Pakistani Journalists in the Hot Seat
Q: Who, in your view, has planted this list of 19 journalists, who are rumoured to have taken monetary or other favours from Malik Riaz, on the internet?
A: The fake list was created and put on YouTube to tarnish the reputation and credibility of independent journalists so that people stop believing them as they did at the time of imposition of emergency or other attempts at a soft coup. Activists of a political party, allegedly sponsored by a secret agency, also played a role in sharing it on Twitter and Facebook.
Q: How has it damaged your reputation and credibility?
A: It hasn’t just damaged my credibility, it has damaged the credibility of the entire Pakistani media. All the journalists on that list are in the public eye and people trusted them and believed them, and this list has managed to put doubts in the minds of their viewers.
Q: What do you propose to do about it?
A: I am at a loss to understand what can be done about propaganda campaigns. Encouraged by the response and importance given to the fake list by the media itself, another list is also likely to surface soon to damage the credibility of the entire Pakistani media.
Any government department or the courts can seek and check my assets and account details. If Newsline or any other credible media organisation, such as Dawn or The News, wants to check my assets and account details, I am more than willing to provide all the details to them.
Q: Why have journalists on this list gone on the back foot instead of making a noise about it?
A: Many of the journalists on the fake list have been demanding the accountability of intelligence agencies. It is not surprising that their names appear on an alleged stolen letter pad of Bahria Town, whose owner happens to provide services to intelligence agencies – apart from all his other clients in the corridors of power and political parties.
Q: People believe that some of the journalists on this list are on the take. What do you have to say about this?
A: I am the only journalist who probed and aired programmes about the illegalities of Bahria Town when no one dared to touch Malik Riaz with a barge pole. The two-member judicial commission formed by the Supreme Court should expand its probe and call for all of Bahria Town’s records to learn which media groups and journalists benefited from the largesse of the corporate face of the intelligence agencies in Pakistan. A thorough judicial investigation would reveal a nexus of certain intelligence agencies, political parties, the army, the judiciary and the media with Bahria Town – something which is not likely to happen in the near future.
This article was originally published in the July issue of Newsline under the headline “Rumour has it…” as part of the cover story on Pakistani media.
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