Chronicles from FATA: Your story or your life?

Chronicles from FATA: Your story or your life?

Tribal journalists intentionally spread distorted versions of the stories in oder to protect themselves.

Two powerful stakeholders of Fata, the armed forces and the militants, are not happy with the work of tribal journalists. They are constantly warring with each other and each wants the media on its side. In the end, a journalist can report either a factual account and get killed, or craft a vague story and save his skin.

In situations like these, tribal journalists undergo immense pressure. They fear the potential wrath of one party but win support from the other. Usually, their writings miss the main ‘who’ and ‘why’ without which a story cannot be complete, accurate or fair. It is not because of their professionalism that they miss these two Ws, but the fear of potential attacks from the above mentioned parties, which force them to drop the essential facts.

Here’s why this happens:

According to locals, six people allegedly detained by the army during search operations in the Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency were found dead  earlier this month. However, despite knowing all the facts local reporters reported in their daily newspapers that six people were killed by unidentified gunmen. They further said that their bodies were handed over to their relatives by the political administration.This report infuriated the militants of the banned Lashkar-e-Islam, led by Mangal Bagh. One of his commanders contacted the reporters and said everyone in the area was aware that the offence was committed by the armed forces. He also threatened to shoot dead reporters  who hid the cruelties carried out by security forces. The commander said that Bagh has already issued directives to ‘fix’ one of the reporters.

The predicament of the journalist is, thus, clear.

Sometimes, a balanced story is not a viable option for reporters – it is a threat to their lives. Unbiased reporting is often unacceptable to a powerful party because it wants to keep the real facts hidden from people as well as the international community to maintain a “good image”. The main difference is that the armed forces don’t convey their anger directly; combatants and insurgents hurl direct threats to journalists when a story offends them.

Earlier in November, a high ranking official of the political administration in Khyber held a meeting with tribal journalists seeking their support for security forces in their operation against militants. The official said that the armed forces were angry with the media for it presented the army as the “cruel party” in the conflict.  He said that 18 soldiers were killed and more than two dozen injured in that encounter. But the armed forces were disappointed by the reporting of innocent casualties caused by indiscriminate heavy shelling. I believe they are of the view that they should not be blamed for the death of civilians, as it is a war between the two parties. They also hid the innocent casualties to cover the ineffectiveness of the military operation.

Similarly, the militants publicly executed six people under the charges of adultery, on two separate occasions over the last two months in Tirah valley and the Bara area. The event was covered by tribal reporters as ‘six people being killed by unidentified persons for unknown reasons.’

Tribal journalists are forced to present half the picture instead of the whole story. But can we blame them? Why should they express their professionalism by unearthing harsh realities of conflict zones when there is no one to protect them? They have learnt enough from the murders of around dozen of tribal journalists who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty during the last six years. The faceless killers are still at large and the families of slain journalists have stopped seeking justice. These dangerous circumstances do not apply solely to tribal journalists only; reporters in Peshawar also hide judicial killings by the police.

Due to imbalanced reporting, the well informed population of  Fata doesn’t trust journalists anymore. They openly criticize them for siding with a party without keeping in mind their position. In short, a new form of compromise journalism is taking place in the tribal belt and the adjoining settled districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which will encourage more extra judicial acts with the passage of time.

In conflict reporting training we are told that no story is worth your life. But the truth is that in an area like Fata, every other story bears the price of your life.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

Saudis Taking Control of Twitter Revolution?

Saudi prince buys $300 million Twitter stake

Alwaleed already owns stake in News Corp, plans cable news channel

By Sitaraman Shankar


DUBAI — Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an investor in some of the world’s top companies, has bought a stake in Twitter for $300 million, gaining another foothold in the global media industry.

Alwaleed, a nephew of Saudi Arabia’s king and estimated by Forbes magazine to be the 26th richest person in the world with a $19.6 billion fortune, already owns a 7 percent stake in News Corp and plans to start a cable news channel.

The purchase is remarkable because Twitter was a key means of communication for protesters in the Arab Spring revolts this year, violence that threatened Saudi Arabia until the kingdom unveiled a populist $130 billion social spending package.

Twitter, which allows people to send 140-character messages, or Tweets, to groups of followers, is one of the internet’s most popular social networking services, along with Facebook and Zynga.

The Twitter stake, bought jointly by Alwaleed and his Kingdom Holding Co investment firm, resulted from “months of negotiations”, Kingdom said.

Bernhard Warner, co-founder of analysis and advisory firm Social Media Influence, said: “The Arab world, of course, knows full well the value of Twitter. In the past year, it has been a force in politics, in regime change, so there is not a single person in that region in a position of influence who is not following the increasing power of Twitter.

“(Alwaleed) must see Twitter as something that is going to be a really powerful broadcast channel,” he said, adding the Saudi had got into the internet boom belatedly, with mixed results, and appeared to be “kind of late” to the game again.

Investors in Saudi Arabia were more bullish, sending shares in Kingdom up 7 percent to 8.40 riyals.

