Pakistan’s media freedom is the subject of frequent conversation. Whether one is of the opinion that deregulation provided fertile ground for conspiracy theories and other sensationalism, or that a truly independent media is the only institution capable of keeping a check on vested interests – whether political, military, or judicial – most agree that free media has a positive influence on the country. For a small minority, though, free media is seen as a threat, and lately, that minority has been waging a war on media freedom.
On 2nd December, Express Media Group’s office in Karachi was attacked with bombs and heavy weapons. At least three people were injured. This is actually the second attack, the first being in August when unknown gunmen sprayed the office with bullets, wounding two.
Express is not the only media group to come under attack. Jang’s offices have also come under multiple attacks during the past few years, and a speaker at Difa-e-Pakistan’s rally in Karachi threatened to turn the city into a ‘media graveyard’ if they were not given full coverage. Today’s attack came just days after the Taliban threatened ‘open war on media men who don’t stop their anti-Taliban propaganda’ and Asian Human Rights Commission recently issued a statement lamenting the deaths of Pakistani journalists killed in the course of their work and calling on the government to do more to protect journalists and media in the country.
While the attackers and their motives are not always known, what is clear is that a war is being waged against a media that is free to report on sensitive and controversial topics. As this is a constitutionally protected freedom, the Supreme Court should be moved to take immediate notice of these ongoing threats and attacks and direct all necessary agencies to quickly bring the attackers to justice as a warning to others who would follow their example.
Meanwhile, all media groups should set aside their rivalries and grievances and remember that an attack on one media group is an attack on all media groups, and, ultimately, the maxim ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ applies equally to defending freedoms as it does to defending nations.