It is never easy being a journalist – not even when things are going smoothly and they certainly are not doing so for journalists here in Pakistan right now. Aside from the ever present watchfulness of the ‘authorities’ and the inescapable fact that your personal, as well as office, phones and other lines of communication may be monitored around the clock and that your colleagues, particularly those specializing in investigative reporting, may vanish at the drop of someone’s hat, there are now the scathing comments of the general public, most of whom have never particularly liked journalists anyway, to contend with and this, rightly or wrongly, is all the fault of the press corps itself. 

The recent, well deserved furore, is a direct result of the revelation that a number of prominent journalists and television anchor persons had, against all professional sense and sensibility, succumbed to personal greed by accepting monetary bribes, plots of land and other ‘goodies’  in payment for ‘manufacturing’ news stories, almost totally destroyed the Pakistani press in the eyes of not just the citizens they struggle to serve but also in the eyes of the whole wide world too. These despicable revelations have made every single member of the Pakistani press world a target for vitriolic scorn and an even higher level of mistrust than has always, this applies globally too, been the norm and which, for those of us who are and have always been honest and completely above board, are also paying the price.

People are thick-skinned enough to expect all journalists, guilty and otherwise, not to be affected by the hateful venom spewed in their direction and much of it, this is the rub, actively disseminated by disgruntled members of the press themselves some of whom, not all by any stretch of the imagination, should know better as spreading, very thickly, ill intentioned lies only serves to promote the victimization of every single working member of the press around. Having said this, I can already hear some of you shouting that I am calling for a ‘cover-up’ but, I do assure you that this is most certainly not the case. Wrongdoers, irrespective of their credentials, should be punished but there is no need to tar everyone in the same sphere of interest with the very same brush.

The general public is still enjoying a tremendous field day at the expense of the press in general and will, no doubt, continue doing so for ever and day but they would be wise to keep in mind that there is good and bad everywhere and that without honest, hard working journalists, many of whom actively put their lives right there on the line to gather the news people wait for so avidly, there would be no news at all and then where would they be?  

There are, to be frank, countless unnamed correspondents filing news stories from all over the country to whichever publication will financially reward them for their often extremely lackluster efforts, which may or not be factually correct but it was the big names, not these invisible news suppliers, who thought they were so far ahead of the game that they could mint money by lying and survive to enjoy their ill-gotten gains without anyone catching them out. Shame on them for stooping so low and for bringing the entire press world in to the firing line of already biased public opinion.

The world of journalism in Pakistan has had, over the years, some extremely fine and world class writers who have always wielded their pens, now their keyboards, in the name of all that is right and good and they, irrespective of outraged mud-slinging, will continue, often against incredible odds,  to uphold the journalistic profession with sincere integrity and true grit. They have, each and every one of them, worked tremendously hard and for far longer hours than most people realize, to get where they are and to serve the public to whom they are, ultimately, responsible and their honest dedication should not be brought into question as the result of the disgusting greediness and downright betrayal of a handful of irresponsible idiots with cash registers  in their craniums where brains are supposed to be.

Fabricating news, whether or not the fabricator is illicitly or legitimately rewarded for their inventions, is criminal and no journalist with even a single drop of honest integrity would ever stoop to such unforgivable depths of depravity and those who have done so do deserve to be publicly castigated, ridiculed and prosecuted for their crimes as do people doing wrong in other profession too but, the public at large needs to be reminded and to remember that not all members of the press corps, print, television or otherwise, are the same and that some of us do bleed from the unwarranted attack on our integrity.

n    The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.