Zamir Niazi was a renowned Pakistani journalist, famous for his commitment to the freedom of the press.
He worked for Dawn, Daily News and Business Recorder and also edited the monthly Recorder and the weekly Current.
In 1995, Niazi returned his Pride of Performance award to the government, in response to its closure of six newspapers. After a long illness, he died in 2004.
When the practice of ‘press advice’ was introduced in 1965 - mostly received on telephone in the newsroom from the government’s information department, Niazi, jotted it down in a register.
After a year of hard work the ‘press advice’ became the subject of his book titled The Press in Chains. The book chronicled the excesses of various regimes, both civilian and military, against the country’s media. According to some journalists the book has been regarded as ‘the bible of press freedom.’
When the book was published (during President Zia ul Haq’s regime) it resonated with those journalists who believed in press freedom. The book has now gone in second edition and is published by Oxford University Press.
The new edition is minus two chapters on Zia ul Haq and Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto. Niazi’s sons Haris and Junaid are now on a journey of enquiry to find out how these two vital chapters were excluded from the new edition.
The second edition has been edited by veteran and well-respected journalist Zubeida Mustafa, who worked with Dawn from 1975 to 2009. There is also an introduction by Zohra Yusuf, another torch-bearer of media freedom, who is also a civil rights activist and a former journalist.
Press in Chains is recommended to callow journalists as a guide book. M. Ziauddin, Executive Editor of The Express Tribune once remarked in an obituary reference on he eminent journalist that he always keeps the book on his table and informs his staff it was to be regarded as a book of instruction.
Other noted books by late Niazi include The Press Under Siege (1992), and Web of Censorship (1994). The nuclear tests of 1998 pushed Niazi into editing Zameen ka Nauha (Elegy for the Earth), an Urdu anthology of anti-nuclear poems and essays, published on the second anniversary of Pakistan’s tests (Scherezade, Karachi, 2000).
An internationally recognized journalist and writer, Niazi felt let down that journalist today read very little: “Most journalists/reporters/writers shun reading books or absorbing themselves in serious study,” he remarked in reply to an e-mail sent by another famous journalist Anjum Niaz.
To this day, Niazi is looked upon by journalists as mentor for services rendered for freedom of expression. – Jonaid Iqbal for JournalismPakistan.com
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