Archive for September, 2011

بریکنگ نیوز اور ٹاک شوز

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

جناب طاہر ملک اپنے روزنامہ وقت اخبار کے کالم میں ایک بہت ضروری نقطہ پیش کرتے ھیں۔ ھم اپنے اس قاری کے شکرگزار ھیں جس نے وقت نکال کر ھماری توجہ ملک صاحب کے کالم کی جانب دآئر کی۔

طاہر صاحب اپنے کالم میں اینکر حضرات کی سچائی اور موقف کا جائزہ لیتے ھوئے اس بات پر زور دیتے ھیں کے عوام کے جزبات پر کھیلتے ھوئے صرف اپنی ریٹنگ بڑھانہ ایک نہایت گری ھوئی بات ھے اور اینکر حضرات کو وہ سوالات کرنے چاھیں جو کہ اب تک نھیں اٹھائے گئے ھیں۔

طاہر صاحب کے کالم کے دونوں لنک نیچے ملاحظہ فرمائیے

I بریکنگ نیوز اور ٹاک شوز۔

II بریکنگ نیوز اور ٹاک شوز۔

Terrorists Have No Taboos

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

This post is a response to the editorial that was published in The Nation on Saturday 3rd September. The editorial talks about the suicide attack in Quetta on Eid:

The Nation logoThat these incidents occurred on Eid also highlighted the fact that, instead of praying for the prosperity and progress of the country on this sacred occasion, the perpetrators committed these deeds instead, making one doubt that they could have been Muslims. This gives rise to the suspicion that the perpetrators of these and other deeds of terrorism may well have been penetrated by India, particularly after it obtained consulates in Afghanistan from the Karzai regime.

Previously, the militants, who claimed that they were following the precepts of Islam, were careful enough to leave aside religious festivals, and it goes without mentioning that the biggest religious festival of Islam was among them. Now that this taboo has been broken, the government needs to be particularly vigilant at the next Eid, due in just over two months, and Ashura and its related gatherings.

The Nation claims that in the past, militants have not carried out attacks on religious festivals and holidays. Research into past militant attacks, however, reveals that this is not true. Actually, terrorists have been carrying out attacks at mosques, religious events, and Islamic institutions in Pakistan for years.

There have been dozens of attacks on mosques and other Islamic institutions and festivals in Pakistan over the years. Some of those incidents are listed as follows:

On 31st August, a suicide bomber detonated in a parked car outside a Quetta mosque, killing 11 people after Eid prayers.

A few weeks earlier, more than 40 people were killed in a suicide attack at a mosque in Jamrud in the Khyber tribal agency just after Friday prayers ended. This is during the holy month of Ramadan.

In April, the Taliban killed 41 people in a double suicide attack on a Sufi shrine (considered a holy place by some) in Dera Ghazi Khan in an attack on minority religious groups.

In March, at least 10 people were killed and 37 injured when a powerful bomb exploded in a mosque adjacent to the historic shrine of Akhun Panjo Baba in Akbarpura after Friday prayers.

In January, suicide attacks targeting Shia religious processions in Lahore and Karachi killed 16 people. The Fedayeen-e-Islam, a subgroup of the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Jaish-e-Mohammed, claimed credit for the Lahore attack.

All of the attacks listed above took place since the past eight months. But terrorist attacks on religious occasions and places are not new. Actually, this was not even the first time an attack took place on the sacred occasion of Eid.

In 2006, 22 people were killed and dozens wounded in a suicide attack during an Ashura procession in Hangu. 20 more people were killed and 60 injured by a suicide bomb attack during another Ashura procession in Karachi in 2009. Ashura processions were not attacked in 2008, but only because police arrested five militants, including a suicide bomber, who were plotting attacks before they could carry them out.

In 2007, on the eve of Eid ul-Adha, a suicide bomb blast again targeted Aftab Ahmad Sherpao killing at least 57 and injuring over 100 at Jamia Masjid Sherpao, in Charsadda District.

In 2009, a suicide bomber killed five and injured 12 people at a girls’ religious school in Pishin district of Balochistan.

Also in 2009, at least 32 persons were killed and 85 others injured in a powerful suicide blast during funeral procession of a Shia elder, and more than 30 Shia Pakistani worshippers were killed and more than 50 wounded in a devastating suicide attack outside a mosque in the town of Dera Ghazi Khan.

In one of the most brutal and brazen attacks, as reported by Geo, a suicide assault team stormed a mosque that is frequented by Army officers. Forty persons were martyred, including children, and over 80 others injured in the terror attack at Parade Lane mosque in Rawalpindi.

