Monday, February 18, 2008

Identifying the interviewed

This article on the BBC news website, published on 17 Feb 08, is to be pondered.

Snipped (URL:

> "His policies are not right for the country," said one
> man, who gave his name as Nasir.

Does that imply that the journalist suspects that the gentleman's name might not, after all, be Nasir?

Two sentences later, we find:

> Shafi, another new PPP supporter, agreed.

Notice that this is simply "Shafi", and not "a man who said that his name was Shafi". What was different in this case? Did the journalist demand to look at his passport? Subject him to a DNA test?

And now on to basic sentence construction and style issues.

> The new army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani,..., has
> ordered his soldiers to stay out of politics and
> give up lucrative jobs in the civilian bureaucracy.

This implies that jobs that are not lucrative may well continue to be done by soldiers. Or is this mere laziness on the journalist's part?

> But there is no avoiding the fact that,
> this year, retired General Musharraf is
> not a name that will win his party many votes.

Mr. Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, recently retired from the army. Hence, the appropriate address is "..the retired general, Musharraf.." and not "..retired General Musharraf..". General Musharraf, whilst retired from the army, is not quite retired from a full-time job (being the President of Pakistan must be considered one such).

And in any case, "retired General Musharraf" is not a name. The sentence should correctly read "..Musharraf's is not a name..".

The images associated with the article are consistent with what seems to be the BBC's credo that pictures are always a good idea, even if they have absolutely nothing to do with the article. Of course, even a picture of a baby elephant can be argued to have something do with a political assassination in Israel, on the grounds that the victim and the photographed are both mammals. Here the second picture (undated), credited to AP, is of an unidentified male gentleman, dressed in white, wearing a bright turban, in the process of stacking what appear to be white objects made of plastic. The caption reads "President Musharraf has said Monday's vote will be free and fair". How the picture is related to the caption or anything else in the feature is a mystery.

> Pakistan has huge problems with militancy and
> inequality, and for years the west has backed
> Pervez Musharraf as the man to deal with them.

The west of what? One presumes the journalist means "..the West.." and not "..the west..". Surely a basic grounding in the use of the language is not too much to expect from a journalist?

> "..could be his last day," argued Zaffar Abbas,
> the Islamabad editor of Dawn newspaper.

Surely "Dawn" is not a brand of detergent. Would not "..of the newspaper Dawn" or "..of Dawn, a newspaper" be more appropriate. Compare it to "..of The Guardian newspaper", or "..of Germany country" etc..

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