The death of Minhaj Barna in Rawalpindi at the age of 87 on January 14, 2011 marked the end of an era.Even journalists who had never met him in person were familiar with his name and his status as the founder of the trade union movement for newspaper employees in the country.
Barna commanded huge respect as the founder of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the All-Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation. He played a key role, in the early 1970s, in establishing a viable wage structure for newspaper staffers.
He was more than a union activist, however. From 1977 to 1988, he led the journalists’ movement against repressive policies of Gen Ziaul Haq with great courage. His leadership kept the media united.
A chant among his followers Tere saath marna, there sath jina Minhaj Barna became the battle cry throughout the encounter between him and censoring authorities.
In life he was considered a legend and his death grieved thousands of media personnel and press workers. To both, he was a great leader and always worked for their welfare.
He also published a book of poetry, Marsia: Chouthay Satoon Ka, elegy of the Fourth Estate which is more or less a sequel to Zameer Niazi’s study lamenting the curbs placed on free press by authoritarian governments.
Barna became interested in upholding freedom of speech as a student in pre-Independence New Delhi of Jame Millia. He joined the All-India Youth Federation and began to take interest in the Communist Party.
His career started with Urdu newspaper Inqilab at Bombay (now Mumbai). After Independence Barna came to Pakistan and started as a journalist anew by turning to English press and became famous as a fierce trade union leader upholding the cause of press workers and journalists.
At one time he led a 10-day strike against low wages during which no newspaper could be published. He led a hunger strike to keep alive the Pakistan People’s Party newspaper Musaawat but could not keep it from folding up. – The News; JournalismPakistan.com
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