On Friday, renowned columnist and anchor Raza Rumi was attacked at Raja market, Lahore. The assailants reportedly sprayed 11 bullets onto his car, killing his driver Ghulam Mustafa, and injuring his security guard. Of course, they fled the scene unchallenged. Luckily, Mr Rumi did not sustain any serious injuries. The second part of the tale has to do with the media’s reaction, or lack of it, to a murderous assault on ‘one of their own’. One cannot help but wonder: if Mr Rumi was actually harmed in the attack, would that have made the difference? Would there be more outrage, better coverage, less competitiveness? Perhaps not. Considering that news channels are often accused of making mountains out of molehills, the coverage clearly suggested that they’re equally efficient at achieving the opposite. If a fellow journalist’s suffering cannot compel media houses to look beyond ratings and profits, then truly, these are dark times we live in. If Mr Rumi, and many others like him, count on the massive fraternity they belong to for support and courage, then they couldn’t be more disappointed.
Unfortunately, the truth seems to be, that no one stands for you. Such attacks are not always the result of personal enmity. These are carefully planned activities carried out to achieve specific goals: submission or silence, and they transcend the individual. How we, the people, the state, democracy’s free institutions, choose to respond to attacks determines how strong we are and how strong we seem. Both are important in equal measure. And on a purely ethical basis, an attack on a journalist demands the unambiguous unity of the media fraternity on all fronts. Recently, the death of AFP reporter Sardar Ahmad in Kabul solicited outrage across the board from journalists in Afghanistan who declared a fifteen day boycott of media coverage of the Taliban. It remains a united protest, and it can be a powerful tool.
Those who remain quiet now out of fear or indifference will inevitably be silenced later. Already, there are far too few individuals and professionals who express their views freely. They must be held in high regard, and afforded the respect and dignity they deserve. The media has begun to reveal a problematic, complex character . Still, when terrorists strike down one of our own, proceeding reports must honour the craft and be ethical, fair and responsible across the board.
This Editorial was published in The Nation