Dominance of US Officials in the Pakistani TV Channels: A Case Study of the Media Coverage of Osama Bin Laden's Death 1

By Marwan, Amir Hamza; Jan, Faizullah et al. | The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Dominance of US Officials in the Pakistani TV Channels: A Case Study of the Media Coverage of Osama Bin Laden's Death 1


Marwan, Amir Hamza, Jan, Faizullah, Khan, Altaf Ullah, The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences


Introduction

Osama Bin Laden was killed by the US Navy SEALS in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011. The killing of Osama Bin Laden was a big surprise for the entire world including the people of Pakistan. The official confirmation of his death came from the US officials in the morning PST. The killing provided a platform to the American people to celebrate it on the streets and in front of the White House that 'justice has been done,' but the event was perceived very differently in Pakistan. The media outlets in initial broadcast (before the official confirmation of the US) informed its audience that Pakistani military chopper has crashed near the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul, due to some technical fault. It was later when they started debating the death of Bin Laden in the garrison town, Abbottabad.

It was hard for many to believe that Bin Laden lived so lavishly for more than five years in a villa at a stone throw from the PMA. Initially, it was welcomed by Pakistan by calling it a big victory in the ongoing 'War on Terror.' Soon the officials found themselves in hot water after opposition from the military. The official stand changed overnight, and Abbottabad Operation was considered 'One-sided US Operation' and some called it 'attack on its sovereignty and integrity' (Gillani, 2011; Bashir, 2011). In such a situation, it is important to look at the strength of the Pakistani and US officials cited in the coverage of Pakistani TV channels as it will help us understand who were prominent in the coverage. The findings will also show the dominance of officials over the content besides leaving the impression of influencing the coverage in their way.

The research questions answered in this research study are as follows:

a) Who is the actual source mentioned in the introduction of the news item?

b) Who are the first three additional sources mentioned in the body of the story (without introduction)?

The findings of this research study will reveal sources on which the TV channels showed dependency for their coverage i.e. local or international besides showing the visibility and dominance of the US and Pakistani officials after the killing of Bin Laden. The strength of sources will determine who was in control of the coverage of Bin Laden's killing on Pakistani TV channels.

Literature Review

Thussu and Freedman (2003) claim that mainstream media carries huge importance while reporting any conflict situation. They stress that journalists, in such a situation, should look at the events independently and impartially as then they would be able to challenge the powerful narratives of the government and establishment. Other researchers including Magder (2003) also stress that 'state actors' have the ability to set and frame the 'news agenda'.

Conflict reporting is always challenging. On the one hand, the journalists show dependency on the government officials for the information, but then they (political and military actors) also try to hide the 'truth' and 'manipulate the media reporting' (Nord & Strömbäck, 2003). Such practices indeed undermine the investigative reporting of any such issues.

Indeed, sources have the capacity to influence the tone and content of the coverage. Many scholars including Hamilton and Crimsky (cited in Mogensen, 2007) believe that showing reliance on single source for information will not result in the balanced picture. It is always considered good to contact the different sources, while reporting any conflict, to explore the issue from the different angles.

Thussu and Freedman (2003) also stress that 'Truth' is an important commodity in the era of 24/7. They stress that reporters should go beyond the official version, issued in the form of handouts and press releases, to explore the 'original' story. McChesney (2002) claims that when journalists rely only on the official sources for information, they start acting as 'stenographers' for those. …

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