10 things I hate about foreign media and reporters

Published: April 18, 2010

The desire for special exemptions — from traffic rules, visa procedures, customs clearance — and the assumption that their press card holds a self-contained, no-objection-certificate for odd behaviour.

The habit of bringing their stories with their luggage. Here in Pakistan they look only for characters and quotes to support the texts they have compiled in their heads prior to their arrival.

The incessant complaining. Living in outsized houses, many times the size of the shacks in which they spent most of their lives in back home, their instinct for comfort grows in inverse proportion to their desire to find the truth. It is almost as if Pakistan is a shopping mall of special privileges and they have unlimited credit on their cards.

The complete lack of nuance. Pakistan, for most of these correspondents, is a country neatly divided into ‘Bzombies’ (short-hand for ideologically motivated, unthinking suicide bombers) and ‘Social Butterflies’ (no shorthand needed). In between lies a vast humanity deserving attention only in the case of gang-raped women, shackled children at madrassas, or some strange pandemic leading to high fatalities. If these things are not happening, Pakistan has no news value.

That they forget while the country has existed as an independent state for some decades, its civilisation dates back to a couple of thousand years. In other words, ‘Stone Age’ may be a phrase some Pakistanis use to describe their problems, but in reality, as a phase of history, it ended roughly the same time here as elsewhere in the world.

The half dozen rent-an-analyst experts most of the correspondents rely on. The garbled inanities of this lot are chiseled into sharp insights. Their redundant designations (retd this, retd that) are woven into news stories like plastic beads on a cheap thread. This trash-in-trash-out cycle of news spins on subjectivity, which of course can’t be challenged because a foreign journalist ‘knows his/her job’ best.

Newcomers, relocated from some unknown town of some non-descript state, who land in Pakistan carrying the viewfinder of an explorer, finding mystery in every road sign and a cultural conundrum in every glance thrown at them.

Those who ‘cover’ Pakistan from 10,000 miles away and, incredibly, speak with an air of authority that no native could ever hope to command. This breed shines in their careers in the electronic media based on their exceptional ability to speak official truths. It is another matter that most of them would find it hard to locate on a map the areas they claim to know like their backyard.

The lack of understanding that, for all its faults and self-inflicted wounds, Pakistan would still have been a better place if Washington, London, Berlin and Brussels hadn’t fought their dirty wars on its turf. Their collective amnesia about the recent past and the role foreign powers played in wrecking peace and prosperity in this part of the world is most striking; it is an ailment that is cured only once they are transferred to another ancient land on a new assignment.

The fact that Pakistan, for most of them, is a vacation, extendable into infinity by producing reams of vacuous work.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Monkey
    Apr 18, 2010 - 8:02PM

    Like most of the points here :) Recommend

  • Mussarat Ahmedzeb Swat
    Apr 18, 2010 - 8:22PM

    Well written truth TalatRecommend

  • Fizzah Hussain Rizvi
    Apr 18, 2010 - 8:30PM

    Absolutely BRILLIANT!!! Thank you for writing this Talat,couldn’t have put it better if I tried my best.Agree with Every Single Word.Haven’t come across a SINGLE foreign correspondent to date who did not make my blood boil after first five minutes of talking to them or watching them on tv.Recommend

  • Mohsin Babbar
    Apr 18, 2010 - 8:44PM

    Cant agree more Sir.Recommend

  • Tauseef Mallick
    Apr 18, 2010 - 10:01PM

    ME TOO……..!!! very smartly and superbly written indeed… hats off janab… eagerly waiting for more from your end..Recommend

  • Apr 18, 2010 - 10:24PM


    *The fact that Pakistan, for most of them, is a vacation, extendable into infinity by producing reams of vacuous work.*

    ask daniel pearle

    nice rant btw:)

    and if this accurate, so is the reverse for those who dicuss US or the ‘West’ from Pakistan

    *Those who ‘cover’ Pakistan from 10,000 miles away and, incredibly, speak with an air of authority that no native could ever hope to command.*Recommend

  • Dr. Altaf ul Hassan
    Apr 19, 2010 - 12:09AM

    Cant you tell at least one thing you hate about your own media or reporters as if they are free from all the pre-occupations and their own personal likings and dis-likings while reportng an event? Recommend

  • Apr 19, 2010 - 12:54AM

    Seems Talat wrote this piece about himself when it comes to his highly biased reports and analyses of Balochistan. He followed the agencies’ line in his interview with IG FC in Quetta as if he had come solely to confirm what had been told to him about the presence (read “absence” in the official words) of Taliban in Balochistan. Likewise, he went on to personally and unprofessionally with Bramdagh Bugti in the interview because he had been informed by some ‘invisible forces’ that the Baloch leader was fighting India’s war in Balochistan.
    Talat sahib, this write-up has helped to expose your double standards when it comes to reporting on BalochistanRecommend

  • Fayyaz Alam
    Apr 19, 2010 - 3:04AM

    I agree with Talat but let’s not forget that we entertain them to the extent that they start acting like our bosses. Let me give you an example from BBC’s John Simpson’s book where he tells about his ‘royal’ treatment in Pakistan (he refers to Raj days). He was allowed to take a Sword in his hand luggage because people at Peshawar Airport recognised him. This sword was an antique and it was not meant to be smuggled out of the country!

