The Taliban claimed responsibility for killing three Express News TV workers in broad daylight in Karachi on January 18. It was the third attack on the media group. Following the attack a statement was issued by the Taliban warning journalists of dreadful consequences if they kept pursuing the ‘anti-Islamic’ agenda of the government. They also released a list of journalists who according to the Taliban deserved death because of their harsh stance against the group. The list has not been made public, though certain media houses claim to have received it. Pakistan is one of the fourth most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Journalists have been demanding protection given the kind of hostile environment they have to operate in. After the latest killing the demand grew louder, and the other day the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, National Press Club and Parliamentary Reporters Association boycotted the National Assembly session to register their protest. In order to restore calm, a typical sweetener was offered by Information Minister Pervez Rashid, saying that the government has formed a committee to find out solutions and means to protect journalists. This typical, run-of-the mill and mundane style of appeasing protesting groups cannot be taken seriously. These committees end up gathering dust in meeting rooms.
On the other hand the Taliban’s warning seems to have worked on some TV anchors; their broadcasts have since taken on an appeasing tone. This attempt at appeasement will only make the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan bolder in its dictation to the media. It is a win-win situation for them. If their threat is responded to by appeasement, which even the government and many of our leaders are practising, then who can stop them from eventually taking over the state? The only efficacious response to this threat, as far as journalists are concerned, lies in denying the oxygen of publicity to the terrorists. A complete silence in both the print and electronic media will starve the terrorists of the publicity they require to perpetuate terror in society. The tool has been famously used in the past against the Ireland insurgents by Margaret Thatcher. Broadcasters have inadvertently lent themselves to exploitation by the terrorists, when the former kept hammering away at viewers about the terrorists’ activities through their reportage and analysis. The government, having failed to contain terrorism, will certainly not be in a position to provide protection to journalists, the Information Minister’s committee notwithstanding. The only solution left is to cut off the terrorists’ access to the media. Isolate them. This will eventually weaken them.