Razia Bondrey Bhatti – Pakistan (x – 1996)

She is one of the Courage Award Winners 1994.

She said: “I see the journalist’s role as both reporter and crusader. In a civilization that seems to be regressing into new holocausts, we must seek and speak the truth, for we are the voice of voiceless millions. Having chosen this profession, we cannot be afraid to speak the truth no matter what the cost. And by speaking, I personally believe we can change the world” (at the IWMF Courage in Journalism award ceremony, 1994).

Razia Bondrey Bhatti – Pakistan – deceded March 12, 1996.

In a country where incidents of violence against the press were among the highest in the world, Bhatti took on drug cartels, ethnic and fascist political parties, militant Islamic groups, a president’s son-in-law, a prime minister’s spouse and successive governments. She broke taboos and transgressed limits imposed on freedom of expression by authoritarian regimes as well as a conservative society. Bhatti wrote of her mission, “Newsline is the venture of a team of working journalists who want to serve this nation in the way they know best: to seek the truth, to spotlight injustice and to fight for redress. We hope not only to appeal to the reason, but to touch the heart.” Throughout her career, Bhatti was driven to present unbiased, accurate and comprehensive reports on issues affecting the people of Pakistan. When she died in 1996 at age 52, she left a husband, son, daughter and the legacy of Newsline. (Read on International Women’s Media Foundation IWMF).

Book: A Profile in Courage, The Newsline Editorials of Razia Bhatti 1989-1996, the Late Razia Bhatti: Price: £8.99 (Hardback), ISBN-10: 0-19-579332-3 and ISBN-13: 978-0-19-579332-1. Publication date: 16 January 2003.

This volume brings together the Newsline editorials written by Razia Bhatti – one of the bravest editors of our times who created a space for worthwhile journalism in Pakistan. Spanning a period of seven years, they present a history of the Pakistan people during a turbulent period in their history. From the military dictator General Ziaul Haque to prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazie Bhutto, no one was immune from her pen when it came to issues of corruption, human rights violations and abuse of political power. With only its sixth issue, Newsline won the Asia Pacific Award for the Best Written Editorial and Related Stories. Every reader of the magazine turned to Razia’s “Ed’s Notes”, for the perceptive comments they made. Regardless of all obstacles, Razia Bhatti blazed a glorious trail in journalism training a new breed of journalists to go for the story with no holds barred. Readership: The compilation should be of interest to the journalist community in Pakistan, to departments of mass communications, political science and women’s studies. It may be promoted as an informal way of reading Pakistan’s political history by one of its caring and courageous activists. (Read more about on Oxford University Press).

Razia Bhatti has been described as a crusader, a torch-bearer, and a symbol of courage. In 1996, the Pakistan Press Foundation called her untimely death at the age of 52 an “end of a golden chapter of journalism in Pakistan.” For those who attempted to silence Pakistani press, Razia Bhatti was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with during her almost thirty-year long journalistic career. Despite constant harassments and threats to her safety, she wrote bravely on issues ranging from women’s rights to political corruption. She nurtured two of Pakistan’s leading English language publications, as editor of the Herald for 12 years and then of Newsline for another eight. In 1994, less than just two years before her death, Razia Bhatti was a recipient of the “Courage in Journalism” award from the New York based International Women’s Media Foundation.

Razia Bhatti first entered professional journalism in 1967 when she joined The Illustrated Weekly of Pakistan after completing her Master’s degree in English and Journalism from Karachi University. The lifestyles magazine she joined was later renamed Herald and turned into a monthly publication reporting on current events and political issues. In 1970, Razia Bhatti became the assistant editor of Herald and then became editor in 1976.

Shortly, thereafter, General Zia-ul-Haq took over the country in a military coup. A period of repression and censorship followed as Zia used religious fundamentalist rhetoric to strengthen his grip on power. Not one to be easily intimidated, Razia continued her valiant reporting. “General Zia once got so infuriated that he waved a copy of her article at a press conference and said he would not tolerate such journalism,” recalls Beena Sarwar in her article, “Razia Bhatti and Najma Babar: Two Champions of Independent Journalism in Pakistan.”

