The conduct of the vernacular press during these days of Ahmadis’ persecution in Pakistan should be brought on record for the sake of history.
This month the news of the murder of two well-known Ahmadi doctors within a week was reported by the daily Jang, Lahore on September 29, 2007 under a single column headline in the corner of an inside page. However, on the same day, this newspaper spared twice the headline space for mullas who in their Friday sermons (rather than taking up some spiritual or moral theme) protested strongly against the sale of some government property to a private party who is reportedly Ahmadi.
The daily Jang claims to have the largest circulation and sale in Pakistan. Its owners and editors are Messrs Shakeelur Rahman and Javed Rehman.
A pair of different yard-sticks used by Pakistani press
An Ahmadi was murdered for his faith in broad day-light in District Mandi Bahauddin on March 1. After shooting him dead, the murderer struck his dead body with a chopper (toka) to defile the corpse. The victim was a good sportsman, and a family man. The assailant presented himself at the police station and told the media men that he had done nothing wrong and had only applied the Shariah law that prescribed death for apostasy (according to the mulla). The victim was the bread winner of his family; he is survived by his widow and three bereaved daughters. The murder was expressive of five major social ills of the present-day Pakistani civil society:
- Run away sectarianism
- Influence of the blood thirsty mulla and his immunity from law
- The idea that any Muslim is free to take the law in his own hand in the name of implementation of Sharia
- Plight of the Ahmadiyya community
- Non-implementation of the official policy of Enlightened Moderation
Two weeks later a tiger cub died at the Lahore Zoo on account of an attack by a parasite and tuberculosis. An English newspaper reported the cub’s death in a three-column headline as the lead story of its Metropolitan section under a huge photo of an ailing sibling.
Earlier, the murder of the Ahmadi for his faith was reported by a vernacular newspaper of national status in a space of only 25 millimeters of a single column in an internal page.
Copies of the two reports are reproduced below (actual size). The intellectual world of the Pakistani press needs to examine its reporting norms.