putting up with an independent media. This, to say the least, is regrettable.
That the media has its own shortcomings is a fact not denied by even the journalists themselves. In fact, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists happens to be the biggest proponent of putting in place an independent and powerful media watchdog with which both the government and the common man may file their complaints. It is the government that is sitting on the proposal. It is time a civilised approach was adopted vis-Ã -vis media practitioners who, after all, are trying to ensure society’s fundamental and undeniable right of access to truth.