The fourth pillar is crumbling

Pakistan Army’s Spokesman Gen Asif Ghafoor admitted that had there been free media in 1971, Bangladesh would have not been separated. His statement indicates that he knows the importance of free media well. But his acknowledgement does not make any difference for the freedom of Pakistan’s media.

In democracies, media is taken as the fourth pillar of a state that keeps an eye on the strengths and weaknesses of the other three, legislative, executive and judiciary. If the fourth pillar is not strong, the rest might collapse, posing serious threats to the entire structure of the state.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s media has been going through the dark ages for the last decade. Pakistan is reckoned as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. Over 80 journalists have lost their lives during the last two decades in Pakistan.

Hats off to the martyred newspersons who died in the line of duty. Praises for those professional journalists who kept uttering truth despite being threatened and deprived of their jobs. Threats and killings failed to stop free souls in Pakistani media from performing their professional obligations.

The political parties, governments, militant groups and powerful quarters tried their best to gag the free media but remained unsuccessful. The PTI that enjoyed immense support by media during the last eight years, after coming to power in 2018, paid off the debt to media by chopping of the government’s advertisements to media houses. The action was a clear message to media persons. The greedy owners, who earned billions and erected empires without paying due taxes, took the full advantage of the situation and financially murdered hundreds of workers by depriving them of their jobs. The media tycoons told the jobless journalists that they are facing serious financial losses while the fact is that their margin of profit has been reduced. Still, they don’t pay salaries to their workers on time.

On the other hand, the ruling PTI and power circles have adopted another policy to hush-up their critics. Count them. Najam Sethi, Nusrat Javed, Talat Hussain, Amir Mateen, Rauf Klasra, Matiullah Jan and several others, all veteran and thorough professional journalists, were forced to leave TV screens and now they are expressing themselves through social media.

Social Media Wings of these forces have also adopted a nasty strategy to oppress the dissenting voices on social media by using foul language about them and their siblings. Female journalists like Asma Sherazi, Mehmal Sarfraz, Marvi Sarmad and Munizae Jehangir are targets of social media’s filth being thrown through dubious accounts.

Reason and logic are dying in this society. It is the professional obligation of free media to hold state functionaries accountable for their deeds because of which they perform well. The fourth pillar is crumbling and the other three will also be damaged because of its debris.

Gen Ghafoor is mindful about importance of free media but practically he did not do anything. At least, he can transfer this awareness to PM Imran Khan and the heads of the powerful quarters, who should take this matter seriously otherwise Pakistan will become a dangerous place for everybody.

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