Balochistan and Pakistani media’s criminal silence – by Salma Jafar

This post is in support to the Baloch Students’ call to shut down the Pakistani news channels and Pakistani Media’s consistent bias towards Balochistan.

Balochistan is in the midst of a ferocious insurgency; the fourth of its kind against the injustices leveled against the people by the federal government and its associated agencies. In the month of January 2012 only; the Baloch received 26 mutilated bodies; one doesn’t even know if many of these were extrajudicial or just simple execution of political activists. Since mid of 2010 till now; the figure of killed and dumped missing Baloch persons has exceeded 270. These people are no chieftains of tribes but mostly youth activists fighting for their rights within or without Pakistan. The carnage goes unabated and there is no one to question the enforced disappearances, illegal detention, torture, extrajudicial and in custody killing by the law enforcement agencies of Pakistan. The numbers keep increasing so does the frequency of the crime and these numbers do not include the number of orphans and widows!

The thousands of conflict affected IDPs were never given the status of IDPs by the govt; hence restricting humanitarian response leaving them and their children in inhumane conditions. The overall law and order situation in the province has gone to a level that independent analysts consider Balochistan another Guatanemo where none is safe. Kidnappings, target killing and extrajudicial are order of the day of this once most hospitable and welcoming province. Security forces (FC) are attacked by the insurgents and gas pipelines blown up far too often. All this is a visible indication of a seething war hidden to the outside world because where the international media doesn’t have access, the Pakistani media has failed to inform and construct a dialogue around it. Even the ordinary Pakistani does not know of this situation due to Pakistani media’s intentional black out of the situation.

None of these maddening human rights abuses find a space as News for the Pakistani electronic and print media; which speaks of the control of corporate bosses and their paid employees’ subjugation to the agenda of state agencies and their control; also implying they are hand in glove with those forces who want to rule Balochistan through their inherited might and oppression. A few editorials or articles written are just to save face and are usually by independent analysts. The bits of information that come through some papers are usually distorted or camouflaged confusing the reader further and doing more harm than good. If Balochistan merits any news it is related to the jokes cracked by its Chief Minister; which is symbolic of the bad taste of Pakistani media; flashed as Breaking News with music to further dishonor the gravity of the situation and to keep its promise of adding insult to injury.

Most people in Pakistan have no clue what is happening in Balochistan and courtesy to the media are consumed by bizarre incidents like memogate or a much wished-by-the-media-coup. The news channels bias can be seen from the fact that even if one person is killed in Karachi or Lahore it endlessly flashes it as Breaking News, but the mayhem being caused in Balochistan is not worth mentioning by these selective moralists. On the contrary coverage is given to violations by Israeli forces and by Indian forces grippingly and Egypt, Syria and Libya find top lines and headlines. But the internal war in one part of Pakistan is no news, the internal force responsible for killing its own citizens without a fair trail is no news, the misery and suffering of the families of missing persons and extra judically killed is no news. This bias towards Balochistan has been so persistent that even various reports by various national and international Human Rights organizations are not news. HRCP, HRW, AHRC and Amnesty have been widely reporting on human rights abuses in Balochistan; but even the english papers have failed to make these as their headlines.

In a country where it is understandable that channels like BBC can be banned for reporting which is not liked by the rulers, Pakistani media cannot champion itself for standing up to the rights of its own people whilst it suppresses stories which matter. It is not ready to get banned and then claim it championed rights of the people. It cannot hide behind the veil of security threat as these so called mujahids can’t claim in any one case that the security threat to them is not posed due to their coverage of Balochistan. The ten journalists who were abducted and/or target killed in Balochistan were all local Baloch writing or reporting for local media such as Sabzaat, Tawaar, Daily Eagle, a Balochi Music Channel, Sabz Baat, and Shabjoo. Criminal as it is none of these journalists became heros for the Paksitani media the way Saleem Shehzad did. Even today one sees the HRW statement of Saleem Shehzad on top of their websites but no headline of the recent report of Amnesty of AHRC on balochistan; exposing the double standards of Pakistani media.

Human Rights violation; worldwide usually occur in hard to reach places with social and political unrest, the professional journalists use sources to collect information and still broadcast it. Such stories as they are can never be available at the doorstep of the so called political elite journalists of Pakistan if they make the excuse of non access and security risks. Pakistani media the self proclaimed ‘Watch Dog’, self proclaimed champion of democracy, of accountability and of openness screams at the top of its voice if PEMRA sets a regulation not suitable to its palate; but is never willing to uncover the truth in Balochistan. It becomes a mere instrument of the state when it comes to Balochistan no difference between the state run Ptv and these independent private channels.

Pakistan is a country which does not adhere to the international human rights framework; its international obligations and commitment are questionable; those in the government responsible for driving the human rights agenda are doing nothing but paying lip service, mere puppets; unable to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated. The custodians of democracy mainly the ones representing Balochistan in the provincial as well as the national assemblies and senate have apparently sold their souls to the devil and have become mere spectators to the state supported atrocities. Amidst this situation one expected media to play a forcefully dynamic role. But Pakistani media unfortunately has not had the time nor the commitment to serve as a change agent, it has been too busy in sensationalism and its partisan political grudges to even focus on the gravest human rights violations occurring in Balochistan. An example of its hypocrisy which makes no mistake is visible in having covered Balochistan more ardently as long as settlers were target killed but not anymore; now that Baloch are being killed. This policy of showing one side of the poicture and not the other is by any standard an even greater crime.

Keeping these realities of our media which is groomed in distortion and smear campaigns it is not wrong to say that Pakistani Media has failed not only to play a constructive role in the overall polity of the country but has failed miserably in becoming a voice for the oppressed (not just the Baloch but Pashtoons, Shia and Ahmedi also). For Balochistan the media has played no role in helping to rectify the situation or to give voice to the disgruntled Baloch; rather it has become a party to those forces which want to silence all dissenting voices. It has failed to condemn the human rights abuses by its government but has been too quick to scandalize and convict politicians it dislikes through media trials. This absurdity shows the mindset that prevails; a mindset that believes in persecuting others without fair trail (but yes through media trial). And this is precisely its approach towards Balochistan: ‘silent endorsement of convictions and sentences to death without fair trial’.

With no moral ground left due to its bias towards Balochistan the Pakistani media has no right to spit venom against any kind of wrong by the government. Till now the only credit to the Pakistani media is the restoration of CJP which was again support to an elite and not to the oppressed masses. As a part of the economic mafia it will not at any cost suffer for its people or its country, this is the truth no matter how bitter. The yellow journalism and sensationalism is what it is all about which is not pardonable amidst the growing body of evidence on media’s role in the social and political consequences it has the power to create in any country or region.

Other articles by Salma Jafar



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