Even religious clerics are not safe from militants, a fact proven when a suicide bomber killed five Pakistanis, including anti-Taliban cleric Dr. Sarfraz Naeemi, in an attack on a mosque in Lahore during Friday prayers.

As we can see most of these attacks took place on Mosques while prayers were in progress or people were getting ready for prayers. Since Friday prayers hold importance for Muslims, militants target mosques at Jumma Prayer times. These attacks, however, as clearly shown above have not been limited to mosques and include funeral processions, madrassas and religious congregations.

Neither are The Nation newspaper’s suspicions that perpetrators may have risen from India ignores the fact that responsibility for attacks has consistently been claimed by militant extremist groups such as Laskhar-e-Janghvi and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan who consider as ‘takfiri’ anyone who does not accept their extremist ideology.

It is important that prominent newspapers like The Nation condemn terrorism as they did in their editorial on 3rd September, but it is equally important that these condemnations tell the facts about terrorists and not make excuses for them, even unintentionally, by perpetuating conspiracy theories that confuse the masses about who is responsible. The fact is, terrorists have no taboos.

Lifafa Journalism

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Lifafa journalism

An article by Issam Ahmed for The Christian Science Monitor yesterday rocked the journalism community as the reporter discussed payments made to two Pakistani journalists from an American nonprofit that receives funding from the US State Department. Two reactions dominated discussion – those on the right saw an American propaganda machine unmasked and those on the left asked why the same scrutiny is not given to the funding behind pro-jihadi propaganda that is prevalent in Pakistan. However there is another point which we hope Mr Ahmed’s piece will open to discussion: The culture of ‘lifafa journalism’ that has taken root in Pakistani media.

According to Issam Ahmed’s investigative reporting, two Pakistani media groups have reporters on staff that received payments from an American media nonprofit, but did not disclose this fact.

Neither of the two media organizations, Express News and Dunya News, discloses that their reporters are paid by the nonprofit America Abroad Media (AAM) on their websites or in the reports filed by their correspondents. Though the journalists have worked under the auspices of AAM since February, AAM only made their links to the news organizations known on their website Wednesday, after being contacted by the Monitor.

First it should be noted that sensational claims being spread that Pakistani journalists or media groups are on secret US government payroll are not supported by Mr Ahmed’s report. The nonprofit America Abroad Media (AAM) reported that it has paid the journalists has done many programmes that are meant to introduce American audiences to issues in Pakistan. Actually, a few months ago AAM produced a 5 part series about the growing role of Islamic charities in the world and even reported a piece about Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s flood relief work that many would consider sympathetic to the group. If this is an American propaganda machine, it is certainly a strange one.

Second, it should also be noted that Issam Ahmed actually did report on extremism in Pakistani media. His piece of 23rd June 2010, ‘What’s on Pakistan TV talk shows? Extremists.’ takes a very critical look at Pakistan’s own version of sensational “FOX News” style reporting.

While [Zaid] Hamid generally reserves his venom for what he perceives as Pakistan’s external enemies, others, like televangelist Amir Liaquat Hussain openly call for violence against Pakistan’s minorities. In a show recorded in 2008, the Karachi based religious-scholar, who held the post of minister of state for religious affairs in the Musharraf regime, said it was incumbent on all true-believers to kill Ahmadis.

Within two days, a prominent Ahmadi doctor and an Ahmadi rice trader were shot dead in Sindh province.

Though Hussain’s membership in the secular MQM political party was terminated, no further action was taken against him or his channel, Geo, owned by Pakistan’s largest media group.

So it is that AAM is not a conspiracy by the US government and Issam Ahmed has reported on extremist media. Rather than let this be another headline used to score cheap political points, let us turn to the more pressing issue which is that a culture of ‘lifafa journalism’ that has taken root in the media.

That many journalists are on payrolls other than from the media groups they are supposed to work for is an open secret, if anyone even bothers to pretend it is any type of secret anymore. In his book, Web of Censorship the respected journalist and leader of of the freedom of press movement in the 1990s, Zamir Niazi, noted that since the Ayub Khan regime agencies began recruiting and paying journalists to promote an establishment line. Is this practice a thing of the past? Consider that after PNS Mehran attack in May, ISPR held a private ‘briefing’ with 20 journalists, many whose names you will easily recognise.

