By Global Journalist Staff Posted Apr 21 2011
Kamal Siddiqi is the editor of The Express Tribune, a national English language daily that is published from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. The Express Tribune is an affiliate publication of the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of The New York Times.
Prior to this, he was an editor at The News International and a member of the editorial board at Daily Dawn. Three years prior to that position, he taught journalism at Monash University in Australia.
Most of Siddiqi’s professional work has been in Pakistan and the region, where he has been associated with the Dow Jones News Wires, Economist Intelligence Unit, CNN, and local media houses. He also worked for five years as a Pakistan stringer for the Indian Express and more recently reported for the Hindustan Times.
Siddiqi has written a book on online journalism for media students titled “The Online Journalist” and also edited “Journos on Journalism,” a book on the practice of journalism.
In 1994, Siddiqi was awarded the Britannia Scholarship during which he completed a master’s of science degree in media studies from the London School of Economics. Prior to that, he earned a master’s degree at Karachi University. Currently, he teaches in the university’s journalism department as a lecturer from the working media. He is interested in journalism training and has conducted workshops on investigative journalism for local journalists.
“My name is Kamal Siddiqi. I’m the editor of The Express Tribune. This is an English-language national daily. It’s based in Karachi, but we have a Karachi, Islamabad and a Lahore edition.
I’m a journalist because I enjoy writing, and I enjoy writing features and I enjoy trying to make a difference in the lives of others. That’s why I’m a journalist.
My most memorable story was when I started my career as a reporter and I did a story about illegal manufacture of cigarettes. And I had to go to another part of my country to do the story, because what was happening there was that there were these factories that were making cigarettes and they were avoiding taxation, because taxation is very high on cigarettes, and they were selling these in the market.
So I did a story as a business reporter. And it was very memorable because when I came back and I did the story after that, I actually received threats. In fact one gentleman came to my office, he very politely told me that “I’ve been sent by these manufacturers and that I know where you live” and he actually told me my house address and everything.
So that was my first wake-up call to journalism, that you may do good, have well intentions to it, but there are also consequences.
There are times when we have to take some decisions about stories. And because I am the editor of the paper, ultimately it’s me who calls, who takes that decision. I’m more worried about my reporters and my staff. It is difficult, but there are times when we make decisions about whether it’s worth it. There are times when there are stories that are very good, but we feel that if we delayed them, the danger would not be that much. Apart from that, there are times that we feel that we should take a risk.
We had stories after there was an issue of blasphemy in Pakistan, that you can’t write against the law. So there were some stories that were criticizing the law. And one of our governors had actually been murdered because he had criticized the law. But we chose not to run them at that particular point, because of this very reason – that we would put the reporter in the paper at risk.
Extremism, religious extremism, not willing to hear the other point of view and trying to impose your beliefs on others, that is the biggest problem – yeah. I think the biggest solution is democracy. If you keep on having elections in Pakistan, and if you keep the political process, people will eventually start listening to other […] and you can see that happening at the national level where political parties are giving and taking in terms of making the coalition government work, so I think that’s the way to [go] forward.
My job as an editor takes away a lot of time. I have small children, but I make sure that I am there for them, so I drop them to school, I pick them up from school. I spend afternoons with them, but in the mornings, once I have dropped them to school, I go to work. Once they’re at home in the afternoons, I stay with them. But in the evenings I have to go to work, then I come back to put them to bed, and then I go back to work. So this is my life – day in and day out. But I am just a phone call away, and my office is not very far away, so if they need me, I just – I do come back.
I think most of the news about Pakistan is negative that you see – not just in America, but in other parts of the world. But I feel that more should be told about the good things that are happening in Pakistan. Like the democratic government, and how it’s moving forward despite its problems. And also, that Pakistanis generally are not extremists and they, too, are coping and trying to adopt to the circumstances that are being imposed on them. So, they are also normal human beings.”