Fatwa ‘threatens media freedom’ in Pakistan

Published October 26, 2013
The fatwa designated Dewa Radio, Mishal Radio, Azadi Radio, Radio Aap ki Dunya, and the BBC as targets and included the photos of two nationally-known journalists – Hamid Mir, host of a TV program, and Hasan Nisar, a columnist and commentator.  — File Photo
The fatwa designated Dewa Radio, Mishal Radio, Azadi Radio, Radio Aap ki Dunya, and the BBC as targets and included the photos of two nationally-known journalists – Hamid Mir, host of a TV program, and Hasan Nisar, a columnist and commentator. — File Photo

WASHINGTON: Media advocacy groups on Friday condemned the renewal of a year-old fatwa naming certain Pakistani media and journalists as “enemies of the Mujahideen”.

The fatwa was re-issued on Oct 19 in the form of a post on Twitter.

“We condemn this explicit and targeted threat to journalists, which greatly increases the dangers to which they are already exposed,” said one of the groups, Reporters Without Borders.

“We urge the authorities to reinforce protection for the media and journalists named in the fatwa and to ensure that those responsible for this threat are no longer able to do any harm,” said the statement issued in Washington.

The same fatwa was issued a year ago, shortly after the Taliban attack on the teenage activist Malala Yousufzai. A group that supports the outlawed coalition Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for reissuing it. The TTP itself has denied any role but did not dispute its message.

The fatwa designated Dewa Radio, Mishal Radio, Azadi Radio, Radio Aap ki Dunya, and the BBC as targets and included the photos of two nationally-known journalists – Hamid Mir, host of a TV program, and Hasan Nisar, a columnist and commentator.

“Showing pictures of Hamid Mir and Hasan Nisar may encourage the banned TTP’s followers and sympathisers to physically attack the two journalists,” one of their colleagues told Reporters Without Borders.

According to the fatwa’s authors, employees of the named media should be given an initial warning and “may then be pardoned if they end their hostility to Islam and their anti-Muslim propaganda”. But “actions in accordance with Mujahideen policy must be adopted with those who persist in their work”.

The fatwa accuses the named media of promoting secularism and western values in their coverage of the war on terror and says that by refusing to use the term “martyr”, they are portraying the Taliban as terrorists and enemies of peace.

The fatwa has been reissued at a time of intense media coverage of Malala Yousufzai after the European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on October 10.

The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors issued a statement saying it would continue its mission of informing the public despite the threats.

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