Another journalist is dead, gunned down as he prayed in the mosque he was himself paying for the construction of. Mukarram Khan Atif was a senior tribal journalist working for a private news channel as well as being a correspondent for the Voice of America radio station. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan was quick to claim responsibility for the murder, ‘justifying’ it by saying they had killed Atif for his refusal to give coverage to the Taliban on the Pashto-language Deewa radio station. Reports say that he had been receiving threats for some time but had chosen not to publicise the fact, and the TTP reportedly have said that Atif is just one of a number of journalists they are going to kill.
Journalism is a dangerous profession in Pakistan, and we hold the dubious distinction of being dubbed the ‘most dangerous country in the world’ for journalists. They may suffer at the hands of all sides – including the extremists for not publicising their cause in a way that satisfies them and a shadowy ‘establishment’ discomfited by journalistic exposure of stories that are embarrassing. Politicians have been known to threaten journalists, as has ‘big business’. In a country where so much is hidden there is little tolerance for a media that pushes accountability and transparency in public life, exposes corruption and refuses to kowtow to extremism. Today, in a climate of relative media freedom it is the investigative journalist who is the target. The journalists who dig deep into the story rather than treat it superficially, the journalists who, by so doing, often pay with their lives. The Taliban are going to carry on targeting journalists who displease them. So will the others who would have uncomfortable truths hidden. It is the job of the media and the journalists working within it to strip away the onion-layers of deceit and lies that frame so much of our lives; and they will continue to be in danger so long as there is corruption, double-dealing and deception to be exposed.
Originally published here.