Media Watch | When Ideologies Shape the Facts

Jun 17. 2014 – These are the types of sources and the number of instances of these sources in the English language news media, local and international, as it covers the latest army operation in North Waziristan. Methodology. We try to be as accurate as possible. Sometimes, we miss stories. We will update when we do, so you may see some percentages in the text that are no longer reflected in the charts. We have left the initial analysis if we feel it continues to be pertinent even after the adjustments. Where it is no longer relevant after the updates, we will indicate that.

Only 3 days into the Army’s assault on North Waziristan, politicians from across the political divide have been issuing statements in support of the attacks. The result is that the media has cited government and politicians (34.9 percent) almost as much as it has cited the security establishment (37.6 percent). The coverage continues to be slanted with security sources receiving more space. As for “state | civilian” sources: while Islamist political parties such as the JI and JUI-F who have opposed the attacks have been cited, secular, center-left parties such as Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) based out of Quetta, Balochistan, which opposed the operation in Parliament, have largely been marginalized in the coverage. Although PKMAP is a smaller political group, the voices of secular opposition to the war is critical. The ostensible effect of the silence produced by the media of such critics has been to lend further credence to the idea–propped up by many–that secularism is only a western ideology that is tied to state violence.

This silence is in keeping with the ideological binaries with which the English-language Pakistani media operates: religiously based parties who want to destroy the state or Islamize it vs. secular, pro-human rights pro-state groups that want to shore up the state. In this context, Islamist = pro-militant = religious = anti-state = anti-operation. On the other side: secular = pro-rights = pro-state = pro-operation. Secular opponents of war find no grounding in this context and hardly cited or referenced.

The overall effect on the coverage is that while it refers more evenly to both civilian governmental and security sources, most of these sources are pro-operation. Meanwhile, the representation of those who are directly impacted by the army onslaught is slim (barely 8 percent).

Dawn

Despite running 12 stories today (Jun 17th), of which, three articles are directly about the effects of the Army attack on FATA residents, the number of local, resident sources used continues to be minimal (4.7 percent). This story is an exception. In line with Dawn’s informal editorial policy–support for a civilian-led security strategy–the paper has cited state civilian and governmental sources nearly half of the time.

Note: One of our readers has pointed out that they ran an agency report with references to IDPs one day before we started counting (our data starts on June 14).

 

The News

The paper has come out in favor the army assault in its editorial, claiming that an offensive in North Waziristan had become “all but inevitable.” Still, The News outstrips its competitors in terms of the number of times (18.2 percent) it cites local FATA residents.

This is due in particular to excellent reporting by Barkatullah Marwat (also see here and here). Use of security and governmental sources is roughly equal. Their op-eds generally appear to be pro-army.

 

 

Express Tribune

ET also supports the army assault. In its editorial, the editors write, “…the events of the last few months have proven that there was no other option.” Referring to the inevitability of the operation, the editorial goes on to claim “the din of support across the nation for our forces,” leaving out any reference to those who are directly affected by the decision: FATA residents (less than 7 percent of instances of sources refer to locals).

Even in the one story they have about IDPs, FATA residents constitute just one-third of the sources.

 

International Press

Interestingly, the international press relies more heavily on experts and analysts (21 percent) as opposed to the Pakistani press (5.6 percent). Yet, most of these are “defense analysts”, that is, retired military officers, so the sources as not as independent from the military as they may appear at first brush. Foreign correspondents seem to stay clear of the politicians who should be leading the country’s security strategy (only 12 percent of the instances of sources are from the civilian governmental sources. They even have more instances of unnamed sources (11 percent) than the Pakistani press (7 percent) and comparatively fewer instances of FATA residents being used as sources.(6 percent) than Pakistani press (10 percent.)

Washington Post published its first piece today. The Wall Street Journal published a piece on the first army casualties of the operation, but fails to focus on even addressing casualties of non-army individuals, Most reports cite the deaths of “suspected militants” and do not appear to question the statistics being issues by the media wing of the military.

The New York Times, The Guardian or The Telegraph did not come out with any new articles today, so we will refer you to our comments from yesterday.

Data

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3 Responses to Media Watch | When Ideologies Shape the Facts

  1. […] Jun 18. 2014 – These are the types of sources and the number of instances of these sources in the English language news media, local and international, as it covers the latest army operation in North Waziristan. Check out our first, second and third posts. […]

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  3. […] Jun 16. 2014 –These are the types of sources and the number of instances of these sources in the English language news media, local and international, as it covers the latest army operation in North Waziristan. Check out our introduction with updating charts and our other posts. […]

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