Proper investigative journalism is severely lacking and this is effecting not only our own media but international reporting on Pakistan as well. As reporting on Pakistan becomes more and more dangerous for foreign journalists, often accused of being ‘spies’ by certain right-wing elements, the international press becomes reliant on our own journalists to feed them information. In turn, they are fed propaganda, not actual reporting, which is then added in their own reporting. Once this happens, Pakistani media refers to the international press as a way of legitimising their own inventions, even though it is their own words that have been repeated.
An example of this problem was made clear in The News of yesterday. A front page article titled, ‘Raymond Davis was CIA spy: UK paper’, is actually a re-published article from the UK newspaper The Guardian. The article, by Declan Walsh and Ewen MacAskill, was originally published over the week end. The News re-published the article on Monday without changing a single word or giving proper attribution.
The article concludes with by citing ‘press reports’ about a rather peculiar speculation: “that the authorities worry the US could try to spring Davis in a “Hollywood-style sting”. If that phrase is not familiar to you, let me explain its origin. The threat of a ‘Hollywood-style sting operation’ is an invention of one Ansar Abbasi who works for The News. He introduced the phrase in an 11 February article titled, ‘Multiple security layers erected for Raymond Davis’, a piece that also threatens ‘some subversive act from India to get the double-murderer to embarrass Pakistan’. As always, the sources for Ansar Abbasi’s supposed conspiracies by American and Indian forces are unknown.
Ansar Abbasi may have invented from thin air these conspiracy theories, or they may have been fed to him by intelligence agencies. But the trick has worked because The Guardian has now repeated the claim on their respected pages, only attributing the claim to ‘press reports’ and not mentioning the name of Ansar Abbasi which would have alerted readers to the questionable origin of the claim. These conspiracies can now be repeated by our own media manipulators as reports of a preeminent UK newspaper, no need to mention their birthplace in the work of Ansar Abbasi.
Media reports on Raymond Davis are already filled with confusing and contradictory articles in Pakistan. Now our own propaganda has made its way into the international press. Whether this is by chance or by design is not known. What is known is that in a case as sensitive as Raymond Davis, the media has a responsibility to provide neutral reporting of facts and not to play the sensationalism card. That may be too much to ask of certain quarters in our own media, but we hope that the international press will not be so easily manipulated.
Unfortunately, as foreign journalists are threatened and labeled as ‘spies’ by certain elements that do not want the truth to come out, these foreign journalists rely on Pakistani journalists to provide them with research and analysis. When that research and analysis is filled with planted conspiracies and misinformation, it only serves to hide the truth. We pride ourselves on our free media, but can the media be truly free when it is so easily and so often manipulated for political ends?