US funding for Pakistani journalists raises questions of transparency
US State Department funding, supplied through a nonprofit intermediary, supports the presence of two Pakistani journalists in Washington. Some observers say the relationship should be more transparent.
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He adds there can be a place for government-funded access to reporting for things like equipment and travel so long as it is clear where the funding is coming from.Skip to next paragraph
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The State Department official counters that both the US government and AAM “encourage” the channels to make their ties clear. “We’re very proud of this program,” the official says. But eight months into the program, officials from AAM had not reached out to the channels regarding disclosure.
The official notes that this is part of a broader effort to reach out, including bringing Pakistani journalists to the US for short visits under the International Visitor Leadership Program.
Defending his newspaper’s decision not to disclose the source of Imtiaz’s funding, Express Tribune editor Mohammad Ziauddin told the Monitor: “The lady reports in conjunction with the [nongovernmental organization AAM]. The lady has been recruited by us in consultation with the NGO in a way we do not need to mention this. By putting that line we would be putting this into perspective but since we already edit [her stories] according to our thinking we do not need to. Editorially we sensitize it to a great extent.”
He adds that the process of building links with government officials is commonplace the world over. “I know a number of instances where a correspondent has landed in Pakistan and has been won over by our own information departments and briefed by our government agencies. Obviously they would like to keep his sources intact and at times he or she obliges [the government].”
Ziauddin adds that the partnership was conducted “as an experiment” and in the future the newspaper intends to pay for its own correspondent in Washington, just as they do in London.
Countering environment of misinformation
Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert and assistant professor at Georgetown University in Washington, says it is important to remember that the US government is operating in an environment of misinformation, where anti-US stories in Pakistan seeded by the Pakistani security establishment are commonplace.
“Is anyone calling them out on this? The Pakistani press is the freest press that money can buy,” she says, adding: “The larger story is the Pakistani media is up for sale to as many people want to buy it. This fiction is that the country is really benefiting from some independent media. The US government wants to get into this game to counter this ISI [Inter Services Intelligence] propaganda.”
Naveed Kashif, chief operating officer of Dunya News, also stated that since final control resided with the channel, they did not feel the need to declare the partnership with AAM to their viewers.
(Editor's note: the original version of this story gave the incorrect name for the chief operating officer of Dunya News.)