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February 23, 2021

Attacking the media

Editorial

 
February 23, 2021

Peaceful protest in a democratic society is a fundamental right, but if it turns into vandalism it undermines the very fundamental rights that a society must protect at all costs. The mob attack on the Jang/Geo Karachi office on Sunday, with staff threatened and attacked, is yet another sign of increasing intolerance in Pakistan. Though media organizations have reacted sharply to condemn this incident, and the authorities have also taken notice, such attacks increasingly threaten the lives and properties of media professionals. The protesters could have staged a peaceful demonstration and even handed over a complaint to the concerned staff regarding any grievances they had, but the path they chose just cannot be justified. This is not a proper way of venting your anger if you feel hurt.

If authorities fail to check those who are responsible for such attacks, the tendency grows into a widespread disease and encourages recurrence of such incidents. We have seen inquiries in the past too, but without proper follow-up the inquiry gets lost or gathers dust. To pre-empt such incidents in future, it is imperative that a comprehensive strategy be chalked out by the authorities to protect media offices and professionals. The groups which gave a call for the protests should have asked their members to remain peaceful and not get violent. When they converged on the vicinity of the Jang/Geo offices, the authorities should have cordoned off the area to prevent the protesters from barging into the offices.

Ultimately, the responsibility of protecting the media lies with the government and state institutions. Violent incidents such as this one must stop so that the media in Pakistan can work independently and objectively. The management of Geo had already apologized for the controversial remark that hurt some feelings and triggered the anger. Such remarks do not reflect the policy of a media house, and after the apology the matter should have been settled. The media in this country – both electronic and print – is already under pressure from various quarters. Civil society and political forces must come to the rescue of fundamental rights, and freedom of expression is perhaps the most important one. While a case has been registered and 13 protesters involved in the attack have been arrested, we must emphasise that the police too must be more vigilant and ensure attacks of this kind cannot take place in the future with such impunity.