The attack on journalist Raza Rumi just goes to show how unsafe media professionals are in this country. Tragically, Rumi’s driver was killed after unknown gunmen opened fire on the vehicle. According to Amnesty International three other journalists have already been killed this year and dozens others attacked. The threats made to the media by the Taliban add to the omens of doom we see gather. The use of bullets to silence people illustrates the extent of the dangers we all face. Rumi had received threats before. However, the identity of the attackers is not known yet and the response from the political class has been almost universally condemnatory of the attack. Past experience has taught us that these words rarely translate into action. We are left to speculate about who may have targeted Rumi. He was known to be on the hit list of militant groups and since the attack took place in Lahore there is a possibility that one of the myriad sectarian outfits that operate in Punjab could be responsible.
But the government must share some blame for the frequency with which journalists are targeted in this country. The profession has always been a hazardous one but the spread of militancy, combined with the usual pressures from state actors, has made Pakistan a particularly dangerous place for journalists. The state has usually responded with apathy. The murder of Saleem Shahzad may have prompted a commission to ascertain who killed him but the resulting report was a whitewash that contained no answers. Consider too the case of Wali Babar. Not only was the reporter himself killed but every witness in the case was picked off one by one. The identity of those behind such murders can be an open secret but everyone has been terrified into silence. This fear may be the most dangerous by-product of the campaign of violence against journalists. This is not an acceptable situation. Bodies representing journalists and other media bodies need to step forward and raise their voice against this increasing targeting of journalists.
This Editorial was published in The News