Are some journalists, either unwittingly or for pay, providing PR for banned militant groups? That is a question raised by Gulmina Bilal Ahmad in today’s Daily Times, and one that bears close examination.
Gulmina takes to task reporter Yousaf Ali from The News for an article he wrote last week claiming that “Islamic charities most effective in relief activities”.
If I were associated with an ‘Islamic’ charity, I would file a suit against the reporter because he goes on to mention organisations that are old wines in new bottles. In other words, banned militant organisations operating under new names. There are a number of Islamic charities that are doing excellent work and do not use militant ways and means. They are funded not by mafias, crime and drug money as the militant organisations are, and have transparent, audited accounts.
The reporter is supposed to report, not give an opinion. Opinions are reserved for the op-ed pages. However, in the said news story, in the very title, the reporter has given his considered opinion. Throughout the four-column story, he fails to establish what is the basis of his sweeping conclusion displayed prominently in the heading.
Clearly, there is a problem raised by the fact that the author makes a bold claim that is not supported by the facts presented in his reporting. The reporter may believe that his claim is true – in fact, the claim could be true – but without providing evidence to support the claim, the reporter is wrong in making it.
But even the reporters claims are questionable. Yousaf Ali writes that,
Cooked food has been distributed among 0.25 million so far, while 23,046 packages were distributed among 161,322 families, the handout stated.
But according to Daily Mail News, the US has sent over 77,000 food packets for flood victims.
Talking to a privet television channel, the NDMA chairman said that they had demanded 380,000 food packets from the US for the flood stricken people in the country. He said the US sent a first batch of 77,000 food packets through C-130 plane which had been dispatched to affected areas.
Nadeem Ahmad said that another 43,000 boxes were expected to reach soon. “The US has assured of more cooperation to ease the miseries of people,” he said. Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W Patterson announced that the US government is continuing to send assistance for flood relief efforts in Pakistan. “The United States supports Pakistan’s emergency relief efforts on behalf of people affected by recent monsoon floods,” she said.
Surely Mr Ali knows that 77,000 is more than 23,046. So why does he ignore such facts in his article?
Gulima suspects a bit of spot-fixing going on at Jang Group’s English newspaper:
The news story further goes on to declare that the “most effective among the Islamic charities” is “the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation which is linked with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)”. The reporter clearly is aware of the way the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation is linked with the JuD. Is the reporter not aware then that the JuD is a banned organisation? As if the heading of the news story was not enough, the reporter, to really imprint it in the reader’s mind, further states, “much discussed in the international media, the Falah-e-Insaniat is another major contributor in the relief activities”.
Since, in this space, I am clearly asked to give my opinion, I will venture to state that it seems to be a paid, placed piece to do some damage control and spin some ‘feel good’ stories about the Falah-e-Insaniat, given the fact that “much has been written in the international media” about it.
Banned organizations are well known to change their names in order to avoid being closed down. Despite this, they are well known. They are also being praised by some in the media – as evidenced by Yousaf Ali’s column as well as articles in The Nation, and Dawn.
And this is not an issue that appears only in English media, of course.
Leading English newspapers do not have the monopoly over promoting irresponsible reporting nor is the militant media confined only to English. Just this week, an Urdu paper prominently displayed a statement of Hafiz Saeed, head of JuD, claiming that “there is no al Qaeda”. If there is no al Qaeda, then how is it that there is a group that has, to date, claimed responsibility for global terrorism attacks? Another question that begs to be answered is what is the basis for this claim of Mr Hafiz Saeed?
Just yesterday, Urdu newspaper Daily Khabrian included an article claiming that “foreign hands” were involved in the Lahore attacks. The evidence for this conspiracy? A statement from Rana Munir of Pakistan Muslim Rajput Federation.
The reporter for Daily Khabrian did not feel it necessary to ask how Rana Munir knew of such a conspiracy, and the newspaper’s editors did not (as evidenced by the publication of the article) feel it necessary to ask why such a statement by Rana Munir was significant enough to be a priority for publication. All of this despite the fact that banned group Lashker-e-Jhangvi claiming responsibility for the attacks.
These articles raise important questions: How is it that banned groups are getting a disproportionate amount of positive press coverage for the relief work that they are doing? Why do media outlets continue to publish conspiracy theories absolving banned groups from responsibility for attacks – even after the groups admit responsibility? And why do major news outlets like The News (Jang), The Nation, and Dawn consider it a priority to publish articles praising the work of banned groups over others?