Dr M Tamoor Azam
JOURNALISM is considered a profession of nobles because it gives voice to those who are voice less. Raising voice for the down trodden, reporting human rights’ abuses and creating awareness amongst the masses are the hallmarks of this field. Yet pursuing this as a career is full of adventure, fame and danger. Being a journalist means doing many challenging things which ultimately result in making a name. But this profession is full of problems such as low wages, lesser job security, meagre resources to fulfil official tasks, no post retirement benefits and so on. But it also brings many dangers to your life and limb if you start writing against the powerful segments of society. It includes both government institutions such as intelligence agencies, police and other influentials like pressure groups and different cartels. In third world countries such dangers are greater due to weak law. Pakistan is no exception to this phenomenon.
History is full of such examples where many journalists were threatened, harassed, tortured and even beaten to death in order to silence their voice and make them an example for others. A prominent example is that of a journalist hailing from Peshawar who has been through such situation for last 8 years. His basic crime was reporting facts without any fear or favour. He never hesitated to put his own life at risk to cover the human rights abuses, forced disappearances, drug trafficking, undue interference of intelligence agencies in the political affairs of the county and above all their alleged involvement in such activities not permissible by law. This journalist was abducted by such powerful elements and was subjected to inhuman torture for many months. Resultantly he had to flee the country to save his life. Being a journalist, free-thinker and critic, he reported copiously on crimes of the powerful elite and radical elements, both in Taliban and government. He was badly persecuted by such elements and was detained for quite long in their torture cells—unreported and secretly.
The severe mental torture he received in that black-hole for so many months is unfathomable. Such practices are very common in our country, and especially for those who are non-conformists, defenceless and who can say ‘NO’ to their high-handedness. He stood for transparency, fair play and accountability of those who provide shelter to radicals and facilitate them with their ill-gotten money and undocumented accounts. He unearthed the nexus between terrorists and their financers. This mafia has even blocked his passport just to grill him. Another reason adding to his misery is his harsh stance over the issue of missing persons. He never hesitates to point finger at the State institutions which are blamed for such forced disappearances. He always rushed to the family members of such persons and highlighted their plight. This created a bad blood between the State institutions and him which resulted in regular chasing of him by suspicious elements, recording of his phone calls and threatening calls from unknown numbers.
Due to such state of affairs all his friends and relatives cut off all his social relations with him. Similarly he also wrote rigorously against the narcotics dealers. Not only this he questioned the very role of Anti Narcotics Force which is responsible to eradicate this menace from the country. This irked the drug traffickers as well. Being forced to live away from his dear one’s, he is facing serious loneliness, mental agony and helplessness. He is so frightened that when this journalist was contacted then he agreed to share his story but refused permission to disclose his name and other whereabouts. Reportedly his younger brother in Pakistan received telephone calls from people who introduced themselves as representatives of Pakistani intelligence agencies. They asked for information about him about his journalist brother. His columns and articles against corrupt officials in Pakistan are a proof that his life is not safe here. This journalist has been granted the status of recognized refugee by the UNHCR Malaysia chapter.
Nowadays he is waiting for decision of his fate by the US authorities as his resettlement case is pending for the last 3 years with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services ( USCIS) is a component of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The civil society and journalist community requests the UNHCR and US authorities to approve his resettlement case purely on humanitarian grounds. If not possible in US then other European countries, Canada, New Zealand and Australia should come forward as his case is far serious than recent incident of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, a Middle Eastern girl who just refused to return to her country and all the developed world raised their voices for her and finally it was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who came to her rescue by announcing asylum for her even she was thousands of kilometres away and too within the shortest span of 9 days.
In the past we have the case of Malala Yousafzai who after being shot was given refuge in the United Kingdom along with her entire family. But similar treatment was not meted out to other two girls who got injured beside her. Such countries should realize that the care of this journalist is far serious than the above two. He is the voice of the poor and down trodden. These states are signatories to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human rights. UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and European Convention on Human Rights so they must honour the human rights of such a renowned journalist. All the eyes are on UNHCR Malaysia, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Resettlement Support Centre (RSC) and on all those countries that champion the cause of freedom of expression, liberty and human rights. By helping this journalist, the goodwill of such developed countries will boost in the eyes of poor and oppressed people across the globe.
—The writer is a Research Analyst at Kunming University of Science and Technology, China.
Dr M Tamoor Azam