The News Peddles Conspiracies, Political Attacks (Part I)

Aug 4th, 2010 | By | Category: Jang, The News

The News (Jang Group)The News today is peddling conspiracy theories and political attack in the place of actual news reporting. This has been an ongoing problem with Jang Group’s English newspaper, and the quality of reporting appears to be getting worse.

Today’s edition contains two columns that stand out as such poor quality that they do not even qualify as legitimate journalism.

The first story, “Visas for Americans”, claims there is some conspiracy behind visas granted by the Embassy in Washington, DC. In addition to providing no evidence for his claims, reporter Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat combines this conspiracy theory with baseless political attacks on government officials.

Abdul’s report begins with unsubstantiated claims about the Ambassador to America issuing hundreds of visas “without scrutiny”.

Now Ambassador Hussain Haqqani has been authorised to issue visas to Americans, diplomats or whosoever comes in their guise, for one year without scrutiny. Earlier, Haqqani, who does not represent Pakistan’s Foreign Service, used to grant three-month visas in consultation with the Foreign Office.

Reports say that Haqqani is now facilitating some 652 Americans to come to Pakistan. Most of them, one figure suggests around 400, could be US security personnel. On the other hand, it has been reported the US has granted only 35 visas to Pakistani diplomats.

But notice that this information is based on undocumented “reports”. Reports by who? This reporter then goes on to say that “one figure suggests” many of the visas are for security personnel. “One figure suggests” means that the reporter does not know. He neither provides the source of his figure for fact-checking, nor does he even consider it reliable enough to stand behind it.

But the column gets worse as it goes on. Rather than writing a factual report, Abdul simply makes some dire predictions based on no provided evidence.

The development has serious dimensions and could have grave consequences for Pakistan’s national security.First, the visas have been given on express authority of the president, while ignoring both the Foreign Office and relevant security apparatus. It is not known how many of the 652 Americans comprise CIA personnel, representatives of infamous XE or Blackwater, those covertly representing Mossad or other US agencies involved in espionage.

When Abdul writes that “it is not known how many of the 652 Americans comprise CIA personnel…” he is saying that he has no idea. Actually, the number could be zero. The reporter is attempting only to raise suspicion and ill feelings by making such a statement.

Second, the decision will create a gulf between the Foreign Office and the PPP-led government, which has been ignoring professional advice and implementing decisions that sometimes are not in the national interest. Third, the PPP government has totally ignored the fact that Pakistan does not need such a large number of American diplomats and other personnel.

Here, Abdul pretends that he has some knowledge of professional advice, the national interest, and what is the proper number of diplomats. One would think that given such expertise, he would find himself in government and writing sub-standard newspaper articles.

The reporter goes on to accuse Pakistan’s envoy in Washington of being “in such a hurry to gran visas to US nationals”, but he provides no evidence that this claim is even true. Does Abdul have some intimate acquaintance with the Ambassador to USA that would give him such knowledge? Or is he only making such an accusation with no basis in fact?

At the end of the column, the reporter even goes so far as to boldly state a recommended policy position:

“It is apparent that unilateral steps by the government to grant visas to American nationals or others should be stopped as it could have an impact on Pakistan’s national security.”

This is a blatant opinion and not a news report. That The News continues to publish such columns outside the proper opinion section demonstrates either a lack of attention to journalistic ethics, or a blatant disregard for professional standards.

to be continued…

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