New VOA relays in Pakistan raise at least one eyebrow (updated again).

Posted: 30 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"As of this month, the Pakistani government has quietly allowed the United States to expand its Afghanistan-based media propaganda network to include Pakistan, in a clandestinely signed deal that is bound to generate more anger when the Pakistani government that is yet to fully recover from accusations of a sellout to intrusive American aid conditions. ... The irony is that Pakistan, which disputes unverified US claims that terrorist camps exist deep inside Pakistan — in Quetta and Muridke — will now be allowing a US government financed propaganda arm to say as much using transmitters owned by the Government of Pakistan and directed at Pakistani citizens. The Voice of America (VOA), which is a US government agency, and the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation reached an agreement earlier this month where Pakistan had agreed to expand the Afghanistan-based US propaganda network - the Americans call this ‘public diplomacy’ - to Pakistan. Under the deal, VOA will use PBC equipment and transmitters in Peshawar, Islamabad and Lahore to distribute VOA material in Pashto and Urdu on medium and FM waves." Ahmed Quraishi, The Nation (Lahore), 27 October 2009. Dismissing US international broadcasting as "propaganda" is uncalled for. The writer is correct that VOA is a government agency, unlike, say, RFE/RL Inc, which is a government-funded corporation, with the added autonomy that that status affords. And then there is the mention of "public diplomacy." This would be a chicken coming home to roost because US decision makers and experts insist on subsuming US international broadcasting under public diplomacy.
     "A spokesperson for Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation has categorically rebutted a misleading news item published in daily TheNation on October 27, 2009 about PBC-VOA agreement. The spokesperson said the professional and technical cooperation between PBC and VOA is in accordance with the Pakistani law and rules of business. He also maintained that the agreement in question is one of the many ventures with other international media organizations being steered by PBC by following the due process. 'PBC has a history of cooperation with BBC, China Radio International, VOA, and is pursuing important agreements with Turkish Radio, China Radio International and other important media organisations to modernise and revamp its technical and programming operations,' said the spokesperson. He said the VOA programmes carried over PBC network are operational under a strict regime of checks and balances, monitoring and editorial guidelines to safeguard the national interests of Pakistan. It was further explained that any violation of the agreement would result in the unilateral cancellation of the agreement by invoking the breaking clause inserted in the agreement. ... The spokesperson said, the PBC has been working hard to revamp and uplift its operations and image and added that two new major agreements with China Radio International will be signed very soon." The Nation (Lahore), 28 October 2009. "Editorial guidelines"? Now at least one additional eyebrow is raised. This story is attributed to "PR," which perhaps means a press release from PBC, because I'm not familiar with any news agency by those initials.
     Update: "US government-owned Voice of America beams its programmes, including ‘soft propaganda’, to Pakistan on two strong transmitters and yet the Pakistani government and the PBC, whose chief is a former VOA employee, decided that giving VOA three more transmitters on Pakistani soil should be the first order of business for PBC and the new government. ... Wasn’t China Radio International more worthy of DG PBC’s attention than VOA, which already beams Pakistan using two strong transmitters?" The Editor, TheNation, 28 October 2009. I think the "two strong transmitters" are at relay facilities located outside of Pakistan. The PBC agreement gives VOA access to transmitters inside Pakistan, for even better reception. See previous post about same subject.