M.Ziauddin and 55 years of journalism

 

The byline M.Ziauddin is synonymous to journalistic integrity.

“If you don’t have skeletons in your closet, nobody will find them,” Ziauddin often says. Fifty-five years into his profession, there are no skeletons and, of course, nobody has found them.

In a rich career that involves brushes of power with military dictators, presidents and prime ministers, and life as a foreign correspondent in London, he is a man unnerved by people in power. His work, his ‘story’ has been more powerful, which makes him among the most credible names in Pakistan’s journalism history.

Four years ago, the international body Reporters Without Borders also gave him the title of one of the world’s ‘Information Heros’, but he will never mention that himself. He is a rather quiet, humble hero, sharing little, if ever, of his own work.

It will take years of knowing him, hours of talking to him and countless questions about his work and career that you will know that he broke the story on the National Reconciliation Ordinance signed between General Pervez Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. It was also Ziauddin who first reported on the nature of the relationship between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Prior to this, the relationship between Pakistan and the IMF was considered a state secret.

In a career that spans over 55 years, Ziauddin, now a freelance journalist, has worked for the (now defunct) Morning Post, the Daily Sun, the News and the Pakistan Press International (PPI), where he started his career. Most of his work, for nearly 25 years, was with Dawn for which he worked in the capacity of a resident editor, reporter, as well as a foreign correspondent in the UK. He has also served as the president of the South Asia Free Media Association and is the former Executive Editor of The Express Tribune.

Advent into journalism
His coming into journalism was a response to the political climate of the time. Between 1964-65, Ziauddin, then a student at the University of Karachi, was influenced by the student movement which had a deep imprint of socialism. The Vietnam War had started, the country was young and its young held a high regard for democracy. General Ayub Khan’s military regime was in place and student leaders Fatehyab Ali Khan and Jauhar Hussain, known for their left-leaning politics, were inspiring their younger peers to take up the cause of a fairer, more just Pakistan.

It was Jauhar Hussain, a mentor and senior at university, who introduced Ziauddin to the field of journalism. Ziauddin was a student of Pharmacy at the university and had started working as a medical representative at a salary of around Rs500 when Hussain, who was working at PPI then, encouraged him to take up a job as a reporter – for a meagre Rs75. Money came later and passion first, and so he took up that job.
There has been no turning back since.

Over 55 years later, M.Ziauddin shares his motivations behind coming into journalism, the trials and tribulations of a journalist under the Pakistan Press Ordinance and decades of censorship, and the financial struggles that came with the profession.

Watch this VCast Online interview of M.Ziauddin, a witness to both the history of media and Pakistan, and learn what it takes to remain a credible name for five decades in your career.

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