by Crystal Collins
Last week, NATO helicopters and jet fighters reportedly attacked two Pakistani army posts on the border of Afghanistan, killing around 25 soldiers. Haaretz and the Islamic Republic News Agency both report the number to be 24, while Al Jazeera says it’s 25, and Al Arabiya has just decided to go with “up to 26.” It might seem like kind of a minor thing to pick up on (the fact that various news sources can’t determine how many people died), but it’s just one small part of a rather problematic situation full of uncertainties, many of them concerning relations between Pakistan and the United States.
The US and Pakistan have had a very tense relationship lately, “following a tumultuous year that saw the Osama bin Laden raid, the jailing of a CIA contractor and US accusations that Pakistan backed an attack on the US embassy in Kabul” (Al Jazeera). This strike, which Pakistan is reportedly viewing as a “violation of Pakistani sovereignty” (IRNA) probably won’t do much to help. Pakistan has already expressed its outrage and taken steps in response, namely blocking a NATO supply route into Afghnistan and ordering the US to vacate an air base within fifteen days.
All news sources seem to agree on the fact that relations between the two countries are tense and strained and that this strike won’t help. However, there were some differences in how each agency described the strike and how they presented their information. All of them basically used the same quotes from the same people, but some agencies paid slightly more attention than others.
Interestingly enough, The Iran Republic News Agency is pretty straight forward about the strike. Their article on what happened is fairly short and to the point, mostly just summarizing and quoting politicians from Pakistan and the US. There’s no real rhetoric and very little context about what happened. Their article about it is literally just a paragraph. The only photo included is a low-quality picture from an unknown date (see below). Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that IRNA is government-controlled and subject to a lot of censorship, and so it’s easier and less messy to merely present statements from each side and leave it at that. This seems to be a fairly standard practice looking through some of their other articles.
The Al Arabiya article takes an approach that is a little more detailed and closer to what we would expect to see from a Western source, like The New York Times, for example. It’s lengths longer than the IRNA article and includes quotes from other sources and even a video from the memorial ceremony for the Pakistani soldiers who were killed. It’s generally fairly neutral in providing statements from multiple Pakistani and US-based officials and military officers. It’s also worth noting that Al Arabiya chose to include a video of the funeral for the soldiers, which is something that we know wouldn’t happen in an article from a Western news agency. The Al Arabiya article isn’t entirely unique, however. It very closely mimics the Al Jazeera article on the strike and its history and aftermath, from a video of the funeral to the exact sequence of events and context reported. Considering that Al Arabiya was created to be a direct competitor for Al Jazeera, it’s not really surprising that the two would have similar styles in reporting.
I personally think Haaretz has the best coverage of the NATO strike and the ensuing problems. There are two separate articles (1 and 2) on the matter (in comparison to just one from the others) and both of them are different. They use some of the same quotes as the other sources do, but they’re generally much more detailed on the specifics of what happened, as well as what it might mean. The two articles reuse some of the same paragraphs and information, but I think it’s worth noting that Haaretz still prepared two articles as each event happened (first, the blockage of a NATO supply route and then the order to vacate an air base.)
It remains to be seen exactly how things will play out, especially considering the importance of Pakistan to the US in its “War on Terror.” This is actually something all of the different news agencies seem to agree on, even though Haaretz felt the need to end both of their pieces with a quote that “things will get back to normal,” even though this remains to be seen.