Making news out of newsmen

"Journalists only condemn the acts of manhandling, arrests and killing where a national-level journalist is the victim. If the victim is a low-paid journalist or belongs to a small town, the case does not even grab a two-column space in national newspapers"

I have written in this space earlier (I don’t remember the date) that no news person wants to become news; instead, they want to write and discuss news stories.

Nowadays, very disturbing news about the manhandling of the people related to the media in Pakistan, arrests in India and a killing in occupied Palestine have hit the headlines.

First, Pakistan.

A day after his characteristically full-of-bites speech, spiked with visible and invisible chilly remarks, at the Islamabad High Court bar, columnist and TV analyst Ayaz Amir and his driver were thrashed on Abbott Road in Lahore.

I visited him along with veteran journalists Mujibur Rahman Shami, Salman Ghani, Hafeezullah Niazi, PIO Mobashir Hasan, Rao Tehseen, Nasrullah Malik, Irshad Arif and Kazam Khan. I found him in high spirit and undeterred.

He told us:

As passersby gathered at the scene, the attackers left Ayaz Amir after taking away his wallet and a mobile phone. The incident could have been dubbed as an act of mugging, but the speech which aimed at several institutions, cement factory owners and the leadership of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, made the incident a national or even international issue. The incident set the tongues wagging, most of them accusing the premier intelligence agency of the act.

So far, Ayaz Amir has not named any person or institution for the manhandling, so I also keep my mouth shut until the law-enforcement agencies resolve the case. But the incident is unfortunate. Also, the unfortunate fact is that the journalists only condemn the acts of manhandling, arrests and killing where a national-level journalist is the victim. If the victim is a low-paid journalist or belongs to a small town, the case does not even grab a two-column space in national newspapers. So unfortunate!

Thank God, Ayaz Amir is fine, and he is back to work as well.

My heart, however, goes to Indian journalists who face community and state repercussions under the Modi government not because of their work but also faith.

One such name is Muhammad Zubair, Alt News co-founder, who was arrested by the New Delhi police on the charges of fanning enmity on religious grounds and hurting religious feelings.

His crime is tweeting a picture back in 2018 with a caption: BEFORE 2014: Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014: Hanuman Hotel. The complainant and the police see the “questionable image with a purpose to deliberately insult the god of a particular religion”.

The thing to be noted is that the tweet was posted in 2018, and we are living in 2022. The real problem with the Indian government is that Zubair has done remarkable work on fake news busting, and he has proved so many claims of the Indian politicians and government people fake through factual rechecking. His name surfaced in the worldwide media when he talked about the objectionable remarks of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nupur Sharma in a TV talk show.

Thankfully, Zubair’s case has garnered worldwide attention.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Every person exposing BJP’s hate, bigotry and lies is a threat to them. Arresting one voice of truth will only give rise to a thousand more. Truth ALWAYS triumphs over tyranny.”

As I am writing about Zubair’s case, I feel it is time for you and I, every one of us, to check into a honeymoon hotel.

Zubair is lucky to have caught the attention of the world, but what to say of the unlucky Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by the Israeli forces on May 11. Now, the United Nations has also confirmed that the bullets that killed Shireen Abu Akleh were fired by Israeli forces.

“All information we have gathered … is consistent with the finding that the shots that killed Abu Akleh and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli security forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians,” according to a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office.

The Israeli forces killed her when she was on work: she was covering the Israeli army raid on Jenin.

After the UN statement, there is a disturbing lull all over the world.

I feel sad when I see the world seeing the blood of Jamal Khashogi and Shireen Abu Akleh with different eyes.

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