Editorial: Let the chips fall where they may

WEB DESK: Faced with unsavoury after-effects of a story that appeared in Dawn nearly three weeks ago regarding the deliberations of a high-level security meeting, the government is now desperately trying to shift the blame onto the reporter.

In fact, soon after the story started generating heat the government issued, in quick succession, three explanatory statements pointing the finger at the reporter, putting him on the Exit Control List (he was taken off the list at the intervention of CPNE and APNS).

The ISPR also issued a statement distancing itself from the decision while keeping the pressure on for answers. The newspaper stands by its reporter and those amongst us who feel that it was a deliberate attempt to malign state institutions are in no mood to forget or forgive. Heads had to roll. The first to go is Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid.

Unfortunately, however, speaking at a press conference on Sunday Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan kept targeting the journalist, accusing him of fabrication, saying he had discussed the “false story” with minister Pervaiz Rashid in his office, and that the latter had denied its contents.

The information minister’s fault, according to Chaudhry Nisar, was only that he had failed to prevent the publication of the story, which led to his resignation. That merits the obvious question, where do any of the ministers derive the right to tell a newspaper what may or may not be published? Nisar did not stop at that. He went on to aver “a high powered committee will probe the ‘leaks’ and those responsible will be exposed… no one should attempt to hide behind the right to protect sources… only the journalist can shine a light on [the source] and I think, the journalist will fulfil his national responsibility”.

He must know that protecting the source is a time honoured journalistic tradition that has invariably been upheld. There are several examples from the past when journalists in this country went to jail for refusing to disclose the identity of their sources.

The government should stop trying to make the reporter the fall guy. It is worth noting that at the presser the Interior Minister repeatedly described the story as ‘leaks’ as opposed to ‘fabrication’ vindicating the newspaper’s position. The focus therefore has to be elsewhere.

The prime minister’s office has indicated an inquiry committee is to be formed, drawing representatives from the ISI, MI and IB and Nisar added that there will be more persons in the committee. These civil and military intelligence organisations and officials surely can have access to concerned individuals as well as technical data that can help them get to the bottom of the matter.

The one good thing the minister had to say was that he would “recommend the inquiry be kept as open as possible so that the whole nation knows who leaked the story.” Let the chips fall where they may.

Source: Business Recorder