Friday, August 13, 2010

What explains the tight-fisted response to the Pakistan floods

What explains the tight-fisted response to the Pakistan floods
The steady drip of negative 'terror'-obsessed media coverage has done Pakistanis a great disservice
Catriona Luke, Friday 13 August 2010

Compare and contrast: within days of the 2004 tsunami, £100m had poured into Oxfam, the Red Cross and other charities, and by February 2005 when the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) closed its appeal, the total stood at £300m. The Haiti earthquake appeal closed with donations of £101m. The DEC total for the Pakistan floods appeal has just reached £10m.
The reasons for this disparity aren't complex. There has been a slow steady drip of negative media coverage of Pakistan since the 1980s, and if it lessened a little in the 90s as civilian governments went in and out of administration, it became inevitably tougher with the return of a military government, 9/11, the "growth" of Islamic extremist organisations in Pakistan, and the ins and outs of apparent ISI-sponsored terrorism in both Mumbai and Afghanistan. At home, Pakistan's image has been affected by debates about burqas, the bombings in London in 2005 and the country's perennial linguistic association with "terror".

British readers and viewers know little of Pakistan and – with the exception of writers such as the Guardian's Declan Walsh and Saeed Shah, as well as Aleem Maqbool, who has given sensitive coverage for the BBC in Islamabad, and exemplary analysis and comment on the BBC World Service by Owen Bennett-Jones and Lyse Doucet – reporting of the country is poor and superficial.

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