Just imagine if the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan were in the United States. They wouldn’t be able to believe their good fortune. Christiane Amanpour, Niraj Warikoo, Bob Smietana, Kari Huus, and hordes of other mainstream media journalists would be battling each other to be the first to publish a glowing profile, a fawning interview, a thoughtful feature story about the group’s leader, showing him to be wise, warm, humorous, grimly determined, pious, and philosophical about the foes of the group, who would be portrayed as racist, ignorant bigots. Obama should get them over here pronto, so that this journalistic “war on Islam” in Pakistan can be brought to a close.
“Media now in TTP crosshairs,” by Hasan Abdullah for Dawn, January 23:
KUNAR: After killing thousands of members of various state organs, as well as others, the violent Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has decided to extend its war by declaring the country’s media as “party” to the conflict.
For the first time since its inception in 2005, the banned militant outfit has not only issued a fatwa against the media but has also prepared a media hit-list — a copy of which is available with Dawn.
The 29-page fatwa accuses the media of siding with the “disbelievers”, against Muslims, in the “war on Islam” and inciting people against “the mujahideen” through propaganda as well as of propagating promiscuity and secularism.
The fatwa defines three major categories for journalists: “murjif,” “muqatil” and “Sa’ee bil fasad.”
“Murjif is someone who engages in propaganda against Muslims during a war between Islam and disbelief,” explains Sheikh Khalid Haqqani, deputy chief of the banned TTP and one of the main authors of this fatwa. “Muqatil is someone who incites disbelievers and their allies to act against Muslims while the third category includes those who corrupt Muslim society through different means such as replacing the Islamic ideology with secular ideologies.”
“The media has continuously been lying about us and about our objectives,” Haqqani added. “It has attributed to us some attacks which we did not carry out and it continues to lie about our objectives.”
The fatwa was issued in response to a question submitted to the TTP’s religious committee by its former chief spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan.
“For a long time, we have been asking the media to be impartial. We are not forcing it to change beliefs. We are simply asking the media to be fair in coverage,” claimed Ehsanullah Ehsan while talking to Dawn. “Despite the tall claims of truth and nothing but the truth, the media has been acting as propagandists.”
The initial hit-list prepared by the TTP names nearly two dozen journalists and publishers. It includes the names of a number of media-group owners, the news heads of various television channels, prominent anchors, the editor of a leading English-language newspaper and even some field staff.
The TTP may have its own specific reasons for singling out these particular journalists, but has not given any details. Apart from those unexplained reasons, the campaign is meant to terrorise the country’s media into submission.
“The job of a journalist is to be fair and tell all sides of a story,” claimed Ehsan. “But we know of journalists who are completely one-sided propagandists. We even know of journalists who work as spies for the police and other departments.”According to TTP sources, some people within the organisation had initially opposed targeting the media on “strategic grounds”.
“But later on it was decided that the media was basically the institution driving this war and public opinion. When it is already defaming us, we really don’t have much to lose and may as well deal with the media as a party to this war,” said a member of the TTP media committee.
“Even at this stage the media could mend its ways and become a neutral entity,” asserted Ehsan. “Otherwise, the media should not feel secure. A few barriers and security escorts will not help. If we can get inside military installations, media offices should not be too much of a challenge,” he threatened.