Media Reactions to Osama bin Laden Death – I

May 2nd, 2011 | By | Category: Dawn, Jang

So much nonsense spilling out of the TV right now. While we try to make sense of it all, Nadeem Paracha has written a good first reaction to the media first reaction.

As CNN and BBC were showing thousands of Americans gathering outside the White House, cheering the news, the sounds and sights coming from Pakistani channels are at best bizarre.

As news anchors shoot away reading the fast unfolding news, they seem unsure whether to describe Osama’s reported death as ‘wo marey ja chukey hein’ or ‘mara ja chukka hai’, – both mean ‘Osama has been killed’, but the first sentence uses words like ‘chukey hein’ that in Urdu and Hindi is used to give respect to someone older.

It should also be noted here that in discussing the event, Hamid Mir on GEO TV referred to Osama bin Laden as ‘Shaheed’ also which is a term of respect for a martyr.

So, as Pakistani newscasters (especially on the ever-animated hyperbolic private channels), continue to zigzag between ‘chuka’ and ‘chukey,’ it was only a matter of time before we began seeing what is called the ghairatbrigade, or the pride brigade take their seats in front of the camera.

Pakistan’s private TV channels are brimming with the most gung-ho characters of this brigade – talk show hosts with an addiction for anything conspiratorial and rhetorical, and never far from using sheer jingoism to give weight to the shenanigans of the Pakistani right-wing, especially regarding the rightists’ blinding hatred for the US, the West, India and Pakistani politicians.

So until the writing of this piece, and merely an hour after the news about Osama’s death poured in, the usual suspects in this respect are up and running questioning the validity of the report.

The two star anchors of big media houses started behaving as if their jobs are now on the line since Osama is dead and America seems to have won at least this aspect of its war against al Qaeda. Then one after the other they started breaking with a photo which was published on the internet sometime in 2009.

The cynical display is quite pathetic, almost akin to the shock the loud mouthpieces of the agitated right-wing exhibited when Raymond Davis made a smooth exit from Pakistan, on the behest of Pakistan’s security agencies that, ironically, were alleged to have been propping up a number of media men and politicians such as Imran Khan to pump up anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

Respected journalists and analysts like Najam Sethi, Ayesha Siddiuqa, Hasan Askari and Farrukh Saleem are right to suggest that large sections of the country’s intelligence agencies are using certain media personnel and politicians to drown America’s concerns about Pakistan protecting certain al Qaeda members and those belonging to militant Islamist outfits that America says the Pakistani establishment considers to be ‘friendly.’

Nevertheless, whereas the largely knee-jerk and quasi-reactionary narrative peddled in the name of ghairat in the media and from the mouths of some politicians and TV anchors is now sounding as empty as empty can be, the government and the military-establishment will have to think on its feet.

With Osama’s dramatic demise, the Pakistani establishment cannot hide anymore behind the padding its clumsy doings in the war against terrorists was being provided to them by sympathetic media men.

They have to answer one very simple question: In spite of the Americans claiming that Osama was hiding somewhere in Pakistan, why did the Pakistani military, who too has lost numerous soldiers in its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, continued to deny it?

What’s more, in a frenzy to impress their masters in certain sections of Pakistan’s security apparatus, these media men and politicians were not even immune to unleash rhetoric that can leave Pakistan and its people not only isolated, but suffering from collective bouts of paranoia, delusion and xenophobia.

Here we would add that since the writing of this piece, Ansar Abbasi has gone on TV and defended Osama bin Laden saying “we only believe Osama was a terrorist because America told us so”.

Whereas now it is becoming more than clear that Pakistani security agencies and the Pakistani government did have an inkling at least as to what the Americans were planning to do, instead of asking the question ‘what Osama was doing hiding in a compound situated in an area where there is sufficient presence of the Pakistan army and ISI,’ these TV men were quick to suggest that the man killed may not be Osama.

In fact, one of them confidently announced that according his sources (that’s a nice way of putting it), the man killed was not Osama. But lo and behold! Only an hour after curious claim came the report that the Americans have released the pictures of the dead body and face of Osama.

As I go on monitoring the media, the atrocious narrative questioning the validity of the news championed by these talk show hosts-turned-anchors-turned-presenters had fallen on its face and gradually replaced by a line that suggests that the Pakistan military (not the government) should also be given credit for this prize catch. That is when the race to publish the image started.


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