  • Raheem Ullah Yousafzai
  • Mujeeb Ur Rehman Shami
  • Haroon Ur Raheed (columnist)
  • Talat Hussain
  • Zahid Hussain (Wall Street Journal)
  • Ijaz Haider
  • Moeed Peerzada
  • Qatreena Hussain
  • Mehar Bokhari
  • Sana Bucha
  • Hamid Mir
  • Javed Ch.
  • Saleem Safi
  • Arshad Sarif
  • Kashif Abbasi
  • Ibsaar Aalam
  • Mubashir Luqman
  • Nadeem Malik
  • Rana Mubashir
  • Haroon ur Rasheed (BBC)

Two of the journalists that attended the briefing by DG ISI even work for foreign media groups Wall Street Journal and BBC.

And it’s not just agencies that are known for recruiting journalists. Politicians have even taken the practice to a new level. Dawn News recently reported that one politician could not find envelopes large enough, so he opened an entire store for journalists only that treats reporters to VIP protocols.

NGOs and private companies, too, are known to provide envelopes to journalists who are invited to cover their latest products and developments. One journalist recently wrote that some small payment has come to be expected by many journalists.

While it’s unfortunate that this culture exists in our profession, what’s even more disgraceful, I feel, is that many among us actually demand it. It seems as though these journalists hang a price tag, and not a press card, around their necks. Like good moneychangers, they offer competitive rates in exchange for writing one sided reports.

Meanwhile, journalists continue to battle media owners in court over wage schemes that have been fixed since 1996. Even these wages are not always paid on time. In the approach of the Eid holiday, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) issued an ultimatum to media owners demanding payment of salaries owed since 4 or 6 months.

Two things need to happen. First, media owners need to pay employees fair wages for their work. This will help to prevent the lure of the ever present envelope by making journalists financially secure.

The second thing is improved transparency. It is not uncommon for journalists to take freelance work or to receive some benefit such as a trip to a conference or a fellowship at a think tank. This additional income should not be considered as suspect as long as it is declared openly. In the present case reported in Issam Ahmed’s article, it seems that the entire problem could have been avoided if the media groups had disclosed the agreements and payments from AAM openly.

We should not accept ‘Everyone is doing it’ as an excuse. We should hear it as a call for reform.

The Nation Responds, Sets Example

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

The Nation logoToday we received a response from The Nation regarding our post of 1st September, ‘The Nation Still Publishing Taliban Propaganda‘. We appreciate the quick response from The Nation which clarifies that these articles were a result of the website being hacked. We believe the response from The Nation deserves special mention here because following our post they took the time to review the copies of the print edition to ensure that this propaganda was not being published in the print editions of Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore each, and they are also taking measures to prevent hackers from accessing their website in the future which displays an excellent level of professionalism that is rare.

It should also be noted that this is not the first time that The Nation has corrected an error after it was brought to their attention. On 16th August we noticed an incorrect photo being attached to an article on the website, and it was quickly corrected after the mistake was brought to their attention. As we said at the time, “mistakes happen”. This is understandable. Unfortunately, we are also living in a time when some groups will use illegal methods such as hacking websites in order to spread propaganda. As is clarified in the response from The Nation, this was the case with the articles by Zabihullah Mehsud which were not approved by The Nation and they are taking action to correct this.

No media group is 100 per cent perfect or accurate all the time. The most trustworthy ones, though, are the ones that are willing to admit and learn from their mistakes. By not only correcting the issue, but honestly and transparently investigating and offering a public clarification, The Nation deserves to be commended for setting an excellent example to all media groups.

Dear Pak Media Watch

Thank you and Mr Rumi and Ms Isfahani [Editors Note: Raza Rumi and Farahnaz Ispahani are not members of the PMW team, but we thank them for helping bring this matter to attention.] for bringing this post to my attention. I have gone through this PMW comment, as well as the previous one mentioned in the introduction, which I was not aware of at the time that it was published, roughly a year ago. Having looked into the matter, I am in a position to reply and address the concerns raised.

To begin, there are most certainly items posted with the byline “Zabihullah Mehsud” on our website. The last one is dated 28 August, 2011. Having carefully gone through all three (KHI, ISB and LHE) editions of The Nation’s print edition on the 27th, 28th and 29th of August, 2011 neither that news nor that byline has been published on our pages, nor would we normally have carried it in the manner it was displayed on the website. After checking the source of the news uploaded, it is with regret that we confirm that our website has been hacked and due to the gaps in our security this post and others like it, carrying the “Zabihullah Mehsud” byline, have not been identified or caught by our anti-hacking software. We apologise for this unfortunate incident and for the matter displayed and the inconvenience caused to our readers. The process of upgrading our site has begun; an emergency session was called at the head office of The Nation with our website managers and an advanced security system for nation.com.pk is being put into development immediately. The news items linked in the PMW post along with all others archived with the same byline are being removed as I write this.

