We have been writing lately about evidence of media priorities and questions about whether some news organizations are providing PR for banned organizations and jihadi groups. We have so far shown some evidence that suggests that this is present in both English language and Urdu language media, but so far most of the evidence has raised questions of influence and editorial position. Today, though, we provide evidence of a major news organization spreading direct Taliban PR.
In total, The Nation‘s website is hosting at least 160 individual articles with by lines attributed to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. The publishing of official Taliban PR appears to have begun in May of this year.
While it would not be unusual for a reporter to quote a Taliban spokesman, what makes this situation unique is that the by line for the articles is attributed to Zabihullah Mujahid. There is no context or analysis provided by an objective reporter. Rather, The Nation appears to have either for pay or for free given space on its website to promote Taliban PR.
That the articles on The Nation website include a by line for Zabihullah Mujahid and refers to the source as “Taliban website” demonstrates that The Nation is knowingly using their website to publish official Taliban PR.
This situation raises serious questions about whether some elements at The Nation are operating as a legitimate news source, or as a covert operatives for militant jihadi organizations. While criticism of the US and the war in Afghanistan is certainly within the bounds of responsible journalism, there is a difference between criticism and propaganda.
Furthermore, the question must be asked if The Nation is now at risk of having its financial assets and economic resources frozen under UN Resolution 1904 which states that
…all States shall…Freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, including funds derived from property owned or controlled directly or indirectly, by them or by persons acting on their behalf or at their direction, and ensure that neither these nor any other funds, financial assets or economic resources are made available, directly or indirectly for such persons’ benefit, by their nationals or by persons within their territory…including but not limited to those used for the provision of Internet hosting or related services, used for the support of Al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden, or the Taliban and other individuals, groups, undertakings, or entities associated with them…
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.
We were unable to find any instances of this practice on the websites of Dawn, The News (Jang), Daily Times, or Express Tribune.