The country and its legislature promise freedom to press. This means that members of the press have the creative liberty to take up cases and issues that they believe in and bring them to people’s notice. However, while we boast of offering this creative liberty to the press, the on ground reality is very different. The situation is never as black and white as we would like it to be. The cases that are usually picked up by journalists involve persons who have amassed a lot of power, hence taking up these cases means risking not only your life, your career but can sometimes also mean prison time for the journalists because often these influential individuals have the authorities on their side too.

Two journalists who have recently been imprisoned in Karachi are Rafaqat Ali Jarwar, correspondent of Daily Koshish in Tanda Bago and Kamran Sahito, who works for the Sindh Express newspaper and BOL TV. These two are victims of enforced disappearances and were abducted on February 6 and February 15 respectively. While their families were busy contacting authorities and registering FIRs against their disappearance, the local police later confirmed their arrests on terrorism charges. It is quite convenient to arrest individuals on terrorism charges because they are not given the same liberties as other offenders.

However, while the authorities have every right to arrest people they suspect, the targeted abduction of journalists is becoming a great concern. This not only creates hindrances in their work but also creates boundaries of areas where they can and cannot interfere. That in itself is a violation of the freedom of press principle, which needs to be adhered to in this country. The incident with journalist Matiullah Jan recently, where two motorcyclists attacked his car, and the more recent one where his team was manhandled by the staff of Federal Ombudsman Kushmala Tariq, is also a proof of how journalists are curbed in their tracks and signalled to remain away from certain issues.

Matiuallah Jan is apt in pointing out that to gag a journalist means to gag a nation. The entire premise of journalism is based on social justice and activism. The aim was to be the representatives of the public and bring forth stories which affect us all in a manner which is not only damaging but also manipulative. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) an international media advocacy group, is right in demanding the release of the two journalists in Sindh. The fact that these disappearances have been picked up by the international media shows that such occurrences will further taint the image of the country, which champions the cause of democracy.