Media Adds To Raymond Davis Confusion

Feb 18th, 2011 | By | Category: Jang, Pakistan Today, The News

Can it be any surprise that confusion surrounds the curious case of Raymond Davis when the media continues to add to the confusion with contradictory headlines?

The News on Friday included several front page headlines that directly contradicted each other. On the issue of foreign aid, two article, ‘Top US lawmakers reject cut in Pak aid’ and ‘Refusal to free Davis might strip Pakistan of $3bn aid’, presented different conclusions for the same question: Will the US cut aid because of Raymond Davis.

Ansar AbbasiIn a similarly confusing manner, The News front page includes the headlines, ‘No proceedings until govt decides on Davis status: LHC’ which implies that Davis’s status has not been determined, and also the headline, ‘Davis was not a diplomat when he killed’. While the first is recognition by the LHC that the case is still being determined, the second is Ansar Abbasi inserting himself into the role of Foreign Minister.

Wednesday’s edition of Pakistan Today featured the bold front page headline ‘Stage set for Davis’ release’, and included the article, ‘Davis is a diplomat, enjoys immunity: FO’. Two days later the newspaper features the headline, ‘No immunity but there’s still a way out, US told’.

Those are the headlines that people see, even when they don’t read the newspaper. How can we be surprised when there is such rampant confusion about the facts when the newspapers themselves can’t even decide on the story line?

Syed Ali Raza AbidiOff the official page, though, things are even worse. On press-related email lists and on Twitter, conspiracy theories are running rampant. The most outrageous being a claim that Raymond Davis was giving al Qaeda a nuclear weapon to attack Pakistan. Despite being a ridiculous claim on its face and with no supporting evidence to support such a claim, Aaj TV and Express Tribune journalist Syed Ali Raza Abidi Tweeted the fake story as if it was real.

It is important especially in complex situations that all sides are represented in news reports. But that does not mean that media should make directly contradictory claims as is going on in black and white before our own eyes. The responsible way to address such issues is to simply report that the issue is complex and that there are multiple opinions, but not to take a particular side as the reporter.

This may be a disappointment to would-be FMs like Ansar Abbasi, but reporting is meant to convey facts and not try to invent them. Surely Abbasi will try to defend himself by saying that he is merely reporting the lists provided by the Embassy, but that is belied by his own language when he terms Raymond Davis ‘killer diplomat’ and the incident ‘heinous crime’. Ansar Abbasi is attempting to influence, not inform.

But worse even than Asnar Abbasi’s inability to write a neutral report on the facts is so-called journalists spreading ridiculous conspiracy theories. Such practises undermine any shred of credibility of not only the individual journalist but the media in general.

With complex and difficult situations like the Raymond Davis case, the people count on journalists to provide neutral reporting on the facts and developments so that they can judge for themselves what is happening and form their own beliefs. Unfortunately, the media is not providing that service right now, and the result is confusion in the public.

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