Pakistan Media Muddle

By Gujari Singh

In two recent drone attacks in Pakistan’s northern region on Sept. 24 and 28, the international media explained the incident in different ways. The question this raises is: What is the role of the press in reporting these stories? Are they reporting objective news or are they spinning it?

In the first incident on Sept 24, a drone fired on a group in Northern Waziristan killing eight to 10 Pakistanis. These seem to be the facts that all the news sources agree on. The part that differs is their choice of words as to who these Pakistanis were, the actual death count and who owned the drone. According to, the dead were 10 Pakistani militants, while according to the Voice of America (VOA), the head count was eight and the deceased were six local Pakistanis and two foreigners. The deceased were only suspected militants and not militants, VOA reported, also commenting that the deaths could not be verified since journalists are not allowed in the area.

According to CNN and VOA this was a “suspected” U.S. drone strike, while other news outlets such as Press TV, Times of India and Radio Free Europe stated that this was an actual U.S. drone strike that caused these deaths.

A General Atomics MQ-1 Predator drone, which is an unmanned aerial vehicle.

A General Atomics MQ-1 Predator drone, which is an unmanned aerial vehicle.

On Sept. 28, the facts are similar to the incident on Sept. 24, with the news reports explaining that a drone killed North Waziristan residents. Again, the exact number of deaths and who these people were remain in question. In this incident, the consensus is that the strike was done by a U.S. drone, however, the question of how many and who these people were varies. The Guardian story, which came from the Associated Press, said the parties who were killed were two Arabs and two local allies, all suspected militants. The New York Times reported that an “American drone strike” killed at least four suspected militants.

The advances in international communication and technology (ICT) allow for speed and accuracy of information to pass from one location to another within mere seconds. When many newspapers receive their information from a wire service that is sent to all the different news outlets and agencies, why is the number of deaths in question? Even with the newspapers that have reporters on the ground, like The New York Times, the casualties differ in number.

In these two specific incidents, the question becomes are newspapers getting different information even when they rely on their own reporters?  Why did some newspaper reports choose to state that the deceased were militants and others call them “suspected” militants. Also, why do the death toll numbers differ?

In both these incidents, different news outlets reported different facts. How can so many different news sources have different information and not have their readers believe it is opinion.

Photograph of U.S. drone courtesy of Wikipedia: Wikimedia Commons

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