Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The truth in the border areas

An article on the front page of the (online edition of the) Pakistani newspaper Dawn had the headline, "US drone strike kills 20 militants in North Waziristan". (http://www.dawn.com/2010/11/16/us-drone-strike-kills-seven-in-north-waziristan.html) The accompanying picture was that of a drone, not the one that apparently did the killing described in the article, but a "file photo" of some other drone. Possibly from some other conflict, in some other place. But, hey, we need a photo, any photo.

Given that drone strikes take place on an almost bi-weekly basis, they don't always make it to the top of the news stack in Pakistan. This is but natural, for if it occurs regularly, and promises to go on, then it is not always "news", and so one is forgiven for not noticing the details of the account.

But let us examine this article. The headline, alert reader, suggested that twenty militants had been killed.

The sub-headline, however, is a tad more circumspect:

> A US missile strike destroyed a home and a speeding
> vehicle carrying insurgents near the Afghan border early
> Tuesday, killing at least 20 alleged militants, Pakistani
> intelligence officials said.

So now the victims are only "alleged" to have been militants. Quite a difference, is it not, and so quite shabby journalism.

> They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with the
> policy of the intelligence agency.

This is ridiculous. The Pakistani intelligence agency has a defined policy of speaking to the press anonymously? If a prosperous liberal democracy is what the press is aiming for, then this state of affairs deserves more attention and debate than a drone strike. Again, journalism fails to meet its brief.

Note also that the US military does not confirm drone attacks. This bit is not stated anywhere in the article, yet the attack is clearly labelled as originating from a drone and attributed to the US. Where from this insight? The anonymous officials at the intelligence agency? What is the name of this agency? The article does not name the journalist who wrote this story. The only attribution is "Agencies". Which agencies? For-profit press agencies? Ostensibly not-for-profit government agencies?

> The identity of the dead was not known, and agents were trying
> to get more details, said the officials.

The identity was not known - but the dead were militants, at least alleged militants? Is the contradiction not visible to the journalist who wrote this?

No comments: