The Malala Yousafzai case, the student activist, who was shot in the head by the Taliban on October 12, has gone viral on the news and social media.
The education activist’s case has just touched the iceberg of what the Taliban has been doing from the times of Meena’s Revolutionary Association of Women in Afhganistan (RAWA) became prominent.
However, the remarkable media coverage despite the constant threats to journalists from Taliban has brought a complete change over of people’s fearful mindsets about the Taliban.
But the fear cannot be entirely ruled out, the question in everybody’s minds in Pakistan and elsewhere is: what if the constant media attention only worsens the situation for Malala’s peers as well as the rest of the citizens in the Swat Valley?
Asad Hashim, a journalist who works for the Al Jazeera English website was free to discuss this burning issue while reporting from the Swat Valley, in an online forum, reddit.
“No, I don’t think it will make things worse for either Malala’s peers or citizens of the valley in general.” He said.
“A large part of the Taliban’s influence has always been about fear and the media glare on Malala is able to make criticism of such attacks more acceptable.” said Hashim, who was recently sent to the Swat Valley, specifically Malala’s hometown to report on the developments there.
Hashim believes that public discourse of such events makes people aware that a vast majority collectively stands against these kinds of acts.
Can there be an uprising like Tahrir square?
“I don’t think that kind of uprising is likely” said Hashim.
“People want things to get back to normal, but at the same time they want to feel as if something is actively being done to ensure that attacks such as the one against Malala do not happen again.” He added.
The non-media friendly Taliban, which is threatening journalists to back off from covering this issue, has apparently now become media savvy according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ,) a website defending journalist worldwide.
The CPJ reported that the object of this attack was to instill fear and end education for girls especially in those who would publicly revolt against the local Taliban, who have used extensive media coverage to make Malala an example of the fear they wish to inject into the society.
“Media coverage is a double-edged sword for the Taliban” said Hashim
“They want their attacks to get adequate media attention, in order to increase their profile and for people to be more aware of the threat they pose. That, in turns, helps them establish the fear that serves as the basis for the space in which they operate.” He added.
In this case, however, Hashim agrees that the Taliban clearly did not realise how much outrage the shooting of a 14-year-old female education activist would raise – which now has quite the opposite effect from that which was intended.
“Now, instead of fearing them, people are collectively taking a stand against them – fearlessly.” Said Hashim who was pulled back from the valley to Islamabad after the Taliban issued warnings to him too.
Inspite of being under serious threats by the Taliban, journalists and people around the world continue to speak against this heinous attempt to kill the 14-year-old Pakistani girl.
It is likely that the double standard game that the Taliban plays with the media may have backfired for them.
My discussion with Asad Hashim can be followed up on reddit here http://goo.gl/aBBzn.