What Sanjar Sohail Understands.
The year 2012 was the deadliest for journalists since Reporters Without Borders released its first global year-end roundup in 1995. Here's the silver lining: Hasht-e Sobh (8 AM), Afghanistan’s fearless liberal daily, is still alive. Hasht-e Sobh's publisher and senior editor, Sanjar Sohail, is a pal of mine, I'm proud to say. Sanjar's award and the broader context was the subject of my Ottawa Citizen column this week. I see Atlantic Wire has picked it for its Five Best Friday Columns list.
Here's how bad 2012 was: Around the world, 88 journalists were killed, six “fixers” were killed, 47 “citizen journalists” were killed, 879 journalists were arrested, 1,993 journalists were threatened or attacked, 38 journalists were kidnapped, 73 journalists were forced to flee their countries, and 144 bloggers were killed. Syria, Pakistan and Somalia were the deadliest places for journalists. China, Turkey and Iran were the biggest prisons for journalists.
It's important to remember that these stats are just for this year - scores of journalists, poets, human rights activists and bloggers remained in prison during 2012 after having been arrested in 2011 or years before. The Committee to Protect Journalists' tally shows 32 journalists in prison in China, for instance, and 45 journalists are behind bars in Iran.
Speaking or Iran, the Khomeinist regime is now far and away the greatest threat to press freedom in Afghanistan, with gross idiocy in the NATO capitals running a close second. As "western" aid agencies run away from Afghanistan, Tehran is filling the vacuum. More than 300 Afghan journalists lost their jobs this year. All by itself, Pajhwok Afghan News laid off 70 of its 130 journalists. Perhaps a third of Afghanistan's news media are now owned or controlled by Tehran; the Khomeinists now run at least a half-dozen major Afghan television stations, 21 radio stations and dozens of newspapers and magazines.
Nasty paradox: Two days after Sanjar picked up his award in Paris, the Taliban were in town saying things that only the mendacious and stupid will believe. Here's what Sanjar Sohail understands, which most bigshot "western" journalists do not: “Peace talks will not have a result that will benefit the people of Afghanistan or the people of Canada or the United States. The terrorists have an agenda, and it is to keep fighting and keep killing people.”
Here's a glimpse of the real world that Sanjar lives in:
A suicide bomber in Pakistan has killed nine people including a provincial government official at a political rally held Saturday by a party that has opposed the Taliban. A mob in southern Pakistan stormed a police station to seize a Muslim man believed to be mentally ill who was accused of burning a copy of Islam’s holy book. They beat him to death, and then set his body afire, police said Saturday. Meanwhile, the UN has halted its Pakistan polio vaccination campaign after two more of its workers were shot dead by Taliban gunmen. A woman and her driver have been killed in north-western Pakistan just a day after similar attacks across the country killed five female polio workers. The Taliban say health workers are American spies and the vaccine makes children sterile.