Wednesday, August 17, 2005

ABC Coverage of Afghanistan

Yesterday I posted about weaknesses in newspaper coverage of accusations that the Pakistani military is training Taliban forces who then cross the border to fight in Afghanistan. Paul Watson’s excellent coverage of this issue in the Los Angeles Times stands out as an exception. Today, let’s consider how one of the networks has performed on this story.

A Nexis search of ABC News transcripts since June 1 reveals no mention of these accusations, and very little coverage of Afghanistan at all. The closest that ABC News came to discussing the Taliban training camps was in a June 8 report. In this report, Brian Ross reported on an al Qaeda training camp in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, where terrorists are being trained "allegedly on the outskirts of the Pakistani army’s headquarters, apparently run by a major Pakistani politician." The politician is Maulana Fazlur Rehman. No mention was made of possible connections between this training camp and the war in Afghanistan.

The most extensive coverage of any story coming from Afghanistan related to the search for missing Navy SEALs. There were also occasional mentions of American war dead in Afghanistan, particularly after 16 Americans were killed in a helicopter crash. There were also numerous mentions Afghanistan in stories that focused on topics other than Afghanistan. For instance, Afghanistan was mentioned in retrospectives of Peter Jennings's career, in stories about how British Muslims feel about the presence of British troops in Afghanistan, and in stories about the demands of terrorist organizations that Western troops leave Afghanistan and Iraq and about the backgrounds of the London bombers.

The American press is failing to properly cover Afghanistan. Its near silence on the possible renewal of Pakistani support for the Taliban is a disturbing example of this failure.

(edited since original posting)