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.