Scars on journalists lashed by Zia brighter than any medal: Farhatullah Babar

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ISLAMABAD: Former senator Farhatullah Babar has said that no medal and no award conferred on anyone in the cause of freedom of expression is brighter than the scars on the bodies of journalists lashed during the military dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq.

He stated this while addressing a ceremony in the National Press Club (NPC), Islamabad, to honour the journalists lashed forty years ago on this day on May 13, 1978.

They are symbols of resistance journalism and are the true heroes of this country, he said, referring to lashed journalists Nasir Zaidi, Iqbal Jafri, Khawar Naeem Hashmi and Masoodullah. Nasir Zaidi was also present at the event.

Freedom of expression continues to be stifled and though no longer lashed, journalists continue to endure violence at the hands of unseen and invisible elements with impunity, Farhatullah Babar said.

In the late 60s and 70s, freedom of expression was stifled blatantly by state actors and by both state and non-state actors in the 80s. “Today it is stifled by invisible and mysterious actors and posed new challenges in the form of mysterious disappearances.”

The former senator said that those who resort to violence, sectarian unrest and propagate hate are free to do so but those expressing dissent or alternative narrative on policies faced the wrath of what he described as ‘the unaccountable security brigade and the ideology brigade’.

The former senator also called for the publication of the reports of the Abbottabad Inquiry Commission, the commissions on attack on journalists Hamid Mir in Karachi and Hayatullah in North Waziristan, the attack on APS Peshawar and the 2010 report of the first Commission on Enforced Disappearances.

Journalists Nasir Zaidi, Shakil Anjum, Mubarak Zeb and Riaz Khan also spoke on the occasion.