Newspaper Accepts Paid Advertisements From Banned Groups

Sep 7th, 2010 | By | Category: Daily Nawa-i-Waqt

Daily Nawa-i-WaqtBanned group Jamaat ud Dawa has paid newspapers for advertising space – and the newspapers accepted the offer. This raises further questions around the topic of media priorities that we began discussing last week.

Daily Nawa-i-waqt ran a large paid advertisement signed by Hafiz Saeed for Jamaat ud Dawa that says,

Responsible people and members of JuD, help the flood victims on a preferential basis.

While the advertisement appears to be asking people to give money to help flood victims, it is actually promoting the banned organization. It does this in two ways:

First, the advertisement makes a direct connection between the victims of the flood and the relief efforts of JuD despite the fact that JuD has provided only a marginal amount of support for flood victims, and that ignores the broader mission of the organization which is to spread an extremist version of Islam.

Second, the advertisement suggests that the best way to help flood victims is to give financial contributions to JuD rather than to government efforts or apolitical NGOs operating on the ground. This, despite the fact that such an act is illegal as JuD is a banned organization whose accounts have been frozen, despite their continuing to operate openly. Furthermore, the fact that JuD’s accounts have been frozen raises the question of how the advertisement was paid for – did Nawa-i-Waqt accept cash, or was the advertisement provided ‘pro bono’ or complimentary?

Whatever the situation, it is worth questioning what it means about the priorities of newspapers like Nawa-i-Waqt who will accept advertising from banned organizations.

According to Gillian Dyer, advertising has a direct influence on the editorial environment of a newspaper. (Advertising as communication, Volume 1982, Part 2, p.67)

Advertisers will look for the right editorial environment as well as the right readers when they buy space. From this we might conclude that any criticism of an advertiser’s business activities will be avoided in the editorial sections of newspapers.

A 2008 paper by Kelly E. Campbell titled, Advertiser Influence on News Media: A Literature Review concludes that there editors and journalists are aware of this pressure.

Clearly, editors and journalists perceive there to be advertiser pressure. Given the
amount of research that has examined advertiser influence from the news organization’s
perspective, it would be interesting to examine how advertisers themselves perceive their
role in influencing editorial content.

Gillian Dyer’s book concludes that,

Advertisers play a major part in shaping society’s values, habits and direction. They are also partly responsible for influencing the character and development of the media system…Newspapers and magazines are increasingly forced into creating the right ‘editorial environment’ for advertisers, and in addition we can see a growing polarization between popular and quality newspapers.

With this in mind, we must ask what the act of accepting advertising by a banned organization says about the priorities and editorial stance of Nawa-i-Waqt. If the newspaper accepted payment for the advertisement, how has that affected their stance on organizations operating illegally in the country? If they provided the advertisement without charge, are they then demonstrating their support for the illegal organization?

Already some reporters have pointed to news media providing PR for banned groups. Is this yet another example? And what does that tell us about what the agenda of these newspapers?

Research shows that advertising has an influence on reporting and editorial positions. Typically, this may be a subtle effect such as not wanting to write too much about a corporate scandal if the company is a large advertiser. When it comes to banned organization like JuD, though, real questions emerge about what the newspaper’s priorities are and whether the advertising accepted is having some influence on the editorial positions and reporting in the newspaper.

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