Opinion written by Asad Ali

Media has emerged as one of the most pivotal pillar of every state in the current anarchic international political and security scenario. With the passage of time, media houses are being expanded and taking over as sixth pillar of the state. International watchdogs, who are working to protect journalists and their profession are becoming stronger day by day. Freedom of speech and freedom of media both are being viewed with the same lenses. No one can dictate the media houses in developed countries. However, there are a few incidents of media censorship in the third world (developing countries) like India and Pakistan. It has become quite evident that no country in the world will compromise over the issue of territorial sovereignty and national security at any cost.

National security has become non-compromise able issue in the world, where states are manipulating freedom of media on the name of national interests and security. This concept sounds annoying but realistic. States are not tolerating even a single comment against the national interests against the country. Interestingly, the so called preacher of freedom of speech and free media are shutting their mouth and turning blind eye on the issue. Even in some countries, dissident voices are being suppressed over the issue of national security.  In the recent past, numerous incident occurred, which clearly implies that element of tolerance is being vanished from society on the name of national security.  States are acting against its own people indiscriminately who are posing grave threats to their national security.

There are various threats, which are being faced by the states in the current vulnerable global atmosphere, which includes journalists, media houses and other dissidents. There are few examples in the recent past, where it has been proved that dissident’s voices cannot be tolerated on the cost of national security. Cases of founder of Wiki Leaks Julian Assange and Saudi writer in Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi are the visible precedents.

Let us take the cases of both individuals one by one that what has happened to these individuals and what crime they have committed. Let’s talk about Jamal Khashoggi first. Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi national who was living on self-exile in U.S. and working as a columnist and journalist in the Washington Post. Jamal Khashoggi was killed brutally and inhumanly by the Saudi hit squad in the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2, 2018. It is pertinent to mention that Jamal Khashoggi was very critical of Saudi monarch especially the young and powerful Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman known as MBS.

Besides his criticism for Saudi monarch, the slain journalist was also blamed MBS for humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen War. After his criticism against powerful MBS and Saudi monarch, Jamal Khashoggi was perished in Istanbul reportedly upon the orders of higher Saudi authorities.  Turkey, EU and even U.N blamed Saudi Crown Prince MBS for the brutal murder of Khashoggi. In addition to this, the remains of Khashoggi are still missing, which is against the Islamic culture as well. Soon after the brutal murder, Saudi government initially denied the whereabouts of Khashoggi. However, after the pressure from international community and human rights watchdogs, Saudi Foreign Minister Adal Al Jubair in a presser confessed that Khashoggi was killed in Saudi consulate in Istanbul in a fist fight with some Saudi officials who were present in the embassy. Saudi Foreign Minister asserted Khashoggi was posing grave threats to their national security. Meanwhile, international community and champions of human rights have failed to act against Saudi government and preferred to protect their own national interests over human rights.

            Let’s talk about the second case of Julian Assange, founder of Wiki Leaks. In 2010, Wiki Leaks published online some classified documents of various states including sensitive documents related to the national security of the countries. Those publications by Wiki Leaks have jolted entire international political spectrum where some countries called the publication act of treason and breach of national security laws. International criticism had started against the publications where some countries including U.S. threatened founder of Wiki Leaks of grave consequences for compromising their national security. However, Julian Assange reused to bow down before the mounting global pressure and announced more publications.

After the revelations, major global players including U.S. and some Europeon countries had announced to take legal actions against Julian Assange for acting against their national interests. The then U.S. President Barack Obama announced to take the revenge of American national security breach. After the threats from various countries, Julian Assange opted to seek asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in United Kingdom. On April 12, 2018, Julian was arrested in London when Ecuador’s embassy refused to extend the asylum period. He was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail. The U.S. and other countries praised the decision of British court and asked for the extradition of Julian to the U.S.

            The so-called bosses of human rights have refused to comment on the issue and decided to stay away as the matter was involving issue of national security especially of U.S. They refused to condemn the Julian’s arrest in an unethical way. Julian’s arrest gives us various point to think about. First of all, it is clear after the arrest of Julian Assange that no country is ready to tolerate anything against their national security and interests. If countries like U.S. are acting against the dissidents, then why people are creating fuss in Pakistan over the arrest of journalists and censorship of media house? Isn’t it necessary to stop anti-state activities from being on-aired in Pakistan too? Why Western countries, U.S. and other human rights watchdogs are only talking about Pakistan? Why they are calling crackdown against anti-national journalist ‘threat to freedom of media’?  There is a need to formulate codeof conduct for journalists especially who are reporting and publishing controversial stories related to the national security. Anyone who challenged the writ of state should be punished. There should be zero tolerance for anti-national journalists. In Pakistan too, if someone write against the interests, he/ she have to face dire consequences.

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