About Malik Siraj Akbar
Fulbright-recipient Malik Siraj Akbar is a journalist, blogger and a democracy defender based in Washington DC.
He is a Contributing Writer at the Huffington Post and a former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington D.C. where he researched Threats to Defenders of Democracy in Pakistan, particularly in the province of Balochistan.
Malik is the founder and the editor of The Baloch Hal, Balochistan’s first online English language newspaper. Previously, he was a Hubert Humphrey Fellow at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication of Arizona State University. As a part of the Humphrey Fellowship Program, he served as a visiting journalist at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a project of Center for Public Integrity, Washington D.C. in 2011. He was a visiting journalist at the Poynter Institute, Florida in June 2011.
In October 2011, the US government granted Malik political asylum considering threats of persecution based on his writings critical of the Pakistani government’s policies in his native Balochistan.
As a political analyst, Malik has been interviewed and quoted by several national and international media and human rights organizations such as CNN, Aljazeera, the New York Times, the Examiner, the Huffington Post, Washington Times, B.B.C. Urdu, Voice of America, Radio Canada International, Deutsche Welle, the Guardian, the Hindu, the New Indian Express, International Herald Tribune, Reuters, the Diplomat, Mcclatchy, Express Tribune, Dawn, Daily Times, The News International, GARA (Spanish), Geo News, Headlines Today, News TV One, Saama TV, Pakistan Television, Vash TV, KTN, Radio Gwank, Radio Balochistan, Sindh TV, HD Net (USA), IPS, The Political Notebook, International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, Asia Society, Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), Asian Human Rights Commission, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and several others.
CNN described Malik as “one of the youngest bureau chiefs in Pakistan’s largest and most dangerous provinces, Balochistan, who gained access to the region’s most influential politicians and tribal leaders.” The Spanish newspaper GARA called Malik ”one of the most authoritative voices on one of the longest running conflicts [Balochistan]“. The Washington Post called him ”a soft-spoken but steely man”. The BBC News termed him a “victim of the tough stance taken by the Pakistani government.” According to Al-Jazeera English, he “talks passionately and movingly of the hundreds of Baloch who have been brutally killed by the security agencies.”
In November 2010, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) banned The Baloch Hal because of its fiercely objective and critical editorial policy. Malik termed the ban undemocratic, a “ban on expression” and vowed to fight in spite of all the challenges. Pakistan’s most circulated English language newspaper, The News, deplored the ban on The Baloch Hal. The BBC featured Malik and his online newspaper as a successful example of online journalism in Balochistan.
Malik’s book The Redefined Dimensions of Baloch Nationalist Movement was released in the United States of America in 2011.
Formerly, Malik served as the Balochistan Bureau Chief of Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper Daily Times and its sister publication in Urdu, Daily Aajkal, for several years. He contributed political analysis from Balochistan to The Friday Times, Pakistan’s first independent English weekly.
He has extensively covered the military operation in Balochistan, Baloch nationalist movement, issue of enforced disappearances, target killings, sectarian violence; secrete Taliban operations in Balochistan, women’s rights issues, lawyers’ movement, religious radicalization of Baloch society and several natural disasters and issues of press freedom. As a journalist, Malik has covered several local and general elections held in Balochistan.
His articles have been published in two of Pakistan’s most reputed current affairs magazines, Herald and Newsline. He blogs at Foreignpolicy blogs and freelances for Dawn.com. His work has also appeared in Chicago Tribune, the Times of India, the Hindu and Express Tribune.
Born in Panjgur District on July 9, 1983, Malik holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Balochistan. He is the first Pakistani male journalist to be awarded South Asia Foundation (SAF) Media Scholarship. He attended the prestigious Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai, India, to specialize in politics, gender and identities politics. Malik began his journalism career at the age of 16 by writing a weekly column, Commentary Box in the Karachi-based Prime Sports. His writings mainly focused on Cricket. In 1999, he worked for Daily Kohistan, an Urdu newspaper published from Quetta, as its stringer in his home district of Panjgur.
Malik wrote Hiraath Kadha (Wonderland) a regular political column in Quetta-based Urdu language newspaper Daily Asaap while he also wrote Gosha-e-Chashm (A Glimpse), another political column in Daily Azadi, Quetta. In Daily Aaj Kal, an Urdu language newspaper published simultaneously from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, he wrote a weekly political diary focusing on Balochistan. His Urdu writings have also been published in respected Lahore-based weekly magazine, Hum Sheri.
As a professional media trainer, Malik trained one hundred (100) rural journalists of Balochistan on Media, Democracy and Human Rights in five phases under a project by Balochistan Institute for Development with the collaboration of the US-based National Endowment for Democracy. In addition, Malik worked with international organizations like ActionAid Pakistan and Oxfam as an independent researcher on the issue of Balochistan’s internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Malik is a member of several international journalists’ organizations such as the USA-based, National Press Club Washington DC, Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ), South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA), American Copy Editors Society (ACES) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).
Malik has spoken on Balochistan in national and international conferences at University of California Berkeley, George Washington University, the American University, George Mason University, Arizona State University, National Endowment for Democracy, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and different institutions.