‘A mortal is God in all his might, This I will not write.’

November 21, 2007

“We had no funds, no files, no office, no dictaphone. And yet, with nothing in hand but a pencil, we wrote the most glorious chapter in the cultural renaissance of our people.”
                                      -Kirshen Chander (1966)

Media has a strong tradition of resistance in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. From the refusal of the father of Indian journalism James Augusts Hickey to bow before the British raj during the formative period of Indian journalism to the Karachi journalists’ arrests after the imposition of emergency in the country, media has been the custodian of a great tradition of resistance in this part of the world.

The journalists like Faiz Ahmed Faiz have always bear the burnt for saying nay to the unconstitutional steps of the dictators taken for their survival on the name of national interest.

Dr. Iqbal Ahmed recounts the tale of a Bosnian newspaper “Oslobodenje” in his essay, “Intellectuals Role in Society,” which is similar to the present ordeal being faced by the Pakistani media.

The Oslobodenje was the Bosnia’s largest daily; it was established during World War II as an underground paper by the partisans who fought the fascists and after the break-up of the Yugoslavia it supported the Bosnia as a country.

Dr. Iqbal writes, “ Oslobodenje practised what it preached. Its editor is Muslim, deputy editor is an incredibly brave Serb woman, the staff are mixed – Muslim Serb, and Croat. As such, the newspaper anti its staff became a target of Serb nationalists, an easy target because its offices are located in the ‘death alley’ of Sarajevo within range of Serb gunners, The newspaper and its staff sustained many miunes but did not miss a day of publication printing often a single page. Oslobodenje became a symbol of Bosnian resolve, Sarajevans’ will to live and, above all, of Serb failure to destroy the values for which Bosnia stood. “Why don’t you move the paper out of Sarajevo?” I asked Editor KemaI Kurspahic soon after he had survived a bomb, ‘we can’t”, he replied simply, “Oslobodenje is a lighthouse”.

The same is the condition of Pakistani media after the imposition of the emergency when the government attempted to gag the media and silence the dissent shamelessly. The president who used to brag about the exemplary media freedom closed two popular TV channels in just one go and let the other operate mutilated.

But unlike the past the lawyers and the civil society have rose and speaking the truth to the dictator hand in hand with the media as legendry Faiz puts it.

If pen and ink are snatched from me, shall I
Who dipped my finger in my heart’s blood complain –
Or if they seal my tongue, when I have made
A mouth of every round link of my chain?

Translated (A.W)