    And as far their interest in particular type stories, their items are not very different from what our media covers. Our print and electronic media only spreads negative and pessimistic news about Pakistan. Why blame others?Recommend

  • Apr 19, 2010 - 8:50AM

    Well written piece by a true moderate Pakistani. Will pray for Talat Sb “Allah Karay Zor-e-Qalam Aur Ziada”Recommend

  • Jamal Hasan
    Apr 19, 2010 - 12:54PM

    Please don’t forget that foreign media also relies heavily on stories and perspectives supplied to them by our own reporters and media. Please also don’t forget the time when Mr. Talat Hussain had been writing for the internationally renowned Time magazine.Recommend

  • ali raza
    Apr 19, 2010 - 3:15PM


  • talat khan
    Apr 19, 2010 - 5:14PM

    and what about the local “analysts” and self professed “journalists”??????Recommend

  • idiota
    Apr 19, 2010 - 6:05PM

    haha, Ghulam Farooq Baloch ne talat hussain ki lay liRecommend

  • Adnan
    Apr 19, 2010 - 8:47PM

    Simply brilliant!Recommend

  • Apr 19, 2010 - 10:34PM

    @IDIOTA: Agreed.
    There is a need to expose these elite journalists of Pakistan like Talat who entirely rely on the GHQ information. They have become a tool in the hands of the establishment to make fun of people living in Balochistan and other smaller provinces.
    Seems the country was not doing bad enough with Ziad Hamid and Ahmed Qurashi that Talat has also the rank of the so-called “Pakistani-nationalists”Recommend

  • Wasil Arian
    Apr 20, 2010 - 3:03AM

    This acute bitterness,abounding rage and utmost hatred prompting to spew so much venom at foreign journalists although disgusting is not unexpected from the authour for those who are fimiliar with his antics as a TV talk show host.
    All this is coming from the myopic vision and mossy psyche adorning the minds of a number of right wing Pakistanis claiming themselves to be KNOW ALLS because of their infinite idiocy.
    In this regard I shall like to ask following qustions from the authouth
    Does he realy believe that all miseries, sufferings and deprivations of his fellow citizen have resulted from the interaction with the west ?
    Are all these social, economic, political and cultural coundrums have been exported to this country by the west?
    Whether Pakistan will be better of west is made to pack and leave alongwith its availabe troves in the field of social and natural sciences and technologies in the field of Agriculture, transportation and communicatin etc. ?
    What has given you the idea that these journalists who visit from foreign lands are less qulified in the profession than you and your likes ?
    Do all these journalists have qulity of living inferior to what they get in Pakistan as you impmlied by their residing in shacks ?
    Do all the these foreign countries have sub-standard educational and traing institutes which fail to equip them appropriately as your alma matter has done?
    Is it not incumbant on every good journalist to show and report whatever are the ground realaties instead of glossing over the ugly ones which may be more newsworthy and can even help to make amends sooner or later?
    The above questions if addressed honestly and open mindedly will alleviate some of the bitterness,hatred and rage expressed in this piece.
    It may also generate some positivity of outlook that most of the foreign journalists if not all are well qualified and hard working professionals who forsake many personal comforts and do without so many facilities when they come to a coutry like Pakistan where they sometime face a lot of prejudice, narrow mindedness and wher some time they have to put their limbs and lives on the line.Recommend

  • Dr. Altaf ul Hassan
    Apr 20, 2010 - 8:51AM

    @ Wasil Arian.Strongly agreed with you Sir.I am very regretful to state that with the exception of only a few,most of the journalists we see daily in TV talk shows or we read in news paper columns belong to right wing who remain in a psychological state of self-righteousness.They have their own agenda to propagate and in doing so fabrication of facts is the logical conseqence because opinon making takes the place of news breaking as they assume the role of reformers instead of being journalists.Many of them behave in society as black-mailers.It is commonly said that Police,who takes bribery from every one in Pakistan only bribes one group of society.Needless to name!Recommend

  • Moayyed Jafri
    Apr 20, 2010 - 4:35PM

    Couldn’t agree more with what you have iterated here Tallat but although this is a comprehensive into the western media’s perpetual schema, I believe that the host of local journalists who aid these foreign elements in every way possible for monetary gains and ‘international exposure’, are equal contributors in the menace of misrepresentation of affairs. These facilitators/ scavengers thrive on the opportunity of squeezing out the last cent for giving the story any lean/tilt so desired by the overseas journalists. Even the most senior veterans are part of this practice and the journalist community needs to establish some sort of a check as to who is representing or country and what end product are they facilitating in being weaved out. Recommend

  • Apr 20, 2010 - 4:55PM

    Talat also contribute for LA TIMES, TIME WEEKLY AND THE NEW YORK TIMES:)))
    Talat Hussain, AAJ TV, “Ghairat – Honour” & Express News. http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/12/talat-hussain-aaj-tv-ghairat-honour.htmlRecommend

  • Apr 20, 2010 - 8:24PM

    People Views on Musharaf.(Saviour Of Pakistan) NOTE: Talat’s “Favourable” Comment for Musharraf is from 1:20 to 1:22 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iZQ34s0p5g&feature=relatedRecommend

  • Yusaf Khan
    Aug 16, 2010 - 12:24AM

    Completely agree Talat. I get to watch the Western news, even the more reputable ones (like BBC, CNN etc), mostly end up regurgitating the same old crap without adding any value. The news tends to be whatever sells.Recommend

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