As you said in your post of September 2010, “…it would not be unusual for a reporter to quote a Taliban spokesman,…” as is the practice in The Nation, Reuters, Telegraph, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, and AFP, among others – all of whom regularly reference the Taliban spokesman (Zabihullah Mehsud) in their reports. The parts added directly from the Taliban website, which do not appear in our print edition, are also extensions of the hacking problem, that this PMW post has helped identify.

In response to your question regarding The Nation’s thoughts on “…the suicide bombing outside a Quetta mosque that killed at least 11 people on Wednesday…” please refer to our editorial, to be published tomorrow (3 September, 2011), which I hope will satisfy your curiosity. It may interest you to know that regarding the hacking of our site, we will also be carrying an editorial in The Nation to be published on the 4th of September, 2011.

Sincerely,
Rameeza Majid Nizami

The Nation Still Publishing Taliban Propaganda

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

The Nation logoOne year ago, this blog revealed that The Nation was publishing Taliban PR as news articles. Since that time, The Nation continues to publish Taliban propaganda including 61 pieces signed by Zabihullah Mujahid who is the official spokesman for Taliban. This propaganda includes pieces which term suicide bombings as “martyrdom attack” and term the Afghanistan government as “Kabul stooge regime”.

It should be asked if The Nation believes that the suicide bombing outside a Quetta mosque that killed at least 11 people on Wednesday was also ‘martyrdom attack’.

When we first reported this practice by The Nation of acting as a Taliban mouthpiece, we wrote the following:

Reporting about important issues such as militancy, terrorism, war and security is a key role of the media. Doing this without direction from the government so that the reports are objective and unbiased is vital to a free media. But turning over use of media resources to the official spokespeople for any organization – especially a terrorist organization banned by the United Nations – is not free, objective, or unbiased. It is the opposite, which is called simply propaganda. We encourage The Nation to end this practice immediately.

Today, one year later, we repeat this call for The Nation to publish objective reporting of facts, not Taliban propaganda.

Latest Conspiracy Theory

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

After the recent attack on a security checkpost in Chitral district, some newspapers have published editorials proclaiming that the band of militants that crossed the Afghanistan border were a proxy of NATO. These editorials lack even the minimum of evidence supporting this claim, making it nothing but a sensational conspiracy theory.

The very questionable Pakistan Observer says the attack was NATO’s raid

NATO and US forces are deployed all along the border with Pakistan and with sophisticated intelligence gadgets, it is not possible for a big group of people to cross the Durand Line without their knowledge.

Actually, an American Colonel told Daily Mail that the border ‘is impossible to seal’.

Colonel Luong, who oversees troops in a part of eastern Afghanistan that includes the volatile Khost province, said: ‘It’s naive to say that we can stop enemy forces coming through the border.’

The border referred to is over 2,400 km (1,492 miles) long and, according to ISPR, it is impossible to monitor the entire border.

The public face of Pakistan Army, the ISPR told BBC that there is a 2,400-km-long border between the two countries and this whole stretch cannot be manned, therefore, fencing is being considered. To a question the ISPR spokesperson said that it is not that fencing would stop infiltration all together but militants would get a tough time and the overall volume and frequency of militant infiltration would decline.

This fact did not stop The Nation, which originally published the above statement by ISPR, from repeating this new conspiracy theory that directly contradicts ISPR’s statement and blames NATO for the recent militant attack.

Plainly, these attacks are the American response to our refusal to move troops against the Haqqani group in North Waziristan, whose militants, the US alleges, cross into Afghanistan and kill its soldiers. The US, therefore, wants Pakistan to feel the pinch.

As usual, neither Pakistan Observer nor The Nation provides any evidence to support this paranoid fantasy which defies basic reason. If NATO forces were able to secure the border, wouldn’t it mean that they did not need Pakistan Army’s help to keep Haqqani militants from crossing into Afghanistan to attack NATO forces? As explained by ISPR, the border with Afghanistan being over 2,400 km long is porous and subject to crossing without detection. Blaming the NATO forces for militant attacks is not based in facts, but based only plays on anti-American sentiments. That’s not journalism, it’s propaganda.