Najam Sethi is an award-winning journalist and media personality. He is the Editor-in-Chief of The Friday Times, a Lahore-based political weekly. He was previously the Editor of Daily Times and daily Aaj Kal newspapers. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Geo News where he hosts a popular political program: “Aapas ki Baat”. He is the only journalist in Asia to receive three international press freedom awards in a decade.
Sethi was born in May, 1948. He is married to Jugnu Mohsin who is Managing Editor of The Friday Times and Good Times. Their son Ali Sethi is a novelist and daughter Mira Sethi works at the Wall Street Journal in New York.
Sethi was a political prisoner from 1975-1977 during the regime of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for protesting military action in Balochistan. In 1984, the regime of General Zia ul Haq put him in prison for one month for publishing “From Jinnah to Zia”, a book authored by the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Mohammad Munir. The book was a sort of mea culpa in which the author had admitted his grave error in legitimizing the first martial law in Pakistan in 1958, thereby paving the way for Gen Zia’s martial law in 1977.
In 1999, he was again imprisoned by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on trumped up charges of treason. The reason was relentless exposure of corruption in the Sharif family by The Friday Times. The Supreme Court of Pakistan later rejected the charges and freed him after one month.
While in detention, he was tortured and suffered a heart attack, which necessitated heart surgery in 2000. The Sharif government harassed him later by slapping dozens of income tax cases, accused him of being a “non-Muslim” and tried to deprive him of his voting rights. But all the cases were dismissed by the courts and his rights were restored by the Chief Election Commissioner.
He has been awarded the 2009 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Editors Forum/ World Association of Newspapers for courage in upholding secular values, human rights and press freedom.
He has also received Courage in Journalism Award 1999 from Amnesty International, Press Freedom Award 1999 from Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) New York, and Hilal-i-Imtiaz, the highest civil award of the country, from the Government of Pakistan in 2010.
Pakistan Observer, November 1, 2016