Understanding the Baloch Press Part 1

By Malik Siraj Akbar

Disclaimer: There is one joke (a true one in fact) about us, the Balochs: We call everyone an “agency wala” (agent of the spy agencies) whom we dislike. If you take my parking space, I may call you an agency wala the next day. So watch out!

Waja Pilanai and I do not like each other. He is an intellectual. I am a journalist. He thinks I don’t read enough. I think he does not write fast enough. He thinks we all journalists are not well-read. Therefore, reading our pieces, he insists, is a sheer wastage of time. I boastfully argue that we journalists in fact write the first draft of the history. Intellectuals and scholars, I remind him, ‘steal’ our ideas and prepare their outlines for future books, research papers. He keeps my mouth shut: “What do you journalists think of yourselves? What you call a published newspaper article in the morning is seen going in the trash by the end of the day,” he adds.

The tug of war between journalists and scholars continues forever. It is a war that takes place everywhere in the world. Balochistan is no exception. We journalists try to simplify things but scholar buddies love complicating  simple facts. They mix history, apply jargon, use terminologies so that nobody, including themselves, actually understands the crux of the argument.

Take, for example, the attack on a gas pipeline somewhere in Balochistan. As a reporter, I abruptly start working on my 5Ws and 1H as soon as I get a clue.

“Done,” I scream jubilantly as I complete my investigation and get three “good quotes” on the phone and sit to jot down my story.

Waja Pilani laughs.

He raises his eyebrows too.

A taunter, his condescending face looks like a big cinema screen displaying a scornful film of mockery.

“So you got the news?” he asks sarcastically.

” Yes. Gas pipeline blown up. BRA responsible. Repair underway,” I make a failed effort to please him.

“How do you know it actually was a gas pipeline?,” he asks.

Speechless that I am.

“What makes you think it was blown up?”

“Do you know the actual history of gas pipelines? Do you know when and where pipelines were first used? Do you know philosophy and history of guerrilla warfare?  Have you read about sabotage and theories related to it,” he asks non-stop.

I look at his face wearily allowing him to flaunt more about his deep knowledge.

“Before you file this news story, you should at least read the biography of Che Guevara, learn about the Cuban revolution too. And also know the history of the Great Game,” he offers in his unsolicited advice.

“I can’t,” says me, helplessly. “Deadline approaching, waja,” I beg.

“Go ahead,” he says while actually trying to say go to hell, “that is why I find you journalists are so shallow.”

He turns his face, “you illiterate journalists! You are all a big  problem. You don’t know much and mislead the masses.”

—————–

In Balochistan there are too many (often self-proclaimed) intellectuals, scholars and historians but not many journalists.Journalism has not progressed as fast as intellectualism. In the modern times, I have deeply admired the work of at least and only three journalists in Balochistan who truly laid the foundation of the modern Baloch Press. I have always asked Waja Pilani to write about these people. He thinks it is a hard job. His research on the Baloch Press may take at least ten years. I am not a scholar. I am a highly subjective journalist when it comes to my opinion piece. So, I thought of writing this piece on modern Baloch media on the basis of my observations, interactions as a journalism student, reporter and now an editor.

This write-up is only intended to make people understand how the Baloch media works, who its drivers and readers are. What problems the Baloch media actually faces and why is still not compatible with the so-called national media. In these couple of articles which you will be reading in the next few days, I will focus on the  dynamics of Baloch media.

In the first piece, I will focus on Mohammad Anwar Sajidi, editor of Daily Intekhab, Siddiq Baluch, editor-in-chief of Daily Balochistan Express/Daily Azadi and Jan Mohammad Dashti, founder of Asaap Publications. These three editors do not necessarily have the same level of popularity among all segments of the Baloch society but they surely have an undeniable role in establishing media institutions for the Balochs. As the disclaimer stated, these editors are also frequently billed as ‘agency walas‘ if they do not publish a press release from a certain political group in their newspaper for some avoidable or unavoidable reasons. They are loved. They are hated. Their newspapers sell like hot cakes inside Balochistan. Oftentimes, the bundles of their newspapers also get burned by angry mobs. Often, the newspapers are also boycotted in certain districts.

The government shuts down their advertisements. Readers make threatening phone calls. Abusive e-mails flood mail boxes; angrier letters are faxed until the fax roll finishes and the fax machine starts beeping  forever.

Welcome to the world of Balochistan’s Press.

Stay tuned.

To read the second part of this article, click