The Pakistani Taliban have reacted to the torrent of negative media coverage after their attempt to assassinate a 14-year-old schoolgirl by threatening journalists.
Several Pakistani and international news organisations have been forced in recent days to take extra security precautions after receiving threats from militants that one news executive described as “specific” and directed against named individuals.
A journalist in Swat, the region where the attack on Malala Yousafzai took place, has even been given police guards after receiving a written warning saying police had “credible information that you are on the hit list of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat”.
Coverage of the attempted killing, which the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were quick to take credit for, has been unrelenting.
“Undoubtedly this is the worst press the TTP has ever had, there is no doubt,” said Rana Jawad, Islamabad bureau chief at Geo News, who believed Pakistani media coverage had been “sustained, purposeful and focused”.
According to Jawad, in the first day after the shooting the TTP demanded news organisations provide “balanced” coverage, by which they meant giving prominence to the Taliban’s justification for the attack.
The Pakistani Taliban have made an unusually large number of statements about the killing, in which they have cited Islamic laws they claim Yousafzai broke with her campaign for girls’ education.
The militants appear to have been especially enraged by remarks made on television and radio by commentators and ordinary members of the public alike, who have been unusually outspoken in their condemnation of a movement that most people are normal careful not to cross.
Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, which monitors jihadi media, said the TTP had long held grievances against a mainstream media they regarded as a westernised, secular “puppet” of the armed forces.
But he said their current alarm at the country’s broadcasters was reflected in a new peak in public opposition to the TTP.
“We have seen a similar public sentiment in the past, but this time it is quite unique,” he said. “This case has provided a catharsis of the masses for all the grievances that have been building up for years.”
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