Winner of the 2007, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) International Press Freedom Award, Mazhar Abbas is a well-known champion of press freedom in Pakistan who has worked as a journalist more than 30 years
Winner of the 2007, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) International Press Freedom Award, Mazhar Abbas is a well-known champion of press freedom in Pakistan who has worked as a journalist more than 30 years and has endured repeated threats as a result of his work. He also won the 2009 Missouri Honour Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism. He is also brother of former DG ISPR Major General Ather Abbas.
He is deputy director of ARY News Television and the secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists. He was one of three journalists who found bullets in white envelopes attached to their cars when they came out of a late night meeting at the Karachi press club. He was on the hit list of the Mohajir Rabita Council, which was allied with President Pervez Musharraf. Abbas was also charged by police after protesting the closure of three independent TV channels for reporting on anti-Musharraf demonstrations.
At the union, Abbas lead the opposition against the Musharraf administration's attempts to silence press criticism of the faltering military government. Working as an Agence France Presse (AFP) correspondent in Karachi, he covered the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal South Asia Bureau Chief Daniel Pearl in 2002, and the following investigations and trials.
His devotion to the democratic principles of journalism has resulted in more than 2,000 front-page stories on political, social and human rights issues. These have been published in The Star, the leading English-language evening newspaper from Pakistan's economic hub, Karachi, and a member of The DAWN Media Group, the country's largest network of English-language newspapers.
He provided analysis of events and policies for other major English-language print and electronic news outlets, including a weekly talk show called "Do-Tok," meaning straight forward in Urdu. Abbas previously hosted other news commentary programs on Pakistan's leading news portal, ARY One World (now ARY News), and one called "Spotlight" for the private channel Hum. He has conducted exclusive interviews with some of the country's most controversial and prominent military and government figures. Abbas is a frequent speaker on the topics of journalism and freedom of expression on television talk shows as well as at universities and colleges.
Mazhar Abbas believes the Pakistani press will definitely survive. Journalists were ready to fight in Pakistan. More than a decade or so we have seen that whenever government tried to suppress the press, journalists always come on the street to protest. But the real threat is in the tribal areas. Journalists there are leaving their profession. They are leaving with their families to safer places. The problem in the tribal areas is from both the government as well as from pressure groups.
According to Mazhar Abbas journalists working in tribal areas are working in the worst atmosphere. There were journalists who left this profession because they were really scared, their families had been targeted. It's almost impossible to report from those areas. Even the foreign media is fast losing stingers in the tribal areas.
Economically, with TV channels, our economic position is getting better, says Mazhar Abbas.