One of the thrills of teaching journalism at a university (I’ve taught at UCLA and Pakistan’s Punjab University) is seeing your students graduate and do articles on weighty subjects. Farooq Sulehria, a former student who now lives in Sweden, sent me a piece he wrote that alleges some Western media used made-up interviews in coverage of the Taliban. According to Salehria’s article (which was published by the Swedish newspaper Internationalen, then republished by Kabulpress.org), the interviews were done by the reporters’ interpreters, who duped the journalists into thinking they were speaking to real Taliban. The journalists didn’t know any better – they’d put all their trust in the interpreters, giving them complete control out of laziness and (in some cases) timidity: The reporters had come all the way to Pakistan but were too scared to leave their hotels and do their own leg-work. They didn’t want to become another Daniel Pearl.
Among the other claims by Sulehria’s article: In Afghanistan, photographers after arresting images would pay Muslim women to lift their face-coverings; and Pakistan’s government regularly paid Pakistani journalists to spread “falsehoods and half-truths.” Sulehria’s piece also raises doubts about the credibility of two prominent Pakistani journalists. In light of the American-led anti-Taliban campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and how media from around the world have flooded into Pakistan and Afghanistan, Farooq Sulehria’s article is worth reading.