How's this for moving fast? In her short stint as the Editor of The Nation, Dr. Shireen Mazari has managed to turn virtually all her colleagues in journalism against her.
Take a gander at this letter, sent today by 21 of the world's top media organizations, to the government protesting at the "irresponsible" and "unsubstantiated" attack by The Nation on a journalist from the Wall Street Journal "tarring him" as a spy and thereby, according to the letter, endangering his safety. (And no, they were NOT talking about that other Wall Street Journal reporter tarred as a spy and later beheaded.)
For those who don't want to click through, here is the text of the letter:
"TO: Qamar Zaman Kaira,
Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Government of
4th Floor, Cabinet
Secretariat, Block, Pakistan Islamabad
RE: Nation article about Wall Street Journal reporter
16 November 2009
Respected Minister Kaira,
We are writing to register our strong concern at a recent development that has caused alarm among international media organizations working in
On November 5, The Nation newspaper published a front page article accusing Matthew Rosenberg, a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, of working for the C.I.A., Israeli intelligence and the
military contractor Blackwater. U.S.
Mr. Rosenberg is a respected journalist of high standing. Not only was the article unsubstantiated, it critically compromised his security and raised questions about whether he can return to
to work safely in the future. Pakistan
The article also has broader implications. These are difficult times for all journalists in
. Our employees already face an array of threats, including violence and kidnapping, as they strive to provide timely and accurate coverage. Now those risks have been needlessly increased. Pakistan
We strongly support press freedoms across the world. But this irresponsible article endangered the life of one journalist and could imperil others. It is particularly upsetting that this threat has come from among our own colleagues.
We recognize that courageous Pakistani journalists routinely face greater dangers than their international counterparts. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, five Pakistani journalists have been killed in the past 12 months alone. And we are heartened that several Pakistani media organizations have denounced The Nation’s story.
But we are also concerned that an incident of this kind – tarring a foreign reporter as a spy – could occur again. We ask the government of
to take note of this story and to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of all media personnel in future." Pakistan
The letter is signed by the heads, the editors, the editors-in-chiefs, and vice presidents of virtually most major news organizations in the world. Count them, they are almost all there: ABC News, AFP, AP, Reuters, McClatchy, FranceInfo, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, Financial Times, The Economist, BBC, CNN, Radio France Internationale, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Time, Newsweek, and even Al-Jazeera. Rather incredible isn't it? You have to have a certain je ne sais quoi (is 'touch' the word I am looking for?) to garner such collective denunciation, don't you think?
Just in case you were wondering, here is the original article, carried on the front page of The Nation on November 5, that sparked off this whole furore. I think it bears being reproduced here for people to judge for themselves how journalistically sound it is:
Journalists as spies in FATA?
By: Kaswar Klasra | Published:
November 05, 2009
– Agents of notorious spy agencies are using journalistic cover to engage themselves in intelligence activities in NWFP and FATA, sources informed TheNation on Wednesday. "ISLAMABAD
To the surprise and shock of many, top bosses of Federally Administrated Tribal Area (FATA) Secretariat are allegedly feeding these journalists with secret reports and information regarding Pak Army and militant groups operating there.
Matthew Rosenberg, South Asian correspondent of Wall Street Journal, has been spotted travelling frequently between
, Washington , Islamabad and Peshawar during the last couple of months. His frequent and secret meetings with Secretary Law and Order FATA Secretariat, Capt (Retd) Tariq Hayat Khan, and Additional Chief Secretary FATA, Habib Khan, have raised several questions. New Delhi
The sources alleged that both Tariq Hayat Khan and Habib Khan were equally responsible in facilitating and feeding Matthew about secret documents regarding Pak Army and sensitive information regarding ongoing operation against militants.
Despite the fact that Foreign Office and Interior Ministry have warned foreign journalists and foreign workers of NGOs not to visit NWFP and FATA, Matthew in a clear violation of this warning recently held a detailed meeting with Habib Khan that lasted for two hours and 17 minutes.
When contacted, Matthew Rosenberg confirmed to this scribe from
on phone that he had been meeting with Tariq Hayat Khan and Habib Khan since long, as he enjoyed good terms with them. New Delhi
“Yes I have been in
and Islamabad many times and Tariq Hayat Khan and Habib Khan are also close friends of mine. However, let me tell you that I am not working on any hidden agenda,” Matthew said. Peshawar
According to an official of law enforcement agency, who requested anonymity, Matthew was working as chief operative of CIA and Blackwater in
. The law enforcement agencies, he said, had also traced Matthew’s links with Peshawar ’s intelligence agency Mosad as well." Israel
So, basically (in case you missed it), it is anonymous sources (I would wager anything that it's ONE intel guy) who not only "spot" Mr. Rosenberg travelling between "Washington, Islamabad, Peshawar and New Delhi" but also intimate our intrepid reporter about his position as "chief operative of CIA and Blackwater" and his "links" with Mossad! Not only that, the reporter's meetings with the Secretary Law and Order and the Additional Chief Secretary for FATA (two government officials for God's sake!) have been scandalized as something improper and surreptitious. Er, whatever happened to proof? Or basic journalism ethics? Or libel laws? Obviously Shireen Mazari cannot be bothered with such petty things while leading the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious jihad for "national interest."
This is how The News, to its credit, rightly editorialized on the issue on November 12 :
"Journalists lead dangerous lives in
. They are targeted by the terrorists whose actions they report and by politicians and bureaucrats whose failings and indiscretions they expose. All this is to be expected. What a working journalist may not expect, however, is to be stabbed in the back by one of his own, as has recently happened to Matthew Rosenberg, a journalist working for the Wall Street Journal. Mr Rosenberg has been accused in a local newspaper of having links to the CIA and Mossad and of acting in some undefined way as an agent of Blackwater. As if this were not enough to blight his life and career, he is further accused of having 'secret' meetings with Secretary Law and Order FATA Secretariat, Tariq Hayat Khan, and Additional Chief Secretary FATA, Habib Khan. Both are said to have 'fed' documents to Mr Rosenberg, thereby implicating them in his alleged espionage activities. The story is based upon information from a nameless source and has no supporting evidence. Mr Rosenberg has had to leave the country and is unlikely to be working here in the foreseeable future. Pakistan
The editor of the Wall Street Journal has rightly and robustly sprung to the defence of his journalist and written to the editor of the newspaper that printed the story. The opening paragraph of his letter reads … "As a fellow editor I am writing to convey in the strongest possible terms our dismay and disgust over the slanderous falsehoods published on the front page of your newspaper on November 5th regarding our reporter Matthew Rosenberg." We might add 'grossly irresponsible' and 'unprofessional' to the list of printable adjectives that may be applied to this dangerous travesty of journalism. Accusations such as this, based on information from a single unnamed source are life-threatening in their gravity. At the very least there should one other corroborating source and preferably more than one where accusations as grave as this are made. The electronic media has recently reached a voluntary agreement to 'clean up its act'; and perhaps some sections of the print media need to do the same."
But to expect Shireen Mazari or her band of yahoos posing as journalists to show even the slightest contrition or introspection would be really like asking for the moon. The very next day, Ms. Mazari's editorial lapdog Ahmed Quraishi - a former PTV host who incidentally is a fellow traveler of loonyman Zaid Hamid on the PakistanKaKhudaHafiz blog - responded to The News editorial by a further front-page diatribe, which bore little or no relation to the substance of the criticism but chose the usual defence of the Zaid Hamid variety. That is, accuse your critics of a lack of patriotism and everything else. Just don't talk about the subject at hand.
Truly, as Samuel Johnson put it in 1775, "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."