Are Intelligence Agencies Using Media As Puppets?

Nov 13th, 2010 | By | Category: Jang, The News

Ansar AbbasiAre some elements in the intelligence agencies using media as puppets? This is a conclusion that is being reached by some analysts based on recent news articles published by The News (Jang Group).

Earlier this week, investigative editor for The News Ansar Abbasi wrote the article titled ‘Ex-MI chief, commanders Quetta, Pindi involved’ which claims that Lal Masjid operation and Bugti killing both were the responsibility of Pervez Musharraf alone as he had bypassed GHQ.

Analysis of this article by blogger named Peja Mistri concludes that the article is actually part of an internal struggle within the military establishment and attempt to clear the army name regarding Lal Masjid and Bugti, possibly to ease the concern of ideological factions within the military. Whatever the intent of the article, the question has been raised whether Ansar Abbasi is writing news articles to inform the public or is a puppet for intelligence PR.

This question was raised again today when the same reporter Ansar Abbasi published the article ‘5,000 Jiyalas likely to join Sindhi police‘. When Abbasi interviewed Sindh Inspector General Police, Sultan Salahuddin Babar Khattak, he was told in detail the process for publicly advertising for applicants and determining final results based on merit. So what is Ansar Abbasi’s source for this conspiracy?

According to the article Ansar Abbasi was told this conspiracy by ‘an official source in the Sindh government’ who told him that “the Sindh chapter of an elite intelligence agency had also raised similar apprehensions and reported to its headquarter”. With only this evidence, Ansar Abbasi accepts the conclusion that only the intelligence agency is giving him correct information.

Like other parts of the country, the province of Sindh, whose capital city Karachi saw one of the worst terrorist attacks on Thursday, is in dire need of professional police, a well-trained investigation department and skilled prosecution; however, political considerations of rulers are pushing things from bad to worse.

These recent events begin to remind us of the debate that raged earlier this year about another journalist, Hamid Mir, and the secret connections between journalists an intelligence agencies.

The agencies have always had personnel on their payrolls operating as reporters, anchors, and ‘analysts’ ever since the Ayub Khan dictatorship in the 1960s. Respected journalist and author, late Zamir Niazi, in his book, The Web of Censorship, suggests that the agencies recruited a number of ‘journalists’ during the Ayub dictatorship, specifically to check leftist sentiments that were all the rage among journalists at the time.

Then during the Z.A. Bhutto regime, Niazi hints that the populist government and the conservative ‘establishment’ fought a battle of ideas through paid journalists. But the phenomenon of agency-backed journalists upholding the military establishment’s agenda and ideology in the press  really came to the fore during the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in the 1980s.

As left-leaning journalists were forced to exit newspapers during the Zia dictatorship, the corridors of these newspaper offices were suddenly stormed by large groups of pro-establishment personnel, mainly consisting of anti-Bhutto journalists and pro-Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) men.

With the role of the ISI and other intelligence agencies expanding due to Pakistan’s direct involvement in the so-called ‘anti-Soviet Afghan jihad,’ many of these journalists were brought under the wings of various agencies, triggering a trend that still disfigures prominent sections of mainstream Pakistani media. What’s more, between early and late 1980s, the agencies were also able to plant men in the administration and finance departments of various mainstream media groups.

Journalists must remain steadfast about their independence and transparent about their facts. They should ask if a story is about police recruiting process, why is an intelligence agent giving some information? What is he trying to achieve? Reading Ansar Abbasi’s articles one is likely to conclude that Ansar Abbasi believes intelligence agents are simply honest angels who have come to give him some secrets out of their own kindness.

Certainly Ansar Abbasi would be furious if news was being written not based on facts but under direction of PPP leadership. So why is it different if the direction is coming from intelligence agencies? Journalism cannot be free if it is not independent. If reporters are writing front page stories at the direction of intelligence agencies, they have stopped being journalists and become propagandists. Actually, even the perception of such shenanigans is enough to destroy the credibility of the media.

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