Raymond Davis Case Is Sub Judice, Not Sub Media

Feb 1st, 2011 | By | Category: Geo TV

Raymond Davis surrounded by media cameras

There is nothing positive about a tragedy such as occurred last week when an American Consulate employee shot two men and a third died in a vehicular accident involving another American Consulate employee. Unfortunately, some in the media have taken the opportunity of this tragedy to promote confusion, conspiracy theories, and political agendas instead of presenting the facts. In some instances, there are even suggestions that the media is covering up some facts that are deemed inconvenient to a specific political agenda.

Kamran Shafi succinctly describes the various and contradictory ways the Raymond Davis case has been presented in the media:

He is alleged to be, variously, a spy, a Blackwater operative, a security guard and a US diplomat. There are as many stories about the man in our press as there are reporters in the newspapers, not one of them leading the reader to any conclusion.

In just one day we are regaled by differing accounts in different newspapers: one saying David had overstayed his visa by two years, another telling us his visa was valid until 2012; one saying he was not a diplomat, yet another telling us that he was an ‘official’, and so on and so forth. I have been following this case since the day of the shooting, have read every word written about it, and have to say that I am most confused. Nothing makes sense at all — a lot of which has to do with the conspiracy theorists and the and their spin quacks putting a spin on any aspect they can get their hands on.

In what is already a case filled with questions, media coverage is actually adding to the confusion rather than cutting through it. What is worst, Kamran notes that one eye witness account from the scene has disappeared from reporting.

What I myself saw on the very day of the shooting, about two hours after the event, was the interview of a young man off the street, conducted by a loud and vociferous channel. When asked what he had seen the man said: “pistol” (“The two motorcyclists drew their pistols to rob the foreigner [using the near-pejorative term , or Whitey] who shot them dead”). This was repeated twice in a period of 30 or so minutes and then taken off air. This is what I saw and heard myself. It is pertinent to note that that young man has not been seen, nor heard from, again. Neither has any newspaper quoted what he said on record.

Could it be that media is self-censoring this eye witness account because it is inconvenient to a specific political agenda?

Thankfully, one journalist is standing out in the crowd – Najam Sethi. As Cafe Pyala notes, Sethi “began his new programme Aapas Ki Baat with the warning that he wanted to put emotionalism aside and analyse the incident only in terms of the facts“. This was indeed a breath of fresh air.

Najam Sethi on Aapas Ki BaatNot only did Sethi cite the actual clauses of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic immunity (which Pakistan has ratified) that have been furiously talked about but never actually specifically referenced, but also put into context the whole issue in light of contemporary history and geopolitical realities. Now, others may question his interpretations of the Vienna Convention or the heretofore unknown ‘facts’ he presented as definite realities (we have no way of determining their veracity but he did stake his reputation on their authenticity), but I hope such challenges, if they do come, will be based on proof rather than vague emotionalism.

Cafe Pyala provides as comparison the way the issue was handled by Kamran Khan and his guest Shireen Mazari who trots out the old conspiracy theory that Ambassador Husain Haqqani is issuing visas to ‘suspicious foreigners’ in effort to somehow connect him to the Raymond Davis case. But as Dawn reports today, Raymond Davis’s visa was not issued by the Washington Embassy.

Diplomatic sources in Islamabad said that Raymond Davis had first received a three-month diplomatic visa on a diplomatic passport on request of the US State Department in September 2009. That is the only visa issued to him by the Pakistan embassy in Washington.

On that occasion, the State Department had said Davis would be visiting Pakistan for a short term as a technical adviser. Subsequently, Davis received extensions to his visa in Islamabad or elsewhere.

His presence in Pakistan after the expiry of his first visa in December 2009 was neither known to nor authorised by the Pakistan embassy in Washington or the Foreign Office.

Why Shireen Mazari brings up Husain Haqqani in a discussion of the Raymond Davis case is a question that should be asked. It is already established that the Embassy in Washington did not issue the visas, so why is it entering the debate? Kamran Khan and Shireen MazariIt appears that this is another example of media personalities using tragic events to promote a particular political agenda rather than simply providing and commenting on the facts.

Stories like the Raymond Davis case are delicate diplomatic matters between states, and it is imperative that the people have the facts straight so that they understand why government officials take whatever actions they deem necessary. It is also important that the facts are presented objectively so that the officials responsible for making decisions at such a highly diplomatic level are not confused or misled in their own right.

The Raymond Davis case is more than simply a diplomatic mess, though – it is a question of specific facts and laws. In other words, it is a legal case. There has been much complaining in the media about US officials trying to influence the government one way or the other. These journalists should take their own advice. Presently the matter is sub judice and not sub media.

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