September 7th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
In a warning circulated on social media, the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has asked media and journalists in the country to stop calling them terrorists and extremists otherwise the outfit will consider them ‘enemies’.
Expressing deep concern over the threat, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) asked the government and the media owners to take steps to increase security of journalists.
In a statement on September 6, TTP spokesperson Muhammad Khurasani cautioned local media amd journalists against becoming partisan in the war between the banned outfit and security forces. The spokesperson said the media and journalists were branding them with hateful titles like terrorists and extremists. “Use of such terms for TTP showed a partisan role of the media and journalists,” reads the TTP statement.
The TTP spokesperson claimed that the use of such terms for the outfit is a stigma on the profession of journalism.
In 2008, the federal government declared the TTP a proscribed organization. The TTP is an umbrella of militant groups formed in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas in 2007. Under the National Action Plan, the government stopped media from coverage of proscribed organisations and its leaders.
Khurasani reportedly said the media used such obnoxious terms for the TTP at the behest of one party, which had selected it for its rivals. Therefore, the media should call them with the name of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. Otherwise, the media would do professional dishonesty and would create enemies for itself, the statement added.
30 journalists killed in conflict areas
In a joint statement, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfikar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi expressed concern over the safety of journalists, particularly those working in Balochistan and Khyber Pakkhtunkhwa. The PFUJ leaders said that already more than 30 journalists have been killed in these two provinces through targeted killing by militants. “It is regretted that not a single case was solved or anyone arrested in these cases,” PFUJ said.
Expedite Journalists’ Safety and Protection bill
The new threat has again raised alarm in the journalists’ community. “We are being targeted from both sides,” the statement said, adding it is high time that the government should accept all the proposals given by the PFUJ to the proposed Journalists’ Safety and Protection bill.
“We have suggested that the media owners should be bound to provide life insurance to all the employees, particularly those working in conflict areas,” the PFUJ said. “Media owners should also provide safety gear to those working in conflict areas as well as provide them special training in dealing with such situations.”
The president and secretary general of PFUJ also called upon the National Assembly’s sub-committee on information to seriously consider the amendments suggested by the PFUJ in the proposed bill to make it more effective. “We have already submitted our written clause-wise suggestions on the proposed safety bill and we believe that the NA committee on Information will adopt them without any further delay in the larger interest of the journalists community,” the statement said.
History of threats
Speaking to Voicepk.net, senior analyst Mubasher Bukhari termed the Taliban warning a double-edged sword for media and journalists in the country. “The threat has added to the pressure on media and journalists who were already facing restrictions and censorship from the government,” Bokhari said.
Bukhari said threats from militants groups were nothing new for journalists in Pakistan. “In the past, journalists faced threats from militant and ethnic groups in the country,” he said. He said journalists in Karachi can still recall the threats, attacks and killings of journalists carried out on the behest of the MQM there. Similarly, many journalists were killed and injured in attacks by militants in Balochistan, he added.
This is not the first time that the TTP has issued such threats to the media. In 2009, the TTP had asked journalists to use the word ‘martyr’ for their members killed in security operations.
According to Bukhari, the government was already arm-twisting media outlets and journalists through a proposed regularity authority and other curbs. The TTP threat has render the environment for journalists more dangerous, he added. Pakisan is among the five most dangerous countries for journalists, he added.