Surely time to shun official sources

Two different speakers at this week’s Edinburgh International Television Conference revealed the paucity of imagination and guts in so much of the mainstream media’s coverage of the “war on terror”.

Al-Jazeera director general Wadah Khanfar:

Less and less field work is being done. More official sources are being taken as uncollaborated fact. Less and less resources are being spent as is time talking to the margins of society. Protect your institutions from commercialisation,” he said. “Let us protect our newsrooms and encourage more and more journalists to become experts in the areas they are reporting from and give them more time to understand the cultures they are reporting from.

BBC World News presenter and correspondent Lyse Doucet:

What’s lacking in the coverage of the Afghans is the sense of the humanity of the Afghans. You knew that the bombs were dropping in that direction and the guns pointing in that direction but you never got a sense of how Afghans are as a people. Some of them [the Taliban] would like to talk to the British Government. Some of them don’t want to be fighting British troops. Some of them would. This is the ideological Taliban. We never have the ability or sometimes the desire to present this in a different way, so that people would be interested … it’s a regret.

Asked what was missing in British coverage, she added: “It may sound odd but the humanity of the Taliban, because the Taliban are a wide, very diverse group of people.”

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