It’s business as usual for journalists at Express News Television, but some extra precautions have clearly been taken here at the newsroom. All glass walls have been replaced with wooden walls... and layers of sand bags have been placed around the building.
Bureau chief Muhammad Aslam Khan explains why they’re being extra careful. “Earlier, it was the North-Western tribal areas that were dangerous for journalists. But now, even in the capital, Karachi, media offices are being attacked. Their offices are being attacked with hand grenades and the reporters are being targeted with guns.”
In January this year, Taliban militants attacked their van in a busy neighbourhood in Karachi. The ambush took the lives of three members of staff – all of them were seated in the front of the van. It was the third and most lethal strike on the Express Media Group in the past few months.
A Police investigation is underway. Aslam Khan believes this was a targeted attack.
“You may be targeted for not publishing news that someone wants to be published. And others may attack you for publishing news they don’t want to be published. Whatever strict safety measures an organization takes for its offices… ultimately it’s the reporters who have to go into the field. The entire police force cannot escort a single individual.”
Karachi is the media hub of Pakistan… with hundreds of newspapers, radio stations and TV channels. Four media offices have been attacked in Karachi since January this year.
During a live talk show on TV recently, a spokesperson for the Taliban spoke on the phone and accused the media of promoting what he called Western views to the people.
Academic-turned-journalist, Huma Baqaiis, says it’s the first time that the Taliban have attacked media offices. It’s not only journalists who are threatened, but also media houses. A recent hit list released by the Taliban showed that there are names of media owners and journalists.”
Reporters Without Borders ranks Pakistan as number three on their list of the most dangerous countries for journalists, after Afghanistan and Iraq.
Journalists recently held a nation-wide protest to condemn the recent attacks... demanding that the government creates a safe working environment for journalists. Amir Lateef is the Secretary of the Karachi Press Club.
“So you can figure out the gravity of crises the journalists are facing here for the last one decades, the day Pakistan joined the so-called war on terror. So actually journalists here are the worst victims of this war on terror.”
The Pakistani government says they’re making efforts to ensure security for the media. They have established phone hotlines for journalists to report any violence cases. Police chiefs in all provinces have also been ordered to protect journalists in the area. But seasoned journalist Aslam Khan has little faith that these measures will stop threats for journalists….