“One of the few sectors to record significant revenue gains in the last three years has been technology, which is why Kingdom would see Twitter as a good addition to its diversified portfolio,” said Hesham Tuffaha, head of asset management at Bakheet Investment Group in Riyadh.

Saudis are increasingly turning to satellite television, online news providers and social networking to stay abreast of world events. The world’s No. 1 oil exporter announced a series of stricter regulations for journalists earlier this year.

Alwaleed, who has a sizeable stake in Citigroup, has spoken in favor of broader political participation, fair elections and effective job creation across the Arab world.

IPO hopes
Investors are eagerly anticipating an initial public offering from Twitter, which said in September it was in no hurry to go public. It raised $400 million in venture capital financing this summer.

It now counts more than 100 million active users who log onto the service at least once a month. Facebook, the world’s largest social network has more than 750 million active users.

Internet search giant Google recently launched a social networking service dubbed Google+ which some observers say could lure users away from Twitter.

Shares in online games developer Zynga ended at a 5 percent discount to their issue price on their trading debut on Friday, and analysts said any valuation for Twitter could be misleading.

“You could put any number of zeroes behind a valuation of a private company. Before it goes public, it is almost meaningless,” said Warner.

“This is a very small group of investors which has put money into this thing. That will be diluted and diluted and diluted again until it goes public. And that is when we will see what the value is. These are kind of magic numbers at the moment.”

Kingdom owns a near-30 percent stake in Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which runs a range of media titles.

“Our investment in Twitter reaffirms our ability in identifying suitable opportunities to invest in promising, high-growth businesses with a global impact,” Alwaleed said.

Alwaleed subscribed $500 million to last year’s General Motors IPO. In August, he unveiled plans to build the world’s tallest tower in Jeddah.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters

Kremlin to host 4 summits of former Soviet republics today

Kremlin to host 4 summits of former Soviet republics

KAZINFORM Moscow will host four summits of the leaders of the former Soviet republics on Monday and Tuesday, December 19-20.

The Kremlin will host the negotiations between the leaders of the member-countries of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan), the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) and an anniversary CIS summit, which is dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Commonwealth of the Independent States (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine).

According to Itar-Tass, the summits will begin with the negotiations of the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Dmitry Medvedev, Alexander Lukashenko and Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko told Itar-Tass. They will meet at a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, which was formed by the Customs Union states, first in an eye-on-eye format, then in an enlarged format involving the experts.

On Monday afternoon, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan (Armenia has an observer status in the EurAsEC) and newly elected Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, who participates for the first time in the summits, will join the foresaid presidents at a summit of the Eurasian Economic Community that is intended for about two hours.

Already late on Monday evening Medvedev will give a festive reception at the Kremlin on the occasion of the 20th CIS anniversary. All presidents of the EurAsEC states are invited for the reception.

On Tuesday, the leaders of the countries will meet at a CSTO summit in narrow and enlarged formats. An anniversary CIS summit is due on Tuesday afternoon.

Prikhodko note that brief 20-minute press conferences are scheduled after each of four two-hour stages of the summit. The presidents will discuss over 50 various issues.

On the days of the summits Medvedev will have several bilateral meetings. The Russian president will meet with his counterparts from Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, Prikhodko said.

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Gen. John Allen Admits That “Afghan Withdrawal” Promise A Major Deception

General: ‘We’re not leaving’ Afghanistan


Top American officials in Afghanistan say the U.S. military intends to maintain a troop presence here beyond a 2014 deadline for Afghan troops to take over.

Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the Taliban and other forces in the region need to know the U.S. military will make sure the Afghans can handle the job.

“If you been waiting for us to go, we’re not leaving,” he said.

NATO forces agreed last year to set a deadline of the end of 2014 for turning over security to Afghan forces and ending combat operations.

The United States has 90,000 troops in Afghanistan. There are more than 30,000 troops from NATO allies.

By the end of the summer of 2012, U.S. forces are slated to drop to about 68,000.

Allen did not say how many American troops would remain or what role they would have beyond training the Afghan air force into 2016.

Among the capabilities Afghanistan’s security forces lack are high-end intelligence gathering and superior counterterrorism techniques.

“This is a work in progress,” Allen said. “The continued work beyond ’14 in terms of development of economic capability and governance will continue. We will also see, probably, a U.S. military capability beyond ’14.”

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday it was important for the region to know that the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan does not expire in three years. Dempsey said the Taliban can’t think it will prevail by waiting for a U.S. withdrawal, and American fighters need to know their efforts to secure the nation will be safeguarded.

Before 2014, the role of U.S. troops will shift from leading combat missions to advising as Afghan forces become more capable, Allen said.

Dempsey said that whether the military keeps trainers or counterterrorism troops beyond 2014 will be negotiated but that he was “not predicting tens of thousands” of U.S. troops.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker stressed that a key to Afghanistan’s stability lies with Pakistan’s. He said Pakistan must go after extremists who use havens on its side of the border to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

“It’s going to be very hard to succeed in Afghanistan if there is not action taken to reduce the safe havens in Pakistan,” Crocker said at his residence here. “Some of our Afghan colleagues use the image of a hornet’s nest. You can whack the hornets here, but the nest is not here.”

