Why are opinion pieces 'Top Stories' in The News?

Jul 24th, 2010 | By | Category: Jang, The News

The News continues to mistake blatant opinion columns for actual news, and publishes them as top stories in the newspaper.

Today’s issue includes two stories about the second tenure as COAS granted to Gen. Ashraf Kayani by PM Gilani that offer no factual news reporting, but instead are opinion columns opposing Gen. Kayani’s continued service as head of the military.

The first column, by Ikram Sehgal, is not so much a news report at all, but an examination of Gen. Kayani’s new tenure viewed in the context of the author’s previous opinion columns.

In a dramatic late night announcement by the prime minister on July 22, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was given an extension as COAS for three years from the date his present term expires on November 29, 2010. By some coincidence in my article last Thursday, I had said: “A new COAS of the Pakistan Army must be promoted. It would be severely disappointing if Kayani accepted the offer of extension being dangled in front of him. He hasan image that would suffer for posterity. If he cannot be C-in-C, Kayani should refuse an extension in the Waheed Kakar tradition”.

In essence, Ikram Sehgal is even admitting that he is not a news reporter, but is actually a serial opinion columnist. This is fine, and he is certainly entitled to his opinions, but his columns should be moved to the Opinion page and not published as legitimate news stories.

The same problem is found with Ansar Abbasi. His column today is another opinion piece that opposes a new tenure for Gen. Kayani. In fact, Ansar Abbasi’s column does not even pretend to be a factual report, but includes his opinion in the very title of the column: “Was this extension really needed? Probably not.”

Ansar Abbasi goes on to repeat the same opinion voiced by Ikram Sehgal in his column – that Gen. Kayani should refuse to accept a new tenure and simply retire.

Kayani did perform extremely well as the Army chief, he remained apolitical, did not allow the military to intervene in politics, generally believed to have fought well against terrorism, ensured free and fair February 2008 elections and played his role quite sensibly during tense moments but still giving him an extension should have been avoided. It is yet to be seen if Kayani would accept the offer and continue till November 2013. It would, however, be good for the institution of Army if he does not.

This is, unfortunately, not a problem only in today’s issue. Just yesterday, The News Group Editor Shaheen Sehbai wrote an opinon column that was featured as a ‘top story’ and was nothing but an opinion piece with a little conspiracy thrown in for good measure.

The government must be feeling a sense of relief calculating that in the last two years General Kayani has kept the army away from politics, as much as he could, had not interfered even when there was a lot of noise against corruption, highhandedness and defiance to the superior judiciary and had ìtoleratedî the shortcomings or inadequacies of the elected government, deliberately looking away in the national interest.

Again, this is not news reporting but Shaheen Sehbai taking the opportunity to air his opinion against the elected government.

Shaheen Sehbai, Ikram Sehgal and Ansar Abbasi all wrote opinion columns opposing a new tenure as COAS for Gen. Kayani. They did not write news reports. These pieces do not belong as ‘top stories’ but would be appropriate on the opinion page. If The News is concerned that there are too many opinions to fit only the opinion page and thus they need to fill the rest of the newspaper with them, perhaps they need to change their name from The News to The Opinion.

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