THE registration of cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act against four newspapers by the Quetta police is unjustifiable. The newspapers were hauled up for publishing a statement by Jaish al-Islam, a banned organisation, in which the group claimed responsibility for the killing of a police officer. It goes without saying that the media must not glorify violence. But the glorification of terrorism is one thing; covering acts of terror, or statements claiming these, quite another. For instance, Al Qaeda supremo Ayman al-Zawahiri is among the world’s most wanted militants, but what he says and does is reported the world over. Similarly, giving coverage to the TTP’s brazen-faced threat of violence against political parties during the current election campaign makes eminent sense so that the public remains informed of the group’s intentions. And when the TTP made a so-called peace offer, the media reported not only the sham offer but the subsequent debate in parliament. More than a decade ago, the Musharraf regime banned many extremist parties, but that had little effect on their working. The bans proved ineffective for two reasons: first, the outlawed groups re-emerged under new names; second, the ban placed no restrictions on the activity of the personalities behind the groups. This ensured the continuity of the parties’ leadership. Currently, many such personalities are taking part in next month’s election and the media has no choice but to bring this to the notice of the people.
Meanwhile, threatened by the militants on the one hand and hounded mercilessly by the security agencies on the other, the media in Balochistan is facing severe restrictions in its attempt to present a factual and unbiased view of the growing menace of militancy in the province. With militants — Islamists and nationalists — issuing threats to the media and actively hampering the distribution of newspapers in certain areas, it is up to the government and the mainstream Baloch national parties to provide a secure environment to journalists instead of further deterring them from their job.