Media Watch | Pak Press Covers Civilian Govt Unlike Foreign Press

Jul 02. 2014 — For our methodology and other updating charts, see here. For our other analyses and media watch coverage, see here. Like our work? Please help us stay independent! Subscribe.


Between Jun 15th through Jul 2nd, we have logged 451 stories total relating to the the Pakistani army’s assault on North Waziristan. The ratio of state-security to state-civilian sources has settled into a steady rate with state-civilian sources accounting for 44.8 percent of all sources and state-security at roughly 26 percent. This is especially true for the Pakistani press but untrue of the international press (see below for details). When stories have to do with the numbers of people killed or the ongoing action of the military assault, the articles are dominated by the ISPR and other military officials. Articles detailing the plight of the IDPs cite greater instances of state-civilian sources.

Furthermore, this reporting follows a pattern. For example, as you can see in the chart to the right, the start of the operation on June 16th was reported predominantly through state-security sources. But, after that initial peak, reporters turned to state-civilian officials who were handled IDPs, quibbled about security arrangements and the movements of IDPs. That carried through till the ground offensive which began on June 30th. As the chart shows, reporters quickly turned to state-security sources for the first stories about the ground assault. But, we expect the pattern to resume in the coming days.

FATA residents continue to be heavily marginalized in the reporting. As of Jul 2nd, there are just 349 instances of FATA residents being cited out of 2,880 instances, constituting only 12 percent of the citations. This is also a tendency that has been criticized by journalists and refugees that Tanqeed has interviewed in Bannu.


Between Jun 15th through Jul 2nd, we logged 381 stories in the English language Pakistani press relating to the the Pakistani army’s assault on North Waziristan. The Pakistani press follows the pattern described above: state-civilian sources constitute 48 percent of the instances with state-security accounting for a little more than 24 percent.

This is in keeping with the fact that the military assault has forced an exodus of over half-a-million people from North Waziristan creating what is effectively a humanitarian disaster. Several stories have highlighted the plight of the internally displaced population (IDPs) including lack of adequate housing and food, constraints on movement, the skyrocketing price of hotels and travel in the affected areas by callous profiteers and fears of a polio outbreak given the number of unvaccinated children who are now refugees in other parts of Pakistan. In effect, now that the military, with the support of Pakistan’s urban elite, has carried out its assault, its entirely predictable consequences are expected to be handled by the civilian government.


There has been some outstanding reporting on these issues by Zulfiqar Ali, a correspondent for Dawn. Ali’s frequent reports about the refugees are dotted with telling interviews with IDPs that are attentive to the what they talk about, how they talk about it and the things about which they remain silent. Ali also writes evocative descriptions that render the difficult realities of the refugees. Consider this passage from his June 27th story, “IDPs bemoan state apathy and neglect”:

“Soldiers, with heads covered in scarves and guns slinging from shoulders, would occasionally tap the ground with sticks to maintain discipline. A strong and foul odour coming from the surroundings polluted the air along the main road.

Thousands of people who came from Lakki Marwat and Karak districts and parts of Bannu had assembled outside the complex. Police resorted to firing in the air and baton-charge early in the morning to restore order.”

See his other stories here and here.


Between Jun 15th through Jul 2nd, we logged 34 stories in the major English language US and UK papers relating to the the Pakistani army’s assault on North Waziristan. Unlike the Pakistani press, the international press has continued to rely very heavily on state-security sources. The pattern is in fact reversed: state-security sources account for 38 percent of instances and state-civilian sources are cited just 15 percent of the time (see a pie chart on the international press here–note that numbers may change as we update our sheets).

The international media’s reliance on experts and analysts compounds this fact, since most of those cited as experts are retired members of the armed forces, or known to be close to the security establishment. This is very telling about the relationships that foreign reporters build in Pakistan and mimics the relationship of the US to Pakistan — heavily militarized (three days before the launch of the operation, the US Congress linked Coalition Support funds to an army operation in North Waziristan.)  Although the international press tends to use analysts and experts more than the local press, it does not amount to independent sourcing since many of these analysts tend to be retired army officials.

Given that there are questions surrounding the extent to which the security establishment informed the federal government–the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province carrying the bulk of the fall-out from the operation, has already made it clear that they were not informed–it is surprising that the international press has failed to question the extent to which the civilian government is actually on board, despite their public statements.


The Wall Street Journal’s Saeed Shah has proven to be among one of the most thorough foreign correspondents currently covering the North Waziristan operation. His reporting shows an eye for detail, and a willingness to go to the story: Shah spent two days in Bannu visiting refugees from North Waziristan, working closely with another journalist, Safdar Dawar, who hails from North Waziristan and used to lead the Tribal Union of Journalists (see Tanqeed’s interview with Dawar here.) Shah’s first story was the only one released on the day of the operation that bothered to speak to more than one resident of North Waziristan, and he has quoted residents in all except one of his stories.

One reporter, Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, wrote an outstanding article on refugees from North Waziristan for The New York Times.

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34 Responses to Media Watch | Pak Press Covers Civilian Govt Unlike Foreign Press

  1. […] special. We’ve run across some excellent reporting, some of which we highlighted in our last analysis. The gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson once said, “I can’t think in terms of […]

  2. TQ Chāt | # 12 | Tanqeed on Jul 2014 at 4:18 PM

    […] week at Tanqeed, we give you a mix of the magazine’s most recent media watch analysis concerning the concurrent military operation in North Waziristan. Approximately 600,000 people […]

  3. […] ongoing Media Watch project launched by Tanqeed in the wake of Operation Zarb-e-Azb demonstrates that “when stories have to do with the numbers of people killed or the ongoing action of the […]

  4. […] Media Watch: Zarb-e-Azb […]

  5. nawaz on Mar 2015 at 4:39 AM

    cricket world cup main corruption hote hain
    wo wahab riaz jis ne 2011 ka world cup nahin jetha ….
    pakistan ka cricket katam hogaya hain

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