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Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists

Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists

THE ARMY WANTS THE PRESS

THE ARMY WANTS THE PRESS TO REPORT THAT EVERYTHING ISOK IN THE TRIBAL AREAS, A REPORTER TELLS ME. AS WE SPOKE,AN IED WENT OFF.A Pashtun tribesman at the site of a 2012 bombing in Jamrud, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. REUTERS/FAYAZ AZIThe consensus among many journalists is thatHashimzada was another victim of an agency killing.To them, the pattern is obvious.When a journalist airs a fact that embarrasses themilitary or the intelligence apparatus, an official willvisit, call, warn, and in some cases, if it happens toooften, kill the individual.When I asked the ISI about the Hashimzada murder,the security official said: “I haven’t heard any suchstory.”“Which part? The killing of Janullah Hashimzada orthe accusation that the ISI killed him,” I asked.“Both,” he said. “I don’t know about this incident.”Sometimes the offending piece of information isany information at all. Shams Momand, who worksfor Samaa TV, has been navigating these tricky watersfor years because he, like Aatif, comes from MohmandAgency. In 2011, the army was claiming to haveswept Mohmand clean of Taliban and returned life tonormal. Anyone who lived there knew the reality. Thebazaars were still closed. Roads were still closed.“So I reported that the locals face fear and theirbusinesses and activities are banned by the Taliban,”Momand said. “After that the army banned me fromgoing with them. They want us to report that everythingis OK.” In fact, it’s not. The evening before I metMomand, the Taliban had destroyed a school; whilewe spoke, he received a phone call that an IED had justgone off on a local road.If exposing unwanted truths can be fatal, beingemployed by an American or Western media outlet orresearch institution incurs risk as well. Many journalistshave stopped using their names in reports. RiazGul, who is based in Islamabad for Radio Mashaal,told me that in March 2012 he got a call from a TTPspokesman giving him news of an attack in Swat.When we met in Islamabad, Gul recounted the conversation.“He told me, ‘You Mashaal people should airour voices; otherwise we know how to deal with you.All you people at Mashaal became a party and are notimpartial, so please cover us as you cover other peoplelike the police and agencies. This is your duty.’ I said,‘We are doing our job. We can’t do anything if we sendour report to the head office; it’s up to them whetherthey like to put it on air or not.” The Pakistani establishmentknows the Taliban are putting this kind of24 Committee to Protect Journalists

pressure on journalists, but they sanction it by doingnothing about it.For most journalists, in fact, the intelligenceagency’s own pressure is far more sinister.In March 2012, I met with a journalist from thetribal areas who was working for Radio Mashaal inIslamabad. He was so spooked by months of harassmentby the agency that he finally quit. He seems tohave caught the attention of intelligence officials notjust for his affiliation with a Western radio station butalso for his research papers for U.S. institutes linked tothe government or military.Shortly before I left Pakistan, I met with SafdarDawar, president of the Tribal Union of Journalists,which plays a vital role in FATA. One of the problemsis that virtually no organization is allowed in thetribal areas. “Here in Islamabad you have high court,ministries, political parties, human rights activists,social activists. But in the tribal areas, NGOs are notallowed,” Dawar said. “There’s no power for humanrights groups, no child labor laws, or anti-corruption,only the TUJ. But the intelligence does not like themedia because then [intelligence] cannot act so freely.”He quoted a saying about the tribal region: “FATA hasmilitary, militancy, and media—and sometimes thefirst two get together against the third.”The media do not belong to the people of the tribalareas, either. They are basically foreign-owned. TheTaliban run illegal radio stations, but the governmentwill not issue licenses to ordinary citizens for radiostations—which leads one to all kinds of conspiracytheories if you’re a citizen in FATA. “There is no localmedia. It’s banned,” Dawar said. “For that, we are told,we have to change the constitution.” nFor VOA Reporters, a Difficult BalanceThe Taliban’s claim that they murdered Voiceof America reporter Mukarram Khan Aatifbecause he failed to present their perspectivein his stories was deeply troubling—if notterrifying—to the local reporters of the U.S. government-fundednews agency.Ibrahim Shinwari, a reporter with Deewa Radio,the VOA’s Pashto-language service, said he hasbeen perplexed by the broadcast agency’s policies, asentiment expressed by other local journalists. Afterthe Aatif murder, he said, “we emailed the entirehierarchy at VOA explaining the weak position weare in. … But they say it’s against the policy of VOAto take voices that are on the wanted list or declaredterrorists.”VOA managers say the policy is not so clear-cut.In response to local concerns, they followed upwith a memo that outlined a more nuanced approachthan the one commonly understood in thefield. “We were instructed in a collective email toinclude Taliban or any other militant group’s versionif they take responsibility for a certain incident,”Shinwari said.In a statement, VOA spokesman Kyle King said,“Deewa Radio and Television, which broadcasts toPakistan’s tribal areas, has consistently asked reportersin the region to include claims of responsibility orother relevant statements from the Taliban or othergroups, if they are important to the story. We do notair speeches and comments from extremist groupsthat are not germane to individual stories.”What the Taliban view as germane and what VOAviews as germane is precisely where the problemlies for local journalists. After Aatif’s death, VOAsaid it held discussions about the Taliban complaints.“These complaints were unfounded,” Kingsaid. “In an effort to restate our policy, the chiefof our Deewa service and the division directorsent emails and spoke by telephone with our localreporters to reiterate VOA’s longstanding policyon balance, and the requirement that all sides of anissue are reported, including the Taliban’s. Therewas no softening or change in VOA policy followingMukarram’s death.”The Broadcasting Board of Governors, whichoversees VOA, posthumously awarded Aatif the DavidBurke Distinguished Journalism Award, which recognizesthe courage, integrity, and professionalism ofindividuals reporting for U.S. government-sponsoredentities. For those in the field, though, there is no gettingaround the risky business of working for a U.S.government outlet. nROOTS OF IMPUNITY 25

Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
Download the pdf - Committee to Protect Journalists
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