Press in the semi-occupied world

When a coup is not a coup?” asked Times’ Mexico correspondent, Tim Weiner, when an obedient US press corps parroted the news fed to them by press secretary Ari Fleischer and the “official” story of the Venazuelan coup was released to the public on April 11, 2004.

The answer to his question is: When the United States says so and when a local press in partially or fully occupied countries follows the suit.

From the semi-occupied world, Pakistan is a good example to discuss. Unlike Pakistan, in Venezuela the press and people didn’t follow the suit after the US co-opted press. They were strong enough to prove the White House and its obedient press wrong which released a statement immediately claiming “no coup had taken place” and that Chavez simply “resigned” under pressure from the military.

The press in Venezuela was free enough to call a spade a spade and prove to the New York Times wrong that Hugo Chavez was not a “ruinous demagogue” and “a would-be dictator.”

The example of Venezuela is very relevant to explain the contrasting ways of slave press in the semi-occupied world. In the fully occupied countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, it is up to the occupation forces to fully control what goes out and what comes in. However, in the semi-occupied countries like Egypt and Pakistan the situation is a bit different. In the semi-occupied states, the occupation forces and their puppet dictators rely on the slave mentality of the press corp.

Just a comparison of how the American press reports about a democratically elected president in Venezuela and a dictator and deceiver-in-chief in Pakistan is enough to show how press in Pakistan is not only miserably failing to voice the will of the people but also promoting the wider US war on Islam.

One can assess the slavish ways of Pakistani press from its response to the December 31st promise-reneging-address of General Musharraf regarding his stubbornness not to remove military uniform as he pledged earlier.

The next day, even Washington Post (December 31st 2004) came out with a highly critical editorial, “Another Pass for Pakistan.” The Post clearly declared Musharraf’s decision as “wrong” the following day. However, most of the Pakistani editorial were completely silent on the subject in January 1 and 2, 2005 editions.

The News, one of the largest national daily, a dictator’s reneging on his promises didn’t consider it an issue at all. On January 1, its editorial covered “WTO: Challenge and Opportunity” and “Fighting AIDS.” On January 02, it rather appreciated the dictator’s words on a theme that is much appreciated in the Islam-bashing circles: “Madrasss muddle.” The other two editorials were on oil prices and Muscot deportees.

The Washington Post was criticizing General Musharraf at a time when the News in Pakistan was publishing an article, which called Musharraf’s uniform a non-Issue. Of course, it is a non-issue because with or without uniform, Musharraf has to go. However, the ringing title of Mir Jamilur Rehaman’s articles says something different: “The uniform will stay: MMA should focus on the problems faced by the masses instead of agitating on non-issues,” it says. With this kind of approach, it is not strange that dictators in Pakistan stay at least for a decades, or until their final hour arrives.

Even those who consider themselves balanced and impartial analysts, make serious mistakes in legitimizing dictatorship at home and the US war on Islam globally. This happens in the way they either publish reporters and articles from foreign sources or the way they use the same opinion-making terminologies.

For example, no one is supposed to call a dictator as a president. But even the editorials which criticize General Musharraf dutifully address him as “president” despite knowing about all the dirty ways and means which he used to label himself as a president.

Above all is the reproduction of news reports, which the military establishment provides to Pakistani press. The news papers do their homework, but the flavor that is added to legitimize dictatorship remains. For instance, soon after reneging on his promise to remove military uniform, dictator Musharraf called a meeting of the army top brass and at the end of the meeting issued a press release.

The pres release carries both words, “President” and “General,” before his name. Despite slight editing by different newspapers, this flavor stayed in most of the news reports that appeared on January 07.

If someone do a little homework, it is not hard to find that the reports published in all the leading dailies were the edited versions of the same military press release.

The first paragraph in each newspaper carried the words General and President before the tyrant’s name; the second paragraphs referred to the 91st core commanders conference; and the last two paragraphs were reserved for Musharraf appreciating army’s role and defence production.

The Daily Times dutifully published the full press released from the military sources and thereby one can find use of the word “terror” at no less than six places, which shows how authors of the military press releases are mindful of the most acceptable ways to promoting their little master.

This is the result of a quick analysis of the news headlines over a period of 3-4 days. Unfortunately, this is not just one report. This is a normal routine that ultimately makes tyranny acceptable to the oppressed people.

Of course, those, who have spent lives working for the Pakistan press and see themselves totally impartial, feel offended when told that they have been putting their energies in undermining Pakistan and Islam. Nevertheless it is true, that they are engaged in this practice in a way that they do not even feel it.

The main task for legitimizing and de-legitimizing an action, a policy, a phenomenon or certain values is preparing a mindset. That’s where our slave mentality start playing a role in serving tyrants at home and abroad. That’s how our press starts undermining the interest of Pakistanis in general and Muslims in particular. Our press plays a major role in preparing a mindset required by the super tyrants in Washington and their little puppets around the Muslim world.

Our role in preparation of mindset begins with using rancid notions, phrases, propaganda slogans and divisive terms, and ends with publishing news reports from the dogmatic media monopoly centers like Associated Press and Reuters in verbatim.

Unfortunately, we do not stop at this. We go to the extent of proudly publishing complete opinion pieces from the Western press, trying to give the impression that we are either neutral, unbiased, or we want to give our public views from the other side of the world.

