The Taliban carry out blasts and suicide attacks and are quick to claim responsibility for the death of innocent people in the media, she says. The media should highlight the human rights violations committed by the Taliban, she stresses.
"What is deplorable is the governmentŐs silence over the genocide at the hands of Taliban," she says. The Taliban have free access to the media, but the government seems to show no urgency to rein them in, she adds.
Ashraf Ali, an independent researcher on the Taliban in Peshawar University, echoes JahangirŐs views. "The media is blatantly promoting the Taliban," he says. "The leader of the TTP is based in South Waziristan agency (in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Đ FATA). All districts of the NWFP and tribal areas the TTP have spokespersons, who are available to each and every journalists," he observes.
Even state-run PTV is unquestioningly giving space on prime time news to the Taliban spokespersons. For PakistanŐs interior minister, the bigger concern is that the Taliban publicly acknowledge their role in suicide attacks that target civilians.
"They (Taliban) themselves have claimed responsibility for several suicide attacks and the government cannot engage in a dialogue with such people," Interior Minister Rehman Malik is quoted saying.
Early this year, the federal government refused to back peace talks between the Taliban in the Swat Valley and the provincial government of the NWFP. However, the ruling Awami National Party-led government could not negotiate lasting peace, and violence has escalated in most parts of the NWFP and FATA since June.
PakistanŐs print and electronic media are freely reporting the activities of the Taliban.
Nevertheless, the Anti-terrorism Act 1997, Section 11(W) is very clear about the role of the media while printing, publishing or disseminating any material to incite hatred or coverage of any person convicted for a terrorist act or any proscribed organisation.
Sub-section (1) says "A person commits an offence if he prints, publishes or disseminates any material, whether by audio or video-cassettes or by written, photographic, electronic, digital, wall-chalking or any other method which incites religious, sectarian or ethnic hatred or gives projection to any person convicted for a terrorist act, or any person or organisation concerned in terrorism or proscribed organisation or an organisation placed under observation."
The law says that any person guilty of an offence under sub-section (1) shall be liable by way of summary procedure, on conviction, to a maximum term of six months imprisonment and a fine.
But no one in the media, which is said to be the fourth pillar of a state, has bothered with the law in the insatiable hunger for news about "terrorism" which sells in the national and international media.
Not only do ambitious journalists risk their lives to interview the heads of proscribed organizations but also some have gone a step further and have become the mouthpiece of the banned organizations themselves.
Reporters in the lawless FATA walk a thin line. Some have been killed in suspicious circumstances, while others have fled for safety.
The militants dub journalists as "wajibul qatl (liable to death)" -- if they report anything against their wishes they are likely to die.
Media observers who did not want to be identified believe that the media has lost all sense of impartiality. Whatever a proscribed organization says is accepted as news and publicised by the media. In most accounts of the violence and military operations, the Islamic fighters are valorized.
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Albion Monitor September
2, 2008 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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