Shabbir Hussain

Kurzfassung: Textanalysen mit Feldbeobachtungen verbindend, untersucht die vorliegende Studie, wie die pakistanischen Medien überden im Nordwesten des Landes andauernden Konflikt mit den Taliban berichten. Gestützt auf die Framing-Theorie zeigen die Ergebnisse,dass die pakistanischen Taliban als Hauptverantwortliche für die andauernde Gewalt im Land porträtiert werden und als Feindbild dienen.Die Darstellung der Opfer des Konfliktes dient – um es mit den Worten eines Stammesangehörigen auszudrücken – eher dem Medieninte-resse an ‚blutenden Gesichtern’ als der Darstellung einer sich entfaltenden humanitären Krise. Friedensjournalistische Ansätze werden da-gegen durch die vorherrschende Betonung des Sicherheitsaspektes und die Tendenz unterlaufen, die Sichtweise der betroffenenBevölkerung zu ignorieren.

Abstract: This study combines critical textual analysis with field observations to investigate how Pakistani media have covered the ongoingconflict with the Taliban in the North-West of the country. Using framing theory as its theoretical basis, the study found that the PakistaniTaliban are portrayed as chiefly responsible for the ongoing violence in the country, by placing them within the frame of an enemy image.The victims in the conflict were found to be dismissive of the media’s tendency to show greater interest in ‘bleeding faces’, to quote atribesman, rather than in portraying the unfolding of a major humanitarian crisis. The peace journalism model is limited by the prevailingmedia emphasis on the security aspect of this conflict and their tendency to ignore popular perspectives.


From time immemorial, conquerors and invaders have used the available media to propagate their viewpoints. Communi-cation researchers have studied in depth how demagogic leaders, from Alexander the Great, Darius, Julius Caesar and Na-poleon, to Hitler, Stalin, Mao and scores of others, have harnessed the media to win support for militaristic policies(Knightly, 2003; Ottosen, 2008). Reportage on violent events that can exacerbate conflicts is considered more newsworthyby mainstream journalists than reportage that promotes peaceful conflict resolution. This is due to established standardsof journalistic news values (Galtung & Lynch, 2010; Fawcett, 2002; Wolsfeld, 2004), which escalate conflicts through in-citement, stereotyping and fomenting disillusionment with the peace process (Bratic, 2006).

According to the media theorists Severin and Tankard (1992), conflicting parties resort to propaganda to legitimize theirpro-war stances and to win public support. Critical studies on war reporting have found that media often become partiesto conflicts and do not remain a simple ‘mirror’ of events and a detached, objective commentator (Lynch, 2008; Lynch &McGoldrick; 2005; Kempf, 2007). They significantly change the impact and process by which conflict unfolds (Galtung,2002; Kempf, 2003). Memories were still fresh when the media in Rwanda and Burundi were actually involved in conflict,becoming tools of war through incitement and propaganda, leading to the worst pogroms in recent history (Bratic, 2006).Other examples are the various cases of mass violence in Eastern Europe during the world wars, and the American-ledinvasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, where thousands of innocent people were killed, a situation that might have been avert-ed if peace had been given a chance (Lynch & McGoldrick, 2005; Ottosen, 2008; Bratic, 2006).

Although there is a great range of possibilities for using the media to promote peace, these tend to be under-studied andare often simply ignored (Bläsi, 2004). According to peace researcher Syed Abdul Siraj (2006), the media’s obsession withwar has been a major concern for the conflicting parties, peace researchers and media practitioners. If media have an eth-ical responsibility to society, it is essential to report on conflicts contextually and call attention to the underlying causes(Galtung, 2002; Kovarik, 2007).

This study aims to textually analyze the reporting of the conflict with the Taliban in Pakistan’s two prestigious English-lan-guage newspapers; the daily Dawn and the daily News, over a period of three months. Additionally, this researcher visitedthe war-torn Khyber Agency (the Khyber Pass is the most northerly and important mountain pass between Pakistan andAfghanistan; the Pakistani government controls the pass with the Khyber Agency), and talked to internally displaced per-sons in Peshawar to get a fair idea of (a) how local people see the conflict, (b) why they are ignored in media discourse,and (c) to seek solutions from them. The study was conducted in a difficult period when, on the one hand, there wereefforts to achieve rapprochement and, on the other hand, there was a growing demand by the media for violent use offorce against the Taliban.