Sunday, 13 December 2009

Friday Times editor Najam Sethi says Pakistan government and media now recognise Taliban as terrorists

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 30: Najam Sethi, editor of Pakistani dailies The Friday Times and Daily Times, on Monday said the Pakistani government and mainstream media had finally recognised Talibans as terrorists.
Participating in a round table conference on the freedom of Press held here as part of the 62nd World Newspaper Congress and 16th World Editors' Forum, Najam Sethi said earlier neither the Pakistan government nor the mainstream media called Taliban as terrorists. They had described them as insurgents or
"The Friday Times and Daily Times were the only newspapers, which described Taliban as a terror force. We received several death threats, but we did not change our stand. Now that Taliban has been attacking military establishments and security forces and killing innocent people in streets, bazars and places of worship, the government and the mainstream media are recognising Taliban as a terror force. The war on terror is no longer a US mission, it has also become our own war against terror," Najam Sethi said.
Najam Sethi, who is known for his bold secular and democratic views, said the Pakistan government had over decades indoctrinated the media and people against India over the Kashmir issue. After the Jihad against the then USSR occupation of Afghanistan, non-State players turned their attention towards India. The backlash of terror now haunts Pakistan after its 40 years of Jihadi support and its so-called Islamist and anti India ideology.
He pointed out that even though the Taliban may be the existential threat, the media and most Pakistanis continue to view India as the more potent danger. "Whole generations have grown up with this mindset. It's not going to be very easy to turn this clock back. But of late people are recognising the terror tactics of Talibans".
Najam Sethi said journalists like him, who opposed Taliban, had received threats not only from non-State players but also from fellow journalists. He said the newly resurgent democracy in Pakistan is backing the media freedom. "We need a code of conduct to deal with terrorism, whether we should call Taliban terrorist or insurgent".
Stating that sometimes State is not equal to government and sometimes it is, in Pakistan, the senior Pakistani editor said judiciary and bureaucracy sometimes back the government. "The real threat is from non-State actors.
They are very powerful. If the media gets threats, there's no defence. We can't ask the State to defend us. It is defending itself. Earlier we were fighting in wilderness. Now we are getting support".
He regretted that the notion of secularism has been distorted in Pakistan in the last 30 years. "We have been dubbing secularism as anti-Islam and secularists as enemies of the religion".
Najam Sethi said the media had at last become powerful in Pakistan. "We used to have the powerful troika of the president, the prime minister and the chief of army staff. Now it is powerful five. Judiciary and media have joined the list," he said.
Others who participated in the round table included Irina Samokhina of Krestyanin, Russia, Chris Elliott, managing editor of The Guardian, the UK, Trevor Ncube, chairman of the Board of Mail and Guardian, South Africa, Ahmed Benchemsi, publisher of Tel Quel and Nichane, Morocco, Bambang Harymurti, CEO of Tempo, Indonesia, and Joze Ruben Zamora, publisher of El Periodico, Guatemala.

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