An independent think-tank

Jihadi print media in Pakistan: An overview


The  media  had  played  an  important  role  during  the  Soviet  invasion  of  Afghanistan  in  the  1980s.  The manner  in  which  the  media  projected  the  conflict  boosted  the  image  of  the  Mujahideen and  glorified their  activities,  helping  them  gain  moral  and  economic  support  from  the  international  community.  It also  attracted  Muslims  around  the  world  to  take  part  in  jihad  physically  or  contribute  financially towards that.


Getting  inspiration  from  this  role  of  the  media,  different  militant  groups  launched  their  own  media products  during  the  war,  which  not  only  helped  them  attract  financial  and  human  resources  but  also propagated their ideologies and promoted their concept of jihad. They did not trust the privately-owned mainstream print media or the government-run radio and television and preferred established their own media to create a community of firm believers.1
Religious  publications  were  not  a  new  phenomenon  in  Pakistan.  Despite  their  sectarian  and  political affiliations, the sphere of these publications was wide — spanning intellectual debates, religious reforms, dialogue  with  other  faiths,  and  socio-political  issues  —  and  their  readership  very  limited.  It  mainly consisted of religious scholars, intellectuals, journalists, writers and students of the relevant subject.
But the new media was very narrow in its vision and its target audience was more general. It not only damaged  the  image  of  ‘serious  religious  publications’  but  also  dealt  a  fatal  blow  to  the  professional ethics of Urdu mainstream media. This new form of media has now taken root and is a parallel media industry  in  Pakistan.  Their  publishers  claim  that  if  allowed  free  competition,  they  can  capture  the mainstream media market overnight.2
In  terms  of  their  content,  Zafarullah  Khan  labels  these  publications  as  ‘alternative  media’.3  The  term usually  refers  to  “those  communication  media,  which  are  alternative  to  the  mainstream  media”.4
‘Radical media’ is another term referring to publications that contain hate messages.
It has also been described as ‘Islamic journalism’5 but this term includes all religious publications. Many religious publications have specific objectives. They focus on promoting religious values, and debates on theological, philosophical, intellectual and socio-political issues. The fringe media under discussion has the ambition to take over the position of the mainstream media. It follows the practices of mainstream media and has the same target audience and market.