Foreign journalists in Pakistan: Embedded in the narratives of military establishment and urban elite

Through LUBP, we have been successfully confronting and exposing the pro-military establishment and pro-urban middle class narratives of the Pakistani print and electronic media (including Pakistani blogs). (see some examples here, here and here)

However, the role of foreign media in Pakistan, as embedded in and reinforcing the military establishment’s and urban elitist narratives, has remained relatively ignored.

Recently, Sheen Alif wrote an excellent article deconstructing Guardian’s Declan Walsh’s simplistic reporting on ‘deadly divide’ in Karachi, which clearly reflected the wisdom Mr Walsh borrowed from his urban (MQM) contacts in Karachi.

Another example is how foreign journalists report “Sunni-Shia sectarianism” with a broad brush, deliberately ignoring the fact that, historically, Sunni-Shia sectarianism is almost non-existent in Pakistan. They neglect the important distinction between Sunni, Deobandi and Wahhabi. They remain entrapped in the common fallacies which are often shared by the Taliban apologists and ‘liberal’ analysts. They conveniently ignore the conflict between the extremist Deobandis (of the Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba, who constitute only a tiny section of Pakistan’s population) and the rest of Pakistan including Sunnis, Shias, Muslims, non-Muslims. To portray extremist Deobandis as representing the Sunni majority is tantamount to the rape of facts and is consistent with the military establishment’s narratives and jihadi/sectarian agenda.

Other examples of foreign media’s bias include the decontextualised recycling of the military establishment’s ‘politicians-are-corrupt’ mantra. This includes the insulting and one-sided manner in which certain journalists sometimes portray Pakistani politicians and elected leaders such as President Asif Zardari or late PM Benazir Bhutto etc. For example the story in Daily Mail which advised that “Cameron should count his fingers after shaking hands with Pakistan’s Mr Ten Per Cent”.

Similarly, foreign media’s reporting on Afghanistan, Iran and other countries in the region remains skewed, and with a very few exceptions (such as Robert Fisk’s reports on the Middle East) foreign journalists remain subservient to the official narratives of their governments and military establishments.

For example, in his reporting of Jundullah’s attack on Imam Hussain Mosque in Iran, Guardian’s Ian Black terms Jundullah as an “Iranian Sunni group” ignoring its ideological and cross-border links with some (not all, brainwashed by agencies) Baloch nationalists and extremist Deobandis of Pakistan.

John Pilger’s ‘The War That We Don’t See’ has enough food for thought for us. In Pilger’s words, leading news channels in the UK and the US “broadcast received establishment wisdom dressed as news. This helps us understand why propaganda in free societies like Britain and the United States is far more effective than in dictatorships. While ‘professional’ journalists, especially broadcasters, present themselves falsely as a neutral species, truth doesn’t stand a chance.”

I would suggest that LUBP team members and other writers may pay attention to this topic, and write research based accounts exposing the military-establishment-and-urban-elite-embeddedness of foreign journalists in Pakistan.



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