PAKISTAN remains among the most dangerous places in the world for members of the media who have been targeted by a variety of disgruntled elements. The latter have ranged from religious extremists to political militants as well as forces from within the security establishment. Media offices have been attacked and newspaper bundles burnt ‘in protest’ while journalists have been tortured and physically eliminated. Hence, the attack on the Express media group’s offices in Karachi on Friday, in which two people were injured, is very much a part of this grim pattern of intimidation. It was fortunate that despite the volley of bullets by gunmen on the media organisation’s offices nobody was killed. While the organisation says it had not received any threats prior to the attack, police officials are looking at two possible motives; the first is sectarian as the incident may have been motivated by the religious affiliation of the media group’s owners. The other possibility is that a group unhappy with the organisation’s coverage resorted to the criminal act. Whatever the motive, the attack highlights the volatile, often violent nature of life in Karachi, where armed individuals can terrorise at will.
While only a thorough probe can reveal the reasons behind the attack on the media group’s office, the crime should be condemned for what it is — an attempt to intimidate and scare the media. Here it is the state’s responsibility to step in and ensure that media houses, in particular those that are especially vulnerable, have adequate security. It has not happened so far but it would be sending a strong message indeed if the culprits behind this attack and other attacks before it are traced and punished. A culture of impunity will only worsen matters.