JOURNALIST Matiullah Jan has survived another scare. Though back with his family now, his abduction on Tuesday in broad daylight in the heart of the capital underscores the terrible insecurities of life in this country. The air is rife with speculation that Mr Jan, who is a vocal critic of the establishment, had been picked up by certain security agencies. There is also a theory that he had been whisked away on account of some personal enmity. But, in light of the frequent harassment of the media by the powers that be, the former assumption clearly carries more weight. Indeed, Mr Jan’s detention period could have been far longer had the anger and concern over his abduction not been so great. Journalists, both individually and through their associations in Pakistan and abroad, politicians, diplomats, legal experts and civil society at large were appalled by the incident that occurred at a time when Mr Jan is facing contempt proceedings in court. What also appears to have been a crucial factor in his return are the close-circuit cameras that captured the images of mysterious figures trying to nab their target outside a school building. The footage showed that Mr Jan resisted before he was overpowered and driven away.

Mr Jan has had close shaves before. In an earlier instance, his car had come under attack. Then, as now, civil society demanded action against those who seemingly were out to threaten the outspoken journalist. Then, as now, the verdict against Mr Jan was that he had taken an adventurous route to distinguish himself — a mode of reporting that verges on the accusatory. It was a course most dare not tread which make the acts by those who do all the more conspicuous. Any advice for showing more restraint went unheeded. Mr Jan has lived dangerously in a country that is known for its overly sensitive custodians and very tough conditions for journalists. There is a promise, however, in the calls for getting to the bottom of the matter. The demand for the truth and for exposing those who harass the media are growing more incessant with each incident, and seem to have a greater purpose and vigour about them. There is no running away from the job of digging up new information. The task is easier to undertake when efforts by individual journalists are backed by unity in the ranks of all media personnel.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2020

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