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TTP vs media

November 29, 2012

IF certain sections of the media were still attempting to justify the TTP’s agenda or divert attention from it, the attempt on television anchor Hamid Mir’s life should leave no journalist or media outlet with any excuse to continue serving as apologists for the Pakistani Taliban. The TTP’s claim that it was behind the attack is not solid proof, but in the absence of any denials from the group, one can only take it at face value. And so it appears the Taliban have reached new levels of boldness when it comes to targeting the media. Going beyond just sending personal threats, which they have done with other journalists in the past, this time they have publicly announced that a particular journalist is a target — and that they plan to continue targeting him. The same unrepentant message of defiance came through recently when the TTP claimed the attack on Malala Yousufzai and some sectarian attacks: they have said they will continue trying to kill the young girl and Shias.

In the case of the media in particular, the Pakistani Taliban’s antagonism is alarming because it underscores that they cannot stomach any criticism. Simply speaking out against them is a crime in their eyes, one for which the only punishment is death. As such, they stand against everything that Pakistan’s hard-won media freedom represents. On a practical level, intelligence agencies must ensure that journalists are made aware of any threats to their lives; while the odd interior ministry notification is issued from time to time, there are instances of direct threats not having been communicated to the journalists they are made against. But more importantly, recent events should serve as a red flag for journalists — and politicians — who support, defend or excuse the TTP’s actions that they do so at the cost of their own freedom of expression.