As erstwhile members of the Fourth Estate, it is deemed of us to pen our thoughts on paper in a far superior manner than that demanded from any other medium. But as reporters who are constantly on the prowl to gain access to breaking news of any sorts, we sometimes tend to ignore other finite details, some of which may even help shape or break an economy.
Though much has changed in the press world in recent times, making it more independent and liberal, many would be surprised to know that there are still high-level restrictions that are imposed on the press, often rendering them mute over covering facts and figures. These incidents are even more rampant in countries that are victims of government high-handedness, political apathy, and other such degradable acts, including strikes and death traps laid by terrorists.
To commemorate the exemplary work done by journalists who defy every odd in the book to put forth a defining picture of truth, WAN-IFRA presented the 2009 Golden Pen of Freedom Award to Najam Sethi, Editor-in-Chief, Friday Times and Daily Times, Pakistan. The award was presented to Sethi by Xavier Vidal-Folch, President, World Editors Forum.
Sethi’s brush with constant government interference and high-handedness is not new and many would be familiar with the several punishments that were levied on him for reporting the truth. From the regimes of Benazir Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif and even Parvez Musharaff, Sethi has been silenced several times and even jailed on three occasions for daring to defy the government and its policies. Not to mention the several death threats that he constantly receives from the terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Accepting the Award, a visibly ecstatic Sethi was quick to attribute the achievement to the selfless courage that journalists from South Asia displayed. “Last year alone, around 22 journalists were killed, including seven each from Pakistan and India, for reporting the truth and challenging the several policies of the concerned parties. During such times, it is difficult for journalists to remain independent and bipartisan,” he said.
Sethi called upon the editors of today to essay a diverse role and become managers rather than remain plain journalists. Acknowledging the favours rendered by establishments like WAN-IFRA, Sethi said, “It is good that we are being backed, but it would mean much more if it would advance my dream of achieving peace and having a journalism world that is secular and free.”