On How Reporters Treat Material from PMO, Taliban

Remember this from The Clip You’ll Never See on TV….

To mainstream media, NATO or Canadian government produced video pieces = “falling into line with government propaganda”, while what the Taliban says = “including all sides in the interests of fairness”.

That’s my take.  For a more nuanced explanation, here’s Chris Waddell, the Carty chair in business and financial journalism at Ottawa’s Carleton University, quoted in a Canadian Press story on the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) offering video to media outlets the same way PMO and other organizations offer photos:

It’s not access …. Access is an opportunity to ask questions and an opportunity to engage in independent work according to journalistic principles. What they’re giving you is public relations …. The Prime Minister’s Office can put all this stuff out. The key question is: What are the journalistic standards being applied by the people who are taking it?

Does that mean we’re going to see an end to stories about Taliban statements that don’t include quotes sought by reporters, having a two-way interview with a Taliban spokesperson?

And yes, it does happen, even in the journalistic big leagues:

In a rare public statement, posted in English on a Taliban website (www.alemarah.info/english/) on the eve of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, the reclusive Taliban leader also called on Afghans to break off ties with their “stooge” government….(Reuters)

The Taliban’s reclusive leader has ruled out talks with President Hamid Karzai and called on Afghans to break off relations with his “stooge” administration.  In a statement, Mullah Omar also insisted foreign troops were losing the war in Afghanistan …. “Ground realities in our beloved country indicate that the invaders are about to escape,” Omar said in the message posted on a Web site used by the Taliban and e-mailed to journalists from an address often used to send out his statements…. (The Associated Press)

Afghanistan’s Taliban called on US president-elect Barack Obama to repudiate the “war-mongering” policies of President George W. Bush to repair the country’s image abroad, a group that monitors Islamist websites said.  “The ground realities in Afghanistan and the expectations of the people of America expressed through their votes demand that Obama should shun all policies followed by Bush,” said a Taliban statement as quoted by the SITE Intelligence group …. (Agence France-Presse)

I may have missed it, but I didn’t see any references in any of these stories suggesting a reporter tried calling either the person issuing the statement or a spokesperson to seek access and ask probing questions.

After all, if you reject one “handout” because you can’t tell what journalistic standards are being applied in the preparation, you’d have to reject all such handouts, right?

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