Journalist in Pakistan Threatened for Writing about Christians
Pakistani Journalist Threatened for Writing about Persecuted Christians
A Special Report by ICC
11/23/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – As another Pakistani journalist receives a death threat for writing about Christians, it appears that journalists in Pakistan are being targeted for interfering with an ongoing campaign to intimidate and persecute Christians.
On Oct. 3, Rana Tanveer, a Lahore-based journalist, received a one-page letter, in the Urdu language, calling him an apostate and accusing him of writing in favor of Christians and Ahmadis – a minority group that was declared to be non-Muslim by the state in 1974.
“It warned me to stop writing ‘against’ Islam and seek ‘forgiveness’ from God,” he told Index, an international organization that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression. The letter was delivered to the newspaper’s official address and said, “Rana Tanveer, enough is enough. Your favor to Ahmadis and Christians is increasing and now it is my firm belief that you are not a Muslim. You have turned to be an apostate by writing against Islam and in favor of ‘anti Islam’…If you continue this practice, you will be killed as being an apostate you deserve death.”
Being a Muslim, Tanveer said he cannot even think of writing against Islam, adding that whatever he writes is based on facts and that being a professional journalist, it is his duty to do factual reporting. Pakistani journalists face myriad threats “from murderous Taliban, violent sectarian parties, and intolerant religious and ethnic groups,” according to Najam Sethi, editor of The Friday Times of Lahore, who himself faced such severe threats that he had to leave the country for a time.
Since threats are part of the job, it wasn’t until Tanveer noticed someone following him on a motorcycle, that he took it seriously. After speaking to his editor, he was told not to report on minority issues. If he had to write a story, it would go without a byline – something that means a great deal to a journalist.
“Mine seems to be a lone battle. I am often scorned by my colleagues for reporting ‘chooras’ (a derogatory term used for Christians, also among the poorest sections of society and consigned to menial janitorial jobs) and ‘Qadianis’ (also a derogatory name for those belonging to the Ahmadi faith…,” says Tanveer.
Persecution and the Freedom of Press in Pakistan
One of the threats to the ongoing persecution of Christians in Pakistan is the freedom of the press to speak on behalf of religious minorities, thereby drawing draw global attention to Christian persecution by Islamist extremists and even possibly the government itself.
As a result, there has been a parallel and violent campaign against journalists in recent years, so that the persecution of Christians and other minorities can carry on, with impunity and without an intrusive media presence.
Seven journalists have lost their lives since January this year. In 2012 alone, nine journalists were killed and in the cases of 29 reporters who were murdered since 1992, not a single suspect was prosecuted. The deaths of 24 others, killed during the same period, cannot be confirmed as “targeted.”
“Police and prosecutors face such severe political intimidation that they have been rendered incapable of prosecuting the crimes effectively,” states the CJP report, adding that the main reason for impunity is the lack of strong political will to prosecute.
Pakistan is now ranked the 8th worst place in the world for the press, according to the 2013 Impunity Index report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP). “It is indeed becoming more dangerous to write on these issues, in any language,” according to Kamila Hyat, a rights activist and former editor of English daily The News, who also says, “I believe that while sections of the English language press remain relatively liberal, more and more are succumbing to the bias and intolerance we see everywhere.”
As William Stark, International Christian Concern’s Regional Manager for South Asia, says, “Part of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan is the silencing of reporters reporting on incidents of persecution. Both the government and extremist groups in Pakistan are attempting to cover up these reports of persecution so they can continue to persecute with impunity.”
Pakistan is a rudderless nation with a weak political will and far too many extremist elements to expect any restoration of order in the near future. But it remains the responsibility of the government to act swiftly and decisively against the forces behind the persecution of journalists and religious minorities. Without their intervention, the voice of reason and the voice of hope will be drowned out completely by the sound of mindless violence.