LAHORE: Imperilled for the sake of minorities’ rights, a journalist faces threats as he writes for persecuted Christians in Pakistan.
It’s been more than once that Rana Tanveer has been threatened. Rana Tanveer is a Lahore-based reporter at a reputed English newspaper. As he reports, he received a one-page letter, in the Urdu language, terming him an apostate and accusing him of writing in favour of Ahmadis and Christians.
“It warned me to stop writing ‘against’ Religion and seek ‘forgiveness’ from God,” he said. It further warned him that if he did not desist, he would be killed — since that is the punishment of a person declared an apostate. “I can’t work like this; no reporter can, if he cannot roam about freely,” said Tanveer.
At first, he did not take the letter seriously, but a week later he received another letter after he says, he felt he was being followed on a motorbike. “It’s a scary experience. I made a few turns just to be sure that this was not a figment of my imagination, but the man on the motorbike persisted. I knew then that this was no joke and I had to do something. ”While on the other hand his seniors at work have advised him to file a complaint with the police, which he has without naming anyone “due to security reasons”.
“My editor told me to keep a low profile and not to report on minority issues for a while, and if I had to, it would go without by-line,” said the journalist. One of his colleagues said, “As a journalist, perhaps the biggest satisfaction in this otherwise perilous and often under-paid profession is one’s by-line; it also lends credibility. However, the right to information is threatened when media persons threatened.”
Rana Tanveer often times confronts a surfeit of minority rights abuses scattered around his city nevertheless he asserts that few journalists tend to engage in these issues. “Mine seems to be a lone battle. I am often scorned by my colleagues for reporting ‘chooras’ (derogatory term used for Christians, also among the poorest sections of society and consigned to menial janitorial jobs) and ‘Qadianis’.
Nevertheless it’s not lack of sympathy to these rights issue by itself that keeps journalists from reporting on them. A senior journalist and communication expert, says,”It is also quite dangerous to write about “the victimisation of Ahmadis, Christians or Hindus”. Nevertheless, he added: “Journalists have to write what is right. Threats and killings are hazards of this job living in an increasingly intolerant society.”