Crocker said the U.S. administration has no intention of taking out the safe havens in Pakistan.

“We have means of reaching across the border,” he said. “But the notion of U.S. troops actually moving into Pakistan has never been on the table. … It would be effectively a declaration of war on a country of 170 million people with nuclear weapons. It is not an option.”

Pakistan has cooperated with NATO in the past, but its leaders shut down a border crossing used to supply U.S. troops last month after 24 Pakistani troops were killed by NATO aircraft. NATO said it targeted militants on the Pakistan side of the border after coalition troops in Afghanistan took fire. Pakistan says the attack was unprovoked and has refused to cooperate with a NATO investigation of the incident.

Crocker and Allen said negotiations continue to ease tensions.

“The safe havens are going to play an extraordinarily important role in the end in the success of this conflict,” Crocker said.

Copyright © 2010 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Central Asia, the next domino

Central Asia, the next domino

Paul Quinn-Judge , Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos , Foreign Policy in Spanish

So slowly but surely, material and human infrastructure of Central Asia is disappearing: roads, power plants, hospitals and schools as well as the latest generation of specialists, those involved in its operation and were trained by the Soviets. Post-independence regimes made little effort to maintain or replace both the technology that is wearing out, and the staff who are retiring or dying.The funds for this purpose have been eaten away by corruption and the collapse has generated protests. It has even overthrown a government.

All countries in the region are affected by this situation one way or another.However, the two poorest, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are desperate. Their own experts say that in the coming years there will be teachers for their children and doctors to treat patients. Power cuts in Tajikistan in winter and are a tradition.Last up to more than twelve hours in rural areas. Kyrgyzstan also in the electrical system failures are increasingly common. Experts in both countries are concerned about the catastrophic collapse likely general, especially in the energy sector. Unless you take out a policy change, will face a future of eroded roads, schools and medical institutions run by retirees, or a new generation of teachers, doctors or engineers, whose shares will be purchased rather than earned by its own merits. These problems are exacerbated by other political vulnerabilities, including the expansion of the insurgency, the aging of an autocrat in Tajikistan and Kyrgyz State dangerously weakened.

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are in the same direction. It is difficult to say how serious is the situation, since there is no reliable information or is secret. What it is obvious that extravagant and optimistic public statements are not reflected at all in reality. Hospitals marble facade model of Turkmenistan and the false prosperity of Uzbekistan statements are not the solution to the problems of these countries. Even Kazakhstan, the only country operating in the region will go through an ordeal because of deficiencies in their infrastructure. It has major problems especially in the area of ​​transportation and the training of technical staff. Any dream of economic diversification and modernization will wait.

The current dilemma living these five countries has several causes. When they were part of the USSR, were incorporated into one system, especially in the areas of transportation and energy. These interdependencies have been difficult to undo, and produced serious imbalances. During the Soviet era, everyone was forced to work together. Now however do not need or have good relations between them, especially when it comes to energy issues. Education and health services were affected by the term social safety net. But far worse is that governments in the region seem to have believed that the Soviet legacy would last forever. The funds should be allocated to reforms in education, training and maintenance were often misused and insufficient.

The consequences of this neglect are too terrible to be ignored. The rapid deterioration of infrastructure will deepen poverty and alienation of the state.The disappearance of the basic services provided to the radical Islamists, already strong in many Central Asian states, more arguments against regional leaders. They give you space to build support networks and influence. Economic development and poverty reduction will become an illusion, while the poorest countries will become even more dependent on the export of labor. In fact, anger at the sharp decline in basic services played a key role in the unrest that led to the ouster of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010. This resentment can be expressed similarly in other states in the region in the not too distant future, especially in Tajikistan.

Also, events in one of the five countries may have an adverse effect on its adjacent. In fact, a polio outbreak in Tajikistan in 2010 required an immunization campaign in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and infections were reported as far afield as Russia. Similarly, Central Asia may be adversely affected by its neighbors in the region: further decline in infrastructure is likely to match more instability in Afghanistan and a possible spillover of insurgency from there.

The needs are clear, and there are solutions to the weakening of the infrastructure. The fundamental problem is that Central Asia’s ruling elites are unwilling to take steps to meet the basic prerequisites. This amounts to nothing less than total repudiation of the values ​​and behavior of regional leaders. Need to purge the corruption of their governments to stop using the resources of their countries for themselves and their families and create a meritocracy with decent salaries would free up officers need to rely on corruption. These changes are so far from the current reality that foreign governments and donors surely struck from idealists. But without an organized change from above, there is a serious risk of chaotic change from below.

Donors are not doing anything to prevent this. His cautious approach seems largely inspired by the desire not to upset regional leaders to use the financial means at their disposal to create real change. Financial aid is generally used to meet annual or plans to move forward with broader geopolitical objectives.Without the participation of donors, the status quo will remain for some years but not more than that. The collapse of the infrastructure could weaken the regime, creating huge uncertainty in one of the most fragile parts of the world.
Paul Quinn-Judge is the Project Director of Crisis Group’s Central Asia 
Gabriela is Keseberg Dávalos Crisis Communications Group

Spanish Foreign Policy