You wouldn't believe the lamestream media's bias. You shoot one 14-year-old girl in the head and you'll never hear the end of it. So goes the lament of Pakistan's Taliban insurgency following a spate of bad press in mainstream Pakistani outlets related to the jihadists' failed assassination attempt of Malala Yousafzai, a young blogger who dared protest the Taliban's ban on educating girls. Now the Taliban are plotting terror strikes on TV stations and other media organizations, but local newspapers refuse to stay silent.
The first report of these plots was surfaced by an urdu-language reporter on Saturday, who uncovered a special directive by the chief of the banned Tahreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Hakimullah Mehsud. As local newspaper Dawn reported, "Mehsud directed his subordinate to target the offices of media organisations in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and in other cities of the country especially those media organisations and media personalities who were denouncing TTP after attack on child activist Malala Yousufzai." In response, the Interior Ministry has beefed up security near media organizations. But the Taliban are still whining.
Yesterday, local paper The News International gave voice to the Taliban's pathetic complaints of bias, which offered a rare window into terrorist media criticism. TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said his group would "continue to respect journalists" except for highly biased outlets. The spokesman for another Taliban insurgent group, Sirajuddin Ahmad of Maulana Fazlullah, spoke at greater length:
He said media provided an opportunity to all those people who were opposed to the Taliban and their activities and used insulting language against them on media. “Right from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Hillary Clinton and President Obama, all of them used whatever bad language and words they could use on the media but when we tried to reply to them, no media organisation was willing to give us importance. The media is not even allowed to use the real name for Maulana Fazlullah but calling him derogatory names like Mulla Radio,” Sirajuddin complained, but refused to admit that they planned attacks on the media.
Wow, Columbia Journalism Review, here we come. Clearly Pakistani reporters should be giving equal weight to the pros and cons of shooting children in the face.
The Taliban is mad because the rest of Pakistan is mad at them over the shooting. "Undoubtedly this is the worst press the TTP has ever had, there is no doubt," Rana Jawad, Islamabad bureau chief of Geo News, told The Guardian's Islamabad correspondent Jon Boone. The Taliban have been furious that justification for the attack, that the girl was being "un-Islamic," was not being placed prominently in news stories. Muhammad Amir Rana of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, says the Taliban are taking a PR beating. "We have seen a similar public sentiment in the past, but this time it is quite unique," he said. "This case has provided a catharsis of the masses for all the grievances that have been building up for years."
Apparently, the insurgent groups just aren't very media savvy, according to Mullah Yahya, a former high-ranking Afghan Information Ministry official, who spoke with The Daily Beast's Sami Yousafzai. “First of all, attempting to kill a 14-year-old girl is a low act,” he said. “Second, claiming responsibility for it is a sign that the [Pakistani] Taliban are not aware of the media’s importance. I have seen more anger against the religious elements in the past week than in all my 40 years of life.” So here's to you, Pakistani press. You've defied the all-too-common media trap of false equivalence.