If objective journalism has a face in Pakistan, it is that of Hamid Mir.
A man who still carries two bullets in his body from the enemies of press freedom will probably not be deterred by the various constraints being placed on him, however, the treatment meted out to Hamid Mir by various quarters has shown how the dynamics of journalism are evolving in the present Hybrid Regime.
It seems that objective journalism is punished while partisan journalism and favouring one specific stakeholder is magnanimously rewarded. Suddenly, the Hamid Mirs and the Talat Hussains are not even considered journalists anymore but sycophants and third rate journalists who twist reality to serve certain agendas are considered credible in Naya Pakistan.
How embarrassing it must be for Prime Minister Imran Khan to see his favourite anchor being targeted so callously in his government. “Hamid Mir was my favourite anchor, is my favourite anchor and will remain my favourite anchor,” were the words of Imran Khan before he swept into power.
Hamid Mir is one of the very few journalists who is trusted and respected by Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari as well as the most powerful quarters of Pakistan. This is not because he represents the narrative of a single stakeholder but because he has reported, as objectively as possible on all stakeholders of Pakistan.
But now, it seems that the most powerful quarters want the media to only sing praises for them, and any criticism is considered personal, unwelcome and something which needs to be fixed.
Even if journalists are kidnapped, shot and tortured, the expectation is that they will remain silent, that they will give in to fear and continue to suffer like a sacrificial lamb.
If I may respectfully dissent, this expectation shows a lack of understanding of the craft of journalism.
Pakistan is a large country with a population of 200 million people. Statistically speaking, it is simply not possible to subdue all objective journalists and instil fear in their hearts and minds.
Yes, it is possible to remove them from the mainstream, to ostracise them, to imprison them, to impose the most serious punishments upon them, but exactly how many journalists will be targeted? Legislation restricting the power of the media and independent journalists can be passed with a rubber stamp from a compliant parliament but what will be left of our country if every objective journalist in Pakistan is in jail or worse?
And will the scarce resources of our great nation now be focused on muzzling every independent voice? The rulers of today need to carefully analyse the economic, political and diplomatic cost of transforming Pakistan into a totalitarian state where only a single narrative is accepted.
Consider the impact on Pakistan’s soft power, on tourism, on the minds of the youths of Pakistan who are being trained not to question, to believe without evidence. Are we trying to raise a nation of sheep?
Protests held against Hamid Mir show people who don’t even know what Hamid Mir said are chanting slogans against him. They sound clueless over the exact dynamics of the media, yet they are demanding action against Mir. Do powerful quarters want the entire country to reflect the uninformed protestors who are protesting simply because they have been asked to?
It is unfortunate that personal lives are involved in such matters. I believe that any one’s personal life should not be discussed openly and it is against our culture and social norms to berate someone based on their personal life. Any verbal attack on any individual must be condemned.
However, one must also realise the dynamics which leads to such signals. Hamid Mir said that if journalists continue to be attacked in their homes, he will expose some information he has.
Since journalists are so helpless, so weak in front of real power that the police, judiciary and elected representatives cannot help us in such matters so as a last resort, as the final nail in the coffin, Hamid Mir resorted to such a threat.
Suddenly, the debate has shifted from the attacks on journalists and has moved to what Hamid Mir said. It must be understood that what Hamid Mir was a reaction to the attack on Asad Toor. If the attack on Asad Toor didn’t happen, Hamid Mir wouldn’t have made that speech.
An immediate deescalation is needed between the media fraternity and establishment of Pakistan. Our methods might be different but ultimately, our core goals and fundamental interests are the same. We all want a more powerful, prosperous and stable Pakistan.
Let us rise above ego and unite for the benefit of our great nation.
A free press is the cornerstone of a powerful country. It is something to be proud of, not something to exterminate.