Most media sources in the west do follow this policy and you’ll see exact details of offenders – name, age, and other necessary details of criminals included in news reports and stories. Not so with many media outlets in some third world countries, like Pakistan.
Take today’s news post in the famous English daily The News, for example. It informs of a terror plot involving explosive material being caught by police in Hangu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, thus foiling the allegedly intended attack on the province’s Chief Minister who visited the town yesterday. The news post, like countless others of similar kind, is practically useless in helping the public against terrorism, though it does qualify for the kind of sensationalism that has become the pivot on which Pakistan media rotates about popularity. The post in question tells about the claim of the police that they caught “terrorists” carrying a large quantity of explosives intended for the minister’s assassination; but it does not give a single name of the “terrorists” caught red-handed. Why would one not suspect such reports to be either false claims by the law enforcement authorities or just half-heartedly written fill-ups for a paper’s page?
Since the onslaught of terrorism related to Al-Qaeda and Taliban within its territory, over a decade ago, Pakistani media have held firmly on to the policy of obfuscation in matters where people arrested for terror plots are involved. In incidents like the one pointed to above, names of the accused caught with solid evidence speaking against them are withheld; all their identifying details kept confidential as if sacred, and the same line “shifted to an undisclosed place for investigation” makes fun of people’s fears and confusion – the victims of these terror groups, the target of their atrocities.
A terror plot is a direct attack on people’s lives. So the authorities are meant to protect people, not the names of those who operate above the law. Yet, the secrecy continues indefinitely and inexplicably. Are Pakistani media afraid of the terrorists, or do they like to adhere to policies that work toward the relief of anti-state, anti-humanity elements; for in the US news sources, audience usually finds the basic information about offenders charged for even petty offenses – a terror suspect will hardly ever be kept veiled.
In democratic states, it is the government of the people and for the people. The enemies of the people should not be allowed the privilege of privacy and protection of identity. This “hush” policy of Pakistani media may well be working toward encouragement of the elements destructive of life in and out of the state boundaries. Who would be afraid after all when they know their identities will not be made public; that their names won’t be looked for in future by people and authorities as to where they went or whether they were ever brought to justice. It is one thing to report 200 “km” of explosives, as in the above report, but entirely another to keep safe the names of the “terrorists” when you catch them red-handed. Media dealing with such cases, therefore, need serious policy revisions.