Silencing the messenger
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had hardly returned to the Capital after his maiden visit to Karachi as the country's newly-elected Chief Executive where an early end to energy crisis and complete restoration of law and order in the mega city were his firm pledges that the terrorists struck the Recorder House that houses Business Recorder and Aaj News on Monday evening when the area around was still thick with business activity. They arrived on two motorbikes and fired at the main building from their automatic weapons and sped away in full public view, leaving two persons injured. One injured is still in a critical condition and we hope and pray for his early recovery. How often the culprits get caught and punished, better not said. But as usual there is a flurry of morale-boosting statements and even a promise by the prime minister to provide fool-proof security to the Business Recorder and Aaj News premises. We will wait. Not that the culprits remain unknown; within the shortest time possible the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the murderous attack on the Recorder House. What the TTP spokesman, Ihsanullah Ihsan claimed bears repetition, for the clarity of the TTP's plan as much as for the kind of threat accompanying his claim: "We had informed management of the Aaj News several times to include our view in issues related to us, but the channel had become a mouthpiece of the government and never gave importance to our stance," adding "should it [Aaj News ] persevere in this position they have been 'attacked today' and can be attacked again if our stance is kept unheard". This is not the first time the Recorder House has been attacked, earlier too once it faced carnage, but that is not going to cow down the media house, nor will stop it from publishing and airing what meets the pristine standards of journalism. We never fail to tell the story of both the sides with as much objectivity as humanly possible. And where we commit a mistake we feel no shame in admitting it and giving space for clarification and retraction. But what the TTP should know by now that every media network, anywhere in the world, has to work within a certain framework of code of ethics and a regime of do's and don'ts stipulated by the regulator. Withholding the coverage of the TTP is essentially dictated by a government order, which has forbidden coverage of the banned organisations, and the TTP is one of them. Hence the need for pulling out a leaf from Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority's book. According to the broadcast media regulator, all news/current affairs satellite TV channels are required to note: "Foregoing in view, you are hereby advised to exercise cautious [caution] while covering the operation of law enforcement agencies against the criminal elements and desist from airing any interview, story, or any material propagating or projecting outlaws, extremists or banned outfits. In case of further non-compliance Pemra shall be compelled to invoke legal action against your channel under the Pemra laws." As an independent media network, however, we are open to all kinds of views and statements, provided they don't fall foul of the government ban. That said, we would like the government also to understand that its ban on the coverage of the activities of outlawed organisations comes with a price and that the media cannot pick entirely on its own. If other institutions concerned with anti-terrorism responsibility are being given adequate security cushion why the media houses be left at the mercy of terrorist attacks. Given the suicidal determination so regularly exhibited by the Taliban and sophistication of their weaponry, the media houses on their own are at best sitting ducks. Prime Minister, Raja Pervez Asharf, has asked the concerned authorities to ensure security of all TV channels, that's welcomed. We hope his promise wouldn't wither on the vine, as unfortunately is generally the case. And for this time is of essence.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012