However, this is not the case on the other side of the world. Even the best of Pakistani reporters and opinion makers have never been published in the West unless they have a role to play in legitimizing or consolidating a point of view.

Salman Rushdie would get published but not the any Mr. Rehman who parrots Washington’s line in Pakistani press.

Kamran Khan would get published in Washington Post to give legitimacy to the CIA-prepared reports, such as the attempt to implicate Pak-military in drug running in mid-90s’, but not anyone who proves that the situation in Afghanistan was totally different than what the US media was presenting before October 7, 2001.

The recent dutiful work of reprinting reports, word by word, from the US press against Pakistan’s nuclear technology and associated personalities is part of the handy work that we perform because of our slave mentality. We, however, never actually realize the extent of our involvement in undermining our roots.

For example, it is easy to argue that Pakistani press could not avoid printing foreign stories about its nuclear programme after the entire western press went after the news, with most stories being datelined Islamabad. It is even more easy to argue that asking not to publish foreign stories as they are, is like Bush administration asking newspapers in the United States to refrain from publishing stories of its failures in Iraq because in its perception it was against the US national interest.

What is difficult is to read between the lines and see how the most critical of the stories in the American “mainstream” media outlets differ only in the way the war is conducted. They are all one and fully back the establishment on the need for intervention and war. They actually prepared the ground by regurgitating the so-obvious official lies.

Furthermore, despite all, we never see any story critical of Bush Administration’s war from a Muslim perspective, let alone picking up an original piece from, say The Nation in Pakistan, and re-printing it word by word in Washington Post or New York Times.

An editorial in Daily Times (Pakistan) made fun of General Musharraf for his reference to press in Libya and Iran. It asked: “Is there a free press in Libya and North Korea and even in Iran?" The editorialists didn’t realize that reprinting news-reports and articles word-by-word from Western sources is absolutely not a sign of free press.

Reprinting stories from the Western sources just the way they are is the first step towards legitimizing crimes and turning innocents into criminals and terrorists. For example, note the way we report Allawi as “the Prime Minister”, collaborators as “Iraqi police” and “Iraqi army,” and the once freedom fighters and Mujahideen against Soviet occupation in Afghanistan as “insurgents” (The News, Jan. 07 Front Page).

Also worthy to note is the naïve way in which Pakistani press uses and repeats the term “suicide bombing.” Our slave press can take a simple test: Did we witness the use of this term “suicide bombing” when Afghans were jumping with bombs wrapped around their bodies right into the Soviet Tanks after hiding and waiting in trees for hours? Why were the resistance to Soviet Occupation called Jihad and the persons engaged were Mujahideen, where as the resistance to US occupation has degenerated to the level of “insurgency” and “terrorism” (Dawn Jan. 05)?

Did we ever think of these questions before reprinting news reports and opinion pieces from the overt and covert sources of Islam bashing? We must note that the first word of a news story on Iraq, “Violence greets Iraq’s new year,” in daily Dawn is “Iraq’s insurgency” (Jan 02. 2005)

Pakistani press’s reliance on the government advertisements and its bowing down under unrelenting pressure from the government is understandable as far as local stories are concerned. But no one forces it to print reports from Associated Press and Reuters or articles from leading American dailies, and to use the same propaganda phrases and slogans in their own editorial and articles. All this ultimately leads to consolidating slave mentality and a mindset in favour of the tyrants.

What the press and media in partially and indirectly occupied countries, such as Pakistan, needs to do is to stop cooperation and stop legitimization of the tyranny. It needs to stop being the direct and indirect mouth pieces of tyrants. Mostly it does not even realize that it is, in fact, a mouth piece. It becomes an agent of legitimization when, for instance, it calls someone a president, knowing that he is not a democratically elected president. It needs to completely stop calling dictators as presidents. To be decent, it would be enough, for example, not to call Musharraf as a dictator in every other paragraph, but the press must have the guts to call the little tyrant by his designation, at the most.

Similarly, the press needs to stop calling Allawi as a prime minister and Karzai as the president. Similarly, it is unjust to call the resistance to occupations an insurgency. Dictionary defines insurgency as “open, armed, and organized resistance to a constituted government.” But where is such a legally constituted government. It is pure occupation both in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US is placing pawns here and there to bestow legitimacy over the genocide and crimes against humanity it is committing since 1990 in particular.

The newspapers have to stop fawning paeans to tyrants and dictators – the men who call themselves saviors. Papers must not extol their political vision and run screeds of their “enlightened moderation.”

The press must stop running lengthy extracts from dictators’ speeches and selections of their adages and thoughts. In places, such as Pakistan, where Television is just an extension of the king’s palace, the papers can stop giving blanket positive coverage of the political developments in favour of the military dictatorships.

The basic premise should be that no elections are elections as long as the army remains in power. No parliament is parliament and no public office is an office as long as it is under the shadow of tyranny.

Reporting the activities of state institutions must not be a mere formality, with editors only reprinting information supplied by the tyrants’ own press offices. A serious, total boycott by the press can remove the tyrants within the matter of a few weeks at the most.

If the message from the press is: “We don’t want you in power; we won’t call anything democratic and we won’t cover an undemocratic proceedings as long as the military/dictator remains in power,” and if this threat is acted upon, it is hardly likely that dictatorship would sustain for long.