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Cases against journalists

"Despite the clear divide among journalists, where I stand as a bystander, I am not in favour of cases against journalists, even if a journalist is caught attempting to disrespect state institutions, the best method is to give your own version of the story"

A journalist’s prime duty is to break news. A sad spectacle we have been experiencing nowadays is that journalists themselves are becoming news stories. All over the world, journalists go to courts to cover court proceedings, meet and interview litigants and their lawyers, and come up with wonderful, powerful stories. Sadly, in recent weeks, we see some journalists hitting the court premises to secure preemptive arrest bail. On Monday, journalist Arshad Sharif appeared in the Islamabad High Court, and got bail. He was forced to do so after cases were registered against him, and other journalists – Imran Riaz Khan and Sabir Shakir – for allegedly criticising state institutions and “abetting mutiny”. Well, I do not agree with their positions on different political matters, but they should not be dealt with through cases.

The method of registration of cases is strange. Complainants from Thatta to Peshawar have emerged from nowhere and got first information reports registered against them. Most of the complainants accuse the journalists of talking against the army and the institutions in a “derogatory and provocative language” on social media.

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Criticising the most disciplined, and most respected institution of the country is the favourite beat of some journalists. When they see some ills, they try to establish their links with the institutions. That must end. Journalism is not about running malicious campaigns against certain institutions, without any proof.

To be honest, there is a divide between the journalists: pro-establishment and anti-establishment.

So far my position, well, I have stated many times that anything which damages national interests and public interests does not belong to me. Despite the clear divide among journalists, where I stand as a bystander, I am not in favour of cases against journalists, even if a journalist is caught attempting to disrespect state institutions, the best method is to give your own version of the story.

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The fresh round of cases has stirred condemnation from PTI Chairman Imran Khan, while the other side of the political divide is avoiding it. There were days when several journalists were mistreated during the Imran Khan government, and the then opposition would speak against the use of ‘force’ against the media.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb knows something of everything about the media houses. She has helped resolve media houses’ long standing issues. The media feels easy when she is around. Hopefully, she will come to the rescue of the journalists facing cases.

While we are fighting for our causes here in Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban regime has faced fierce resistance from women television presenters of Afghanistan’s leading news channels who have challenged Taliban authorities’ orders to cover their faces on air. That is the power of women!

Recently, the Taliban regime’s Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice issued orders telling women television presenters to cover their faces or face consequences.

After defying orders for a couple of days, the women presenters have started covering bodies with burqas, while their male counterparts are wearing face masks on air in protest at restrictions on women presenters.

The restrictions remind of the Zia days when all women appearing on the state television programmes were told to wear daupatta. Well, I respect daupatta as a beautiful aspect of our culture, but using it as a dress policing tool must be rejected.

But the march of the progress of women can not be contained by such moral policing.
My message for Afghan women journalists is that they should continue working, as leaving the space would deprive Afghan women of their voice in the media.

While wearing a mask on air, you must speak up against the injustices you see in your society. Keep on speaking, and keep on marching towards a better tomorrow.

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