Posts Tagged ‘Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’

Are Some Journalists Providing PR For Banned Groups?

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

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.

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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?

Media Priorities

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Today we began what we believe will be an interesting experiment in observing media priorities. We started by looking at what different newspapers found to be worthy of front page coverage and also the topics of each paper’s editorials. The results might surprise you…but probably not.

Yesterday, Pakistan suffered a serious attack in which at least 33 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded. The attacks targeted a Shi’a procession in Lahore. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack almost immediately.

With this recent tragedy still fresh in the nation’s consciousness, we wanted to know what the media companies thought was important today? First, let’s take a look at the front pages of several newspapers:

Dawn Front Page 2 Sept 2010 The News Front Page, 2 September 2010 The Nation Front Page, 2 Sept 2010
Judging by column space, the most important story seems to be what a good deal you will get from the media companies’ advertisers. Okay, yes, newspapers do require advertising to keep subscription fees low. But it is worth noting still that The Nation has more advertising than actual reporting on the front page, though Dawn and The News are not far behind.

What’s more interesting, though, is what each newspaper thinks is most important to report on the front page. The Nation has a few stories about the attacks in Lahore, but devotes at least as much space to stories about Supreme Court’s hearings on the 18th Amendment, US-Pakistan strategic talks, NAB, and inflation.

Dawn devotes the majority of its print space to coverage of the terror attack in Lahore, with the next biggest stories being flooding and the Sialkot lynching.

The News devotes about equal space to the Lahore attacks as they do advertising, but the majority of column space is for stories about floods and politics.

Editorial Pages

Editorial pages are where the official position of a publication is printed. The following topics appeared today.

The News

  • Sialkot Murders
  • 18th Amendment and appointment of judges
  • School reading curriculums

Dawn

  • Taxes
  • Criticism of US treatment of military officers
  • Objectives resolution

The Nation

  • Criticism of US treatment of military officers
  • Oil prices
  • Criticism of government handling floods

It’s interesting, I think, that none of these three major newspapers had any editorial condemning the Lahore attacks. Surely they will make some statement at some point, but why was it not a priority? That’s not to say that school reading curriculum and oil prices are not important, but why did the news organizations decide those were more important than making a statement on the killings?

American intellectual Noam Chomsky has spoken for decades about what he calls “manufacturing consent”. He describes the way that major media organizations decide what is worthy of discussion, and that this has an influence on the way that society evolves.

It’s basically an institutional analysis of the major media, what we call a propaganda model. We’re talking primarily about the national media, those media that sort of set a general agenda that others more or less adhere to, to the extent that they even pay much attention to national or international affairs.

Now the elite media are sort of the agenda-setting media. That means The New York Times, The Washington Post, the major television channels, and so on. They set the general framework. Local media more or less adapt to their structure.

And they do this in all sorts of ways: by selection of topics, by distribution of concerns, by emphasis and framing of issues, by filtering of information, by bounding of debate within certain limits. They determine, they select, they shape, they control, they restrict — in order to serve the interests of dominant, elite groups in the society.

Mr Chomsky was, of course, writing about the media in his own country, but the same theory pertains to our media as well. This is not a judgment against the media, but it is something to be aware of. Not only does the content of reporting shape the way people perceive certain issues, but the decision about what is newsworthy is a very powerful part of media. Thus, you should ask yourself – are the media’s priorities my priorities? Or are they different?