- Ali Imran’s example was meant to scare journalists
The abduction of broadcast journalist Ali Imran Syed and his release later on Saturday evening was not so much meant to punish as to scare. The detention was not really long enough to scare others, though it was probably more than enough to make him get the message. However, other journalists were supposed to take away the message that this could happen to them too, and for a longer period of time at that. Mr Imran’s sin seems to have been obtaining and airing some CCTV footage from a hotel, which showed men breaking into the room of PML(N) Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, who stayed at the hotel in Karachi because she spoke at a Pakistan Democratic Movement rally there. The break-in was because the men were searching for her husband, Captain (retd) Safdar, against whom an FIR had been registered.
Those behind this action seem ill-attuned with the modern era. Mr Imran was just doing his job, and if he had not obtained the footage, some other channel would have. If none had done so because reporters were cowed, it would have inevitably emerged on the social media, and if enough viewers found it interesting, it would proliferate. In this digital age, putting the lid on something is practically impossible. It might be possible to stop newspapers or TV channels from putting their imprimatur on such items, but with an audience that gets most of its information from the social media, this is a much over-valued achievement. It might be possible to regret a simpler age when the technology for such CCTV footage did not exist, but it would be pointless. Not just news organisations, print or broadcast, rely on digital equipment, but so do such non-intrusive and peaceable organisations as hotels.
The world has become a fishbowl, and the old methods of controlling information must go out of the window. Throwing a scare into journalists may show a realization of this. However, it will not be effective. Mr Imran’s case shows this, that this was a case of bolting the stable after the horse had bolted. The organisations responsible must be exposed, and must reject any orders in future incidents to carry out an abduction.