Since early in her history, Pakistan has had the misfortune of being run, democratically or undemocratically, by corrupt or self seeking politicians and feudals. Little economic progress has been made and the literacy rate remains among the lowest in the world. The result has been an atmosphere where corruption, bigotry, and intimidation of press and human rights activists are the norm. To speak up against injustice and the ruling elites in such an environment is no small achievement. Razia Bhatti did just that.

When pressured to curb her writing and support the policies of General Zia’s regime, Razia resigned from the magazine on an ethical stance. Most of her team of journalists resigned with her and together they established a new current affairs magazine called Newsline. In July 1989, the first issue of Newsline was published with an editor’s note written by Razia which began, “Forty-two years down the road from independence, this nation seems to have bartered away the promise of its birth. To a whole generation of Pakistanis, fear, violence, authoritarianism and deceit represent the norm, for they have known no other.” (Read the rest of this long article, by Laila Kazmi, on Women of Pakistan).

Newsline which started under Razia Bhatti’s editorial ship, soon became a competitor to other well known English language publications like the Herald itself. Newsline covered a wide range of stories including drug trade, corruption by politicians and financial institutions, religious persecution, and abuse of women’s rights.

In December 1994, Newsline published a story about then prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s inaction in stopping the rampant riots, killings, and looting which became daily occurrences, terrorizing the population of Karachi, one of Pakistan’s largest cities. Benazir responded to this criticism by banning Newsline from all Pakistan International Airline flights. This action of the government did little to quiet the Newsline journalists and in the months that followed, Razia and her staff continued reporting on the flaws of Benazir’s government including its foreign policy, the methods government used to finally respond to the Karachi violence, its stringent policies designed to weaken the press, and the taxation system which allowed the richest of the population to get away with paying little or no tax while the average working public carried almost the entire burden of taxation.

Even after she received international recognition, the Pakistani politicians did not stop harassing her when she exposed their misuses of power. In August 1995, police raided Razia Bhatti’s home in the early morning hours demanding her appearance at the police station regarding a criminal case filed against her. The case was brought about by then Sindh Governor, Kamal Azfar, in retaliation for a story published about him in Newsline. The news of the raid on Razia’s house resulted in protests from journalists and human rights activists from across the country, following which Kamal Azfar retreated and completely withdrew all charges against Razia and the journalist who wrote the story.

Through her integrity, dedication and consummate professionalism Razia Bhatti contributed much to the Pakistani society. She furthered the cause of women`s rights by proving that a woman is as capable of earning a respected spot in serious journalism as the toughest of her male counterparts. She also reinforced the importance of free press and journalistic integrity in a country where honesty and free speech are often overrun by corruption and fundamentalist ideals. The examples she left us through her writing, serve as inspiration to speak up against repression and question the leaders whose actions do not follow their rhetoric and who use public service position for personal gain. (Read the rest of this long article on CHOWK.com).

Newsline was born of the refusal of a dedicated band of journalists to toe the line.And that is the commitment Newsline makes to its readers: to present the truth of Pakistan today. With a line-up that includes the country’s finest journalists and contributors, Newsline offers you an unbeatable package: news and views, indepth reports and analyses of current affairs, national and international happenings. But there’s more to Newsline than just news: every month Newsline offers you a fresh look at the world of art and culture, clothes and sports, bring you up to date on business and the economy, education and health, development and the environment. Newsline is also about people and places, about trends and lifestyles. Nothing is too big – or too small – for Newsline. All the news that’s fit to print – and perhaps some that others might not want to print. (Read this and more on Newsline).

And a roadmap for the gov.

RAZIA BHATTI, 50 – AWARD-WINNING Pakistani journalist – after a sudden brain hemorrhage, died in Karachi March 12. Bhatti was the editor of Newsline, a magazine known – and sometimes criticized by officials – for its investigative reporting. In 1994 she received the Courage in Journalism award from the New York-based International Women’s Media Foundation. (Asiaweek).


A Human Rights Watch statement of 1996.

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