Saturday, 12 July 2008

Reliance on wires; how news is reported

Here are two articles from todays IHT/

Both of them are Reuters stories, both from the escalating Afghanistan/Pakistan war.

In the first article, the notion that Predators may, or have, killed civilians, is completely unremarked upon.

The report effortlessly states: They have struck several times in northwest Pakistan this year, killing dozens of suspected militants.

Suspected militants, judged from a speck in the sky, is as close as this reporter can come to finding anyone who thought that even one of the 'dozens' of suspected militants was in fact not a militant.

The second article reports very neutrally on the dispute over the recent killing of 47 Afghan civilians by a U.S airstrike.

To me there seems to be a complete editorial disconnect between running these two stories on the same day, without referencing the other, and reports that can find no civilians killed by Predators.

Where are the NYT and IHT journalists and editors, where are their finger prints on these endless wire stories just cut and pasted into the IHT or dumped on the web, without comment or secondary sourcing or editing?

Frankly, if the NYT seriously wants to be the world's daily newspaper (and it's not clear to me it does, if we mean by world all citizens of the world, not just Americans) then they have to understand that for the entire Middle East, most of Asia and Africa, and sizeable chunks of Western Europe, this type of reporting simply doesn't cut it. It may play well in the U.S.A but it's not enough for an export product.

Deadly U.S. "buzzers" fray nerves in Pakistan
WANA, Pakistan: Pilotless U.S. drones armed with missiles have stepped up patrols over Pashtun villages on the Afghan-Pakistan border, hunting for Taliban and al Qaeda militants and fraying nerves below. Pashtun villagers living on the frontier call them "buzzers", and the aircraft have increasingly taken to the skies, causing sleepless nights and occasionally raining down death.
"We're sick of these drones, they're driving us crazy," said Sher Shah, a government official in the town of Wana in the South Waziristan region, a hot bed of militancy in northwest Pakistan.
"They fly so low at night we can't sleep!"
The Predators, capable of carrying two anti-tank Hellfire missiles, can remain aloft for up 24 hours -- providing the Central Intelligence Agency with a wealth of intelligence beamed live from its hi-tech cameras.
They have struck several times in northwest Pakistan this year, killing dozens of suspected militants. Sometimes villagers can spot the drones -- a tiny speck in the sky -- and even fire at them with rifles. At other times the drones are too high to see, but you know they're there from the distinctive and incessant buzz given off by their rear-mounted propeller engines. The buzzing often gets louder at night as the drones patrol at lower altitudes in the darkness, villagers say.
Residents of Bajaur, another militant-plagued region on the Afghan border, to the northeast of Waziristan, said drones flew overhead all night on Thursday.
"The sky is not safe, the earth is not safe, where should we go?" asked Jabbar Shah, a resident of Inayat Kalay village, about 10 km (6 miles) from the border.
"We don't know when will they strike and who will they hit. It's very worrying," he said.
Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt became a sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban militants fleeing from Afghanistan after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding on the mountainous border. Taliban militants fighting Western forces in Afghanistan also take sanctuary there and the Pentagon last month said insurgent havens in Pakistan were the biggest threat to Afghan security.U.S. ally Pakistan says it is doing all it can to stop attacks into Afghanistan and to rid the region of al Qaeda and many hundreds of Pakistani soldiers have been killed battling the militants. But despite that, analysts say the Predator activity -- which Pakistan does not officially allow -- is a sign of growing U.S. frustration with Pakistan's inability to tackle the militants. Some U.S. politicians, including presidential candidate Barack Obama, have even suggested that the United States should attack al Qaeda inside Pakistan without Pakistani approval. Pakistan, which has been trying to negotiate peace with the militants, has ruled out allowing foreign troops on its soil.
Pakistan's the News newspaper reported on Friday a build-up of U.S forces on the border in eastern Afghanistan.
But Mehmood Shah, a retired senior security official, said it would be illogical for the United States to open a new front by attacking across the border with troops. For the time being, at least, it looks as if the United States will rely on its drones, and people on the border will continue living in fear. Malik Khardin, a tribal elder in Wana, said he had stopped letting too many cars park outside his house or allowing guests to stay because that might be spotted by the drones."We fear we might be hit on suspicion of being al Qaeda," he said.

U.S. air strike kills 47 Afghan civilians

"I reject the coalition statement saying that all those killed were militants," Burhanullah Shinwari, deputy speaker of the upper house, who is heading an investigation into Sunday's incident told Reuters on Friday. "There aren't any Taliban or Al Qaeda even several kilometres near to where the air strike took place. Forty-seven people were killed; 39 of them were women and children," he said shortly after attending prayer ceremonies for the victims in the provincial capital Jalalabad.

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