“Hearts with holes” [Archives:2007/1060/Opinion]

June 18 2007

It is heartening to learn that Mr. Allan Johnstan, is yet fighting. It is also stirring that “A Mighty Heart” has been filmed on the slain American journalist, Mr. Pearl Daniel, of Wall Street Journal. Increasingly writers and journalists are being targeted for murder and kidnapping, to bulldoze political agendas. This is culpable. Consider:

a) BBC’s Allan Johnstan is in captivity in Gaza, for over 2 months, an inhuman and cruel form of blackmail.

b) Around 135 journalists have died in Iraq, in the line of duty, since the war commenced, 4 years ago.

c) Last year the Russian writer Ms. Anna Politkovskaya, was slaughtered, in Moscow. Her autobiography, published after her death, “A Russian Diary”, details by date, the violations of human dignity, and the plight of the suffering sons who fought in Chechnya and their agonizing mothers.

Even in a democratic India, eminent journalists like Frank Moraes, Rajinder Puri, Khushwant Singh, have had to undergo terminations of services/transfers, because they peeved the powers that be.

What is the blunder of these writers, journalists?

That, they chose a profession, which involved reporting incidents truthfully, on the ground?

That, they described/defied powerful personalities, as they saw them?

That, they visited battle zones, where bullets, bombs and death are freely available, but not water, food and rest?

That, they took the road, less traveled?

It is really harebrained to target writers. A writer carries no gun, or knife. He carries a cause, to the larger world through his words. His only weapons are the 26 alphabets, which he uses like bricks, mortar and cement, to construct a report, which could influence the readers.

Militants who kidnap journalists should garner their support, rather than annihilate them. The words of a journalist, will survive those who seek to throttle them, and will impact people for all times to come. It is one matter to shoot soldiers armed with guns. But, shooting bullets into journalists, who carry a pen, laptop or camera, is loathsome.

Today, the words of Plato and Aristotle are cherished, not the luster of Alexander’s sword, though he conquered the world.

Granted, that a journalist projects a story from his unique perspective, and perhaps, his bias too. So what? We are free to disagree with the writer’s views. But, his right to express himself, is unassailable! Governments, have a challenging duty – to prevent such killings and the oppression of the truth.

From times immemorial, writers and thinkers who spoke their minds, have been victimized. Dictators, despots have tried to silence reason with bullets, but eventually they have always been vanquished. Time will prove, once more, that the pen will is mightier than a sword or revolver.

Mr. Daniel Pearl’s martyrdom will metamorphose into a legend, through the screening of “A Mighty Heart.” However, the sacrifices of many journalists and writers, will remain unsung. Agencies, for whom the slain writers worked, should provide and care for their families, wives and children. Money is no alternate for the presence of a human being, but it can facilitate the daily lives of the aggrieved, till they can overcome the shock and grief, and reconstruct their lives, to the extent possible.

Words of truth will prevail, over bullets. Truth can never be throttled. That which deserves to live, will live! So, Mr. Alan Johnstan, Never Give Up!

*The author is the CEO of a Foods Company in the Middle East. Prior to this, he was the Managing Director of Unilever Tanzania, Africa.