Return to Transcripts main page


New Pakistan Leader

Aired September 12, 2008 - 20:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, HOST: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, your weekly look at the news and how the media covers it.
Coming up, Alis takes office in Pakistan. What will the future hold for the country's press under the new president? War time Afghanistan, photographer Tim Hetherington speaks to us about the stories behind some of his most striking images. And later, how do you get your news?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through the Internet and the television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mainly from the Internet.


SWEENEY: In print, on air, on the web, we take a look at the changing trends in news consumption.

First, to Pakistan. A new president heralds the start of a new political era. Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was sworn in as president on Tuesday. He takes the place of Pervez Musharraff, who resigned last month under the threat of impeachment.

So what will the future hold for Pakistan's media under President Asif Ali Zadari? To help answer that, we turn to "TIME" magazine's Aryn Baker. She is in Islamabad. And here in the studio, Shahed Sadullah, who is editor of "The News."

Erin Baker in Islamabad, what is the mood of the media relatively soon after the inauguration of President Zadari?

ARYN BAKER, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, I think they're chomping at the bit a little. Zadari is new to new to an independent media in Pakistan. It didn't exist when he was in politics. He's come into a situation where the independent media has proliferated. And he's not ready for that, I don't think. And the media is waiting for him to make a mistake.

His first public appearance in front of a press conference was the day of his inauguration. People were asking very hard questions. And he punted quite a bit. And that's not going to fly very well with this new media.

SWEENEY: Shahed Sadullah, Aryn raises a point. When President Musharaff took over in 1999, he oversaw this huge explosion of satellite television in Pakistan, where the majority of Pakistanis get their information from. Is it a genie that can be put back in the bottle even if President Zadari wanted to?

SHAHED SADULLAH: No, I don't think it's something that you can sort of revert to them. You can't revert to the past 10 years ago, not on this go. It's not a genie that'll go back.

So far, to be quite honest, I haven't seen anything to indicate that that's what President Zadari wants to do either. I mean, you know, there were a few television stations wanting to get on air. Their license had not been sanctioned by the previous government. This government has come and done it.

And I think for a political government, there's going to be very much more difficult to clamp down on the media. I mean, you know, President Musharaff was, after all, commander in chief of the armed forces - the chief of army staff of Pakistan. For him, it was a rather different cup of tea.

From Mr. Zadari, it's going to be very, very different. So I don't think there's any putting the clock back on this.

SWEENEY: Aryn Baker in Islamabad, I suppose the question is how relevant is the media to the politicals goings on and the hierarchy of the corridors of power?

BAKER: This is going to be essential. The Pakistanis have gotten used to getting all of their news on TV. Current affairs shows are some of the most popular things going, much more so than say soap operas or whatever would be normal, television fare say in the United States. They are going to be looking for information. And the media is so competitive that the journalists themselves are going to be seeking to uncover any bit of dirt they can, any scandal. They will be really rabid going after this new government.

SWEENEY: And Shahed Sadullah, the print press is relatively small in terms of its influence, given the huge illiteracy rate in Pakistan.

SADULLAH: Yes, that is true. I mean, you know, the literacy rate is supposed to be something like 54 percent, but that doesn't even remotely mean that 54 percent can pick up a newspaper in any language and read it. The number of people who probably get their information out of a newspaper is very, very small. Maybe in the single digits in percentage terms. It is the electronic media which has the impact on the country at large. SWEENEY: Right.

SADULLAH: And I think it is very clear now that any government has to pay heed to what the media says and does. And you know, people are very careful in press conferences and in chat shows and like your correspondent said. I mean, chat shows, political chat shows are now probably more popular in Pakistan than anything else.

So that is not something that, you know, people can forget about or put into the backburner or something. Any government has to be very conscious of what the media is saying. And there's everything to suggest that his government will be very conscious.

SWEENEY: What is the media? And what is Pakistan's main concern at the moment?

SADULLAH: Well, I think the main concern, Pakistan's number one problem obviously I feel is the war on terror. And that's followed very closely by the economic situation. And I think on this issue, there has been a turnaround in the media of - in the last say one, one and a half, two months because over the four, five years that President Musharaff was fighting the war on terror, the sort of unmitigated message you got from the Pakistan media was why are we fighting this war? This was not our war. Why are Muslims killing Muslims? Why are Pakistanis killing Pakistan?

This is a war we can sit out. And over the past say couple of months, as I've said, this mood seems to be turning around. And now there are pieces that are coming forward, which suggest that no, no, this is very much our war. And it may or may not be America's war as well. It may or may not be in America's interest or in Britain's interest, but it is certainly in Pakistan's interest to fight this war and to defeat extremism and terrorism.

I feel that it would have been a good thing if the media during Musharaff's days had been able to distinguish between its opposition to Musharaff and its - and the war on terror and not sort of let the opposition to Musharaff spill onto the war on terror, because I don't think really that was in the national interest at all.

Now that it's been done for five years during Musharaff's time, it will not be easy to overturn the feelings and the impressions that has created in a matter of a couple of weeks or even a couple of months. It'll take a long time, but at least they've got started on the right track now, I think.

SWEENEY: Aryn Baker, would you agree there with certain that perhaps President Musharaff wasn't treated fairly by the media in Pakistan because they allowed their feelings about him to over - to obscure perhaps the overall war on terror?

BAKER: I think that might have - was a large part of it. Pakistanis generally saw this war as America's war. And they saw Musharaff as America's puppet. So they followed and the media followed that line of inquiry and went with it.

However, I think over the last few months, the media, the presence of the media at suicide bombings, at events of terrorism, that has brought the war on terror into the Pakistani livingroom. And now Pakistanis are realizing that, you know, this isn't happening up in the tribal areas. This is happening in our town and our capital around, you know, the city of Karachi and Lahore. It's brought it home. And I think that, more than anything, is making Pakistanis realize that this is Pakistan's war, and not America's war.

SWEENEY: And so, Aryn Baker, with the inauguration of Asif Ali Zadari as president, do Pakistanis feel that there is a new era about to take place in the country?

BAKER: There is a moment of hope. People want to see change. They're desperate for change. However, there is a tendency amongst Pakistanis to sort of wait for change to happen to them, and sort of be passive. What we really need to see happen is that Pakistanis and the government work together and work hard to move the country forward in terms of the economy, the war on terror, the problems with electricity. It's going to take sacrifice on the part of the Pakistanis and the government. And it's going to take a lot of hard work, which we haven't necessarily seen over the past few months as the two warring parties have fought over power and haven't really thought about policy change.

So as long as we can start seeing policy change, then there's hope.

SWEENEY: Well, Asif Ali Zadari finishes his first week in politics as president, we thank Aryn Baker in Islamabad and Shahed Sadullah here in London. Thank you.

In the trenches of Afghanistan, almost seven years since the start of the war there, we speak to photographer Tim Hetherington about some of his most striking images and the stories behind them.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. Now the war in Afghanistan. Almost seven years since the conflict began, the increasingly volatile situation has put what became the forgotten war firmly back into the spotlight. This week, U.S. President George W. Bush announced four and a half thousand troops will be redeployed from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Photographer Tim Hetherington is no stranger to the conflict. In the past year, he spent several weeks with U.S. troops in Afghanistan's Corringal (ph) Valley as part of an assignment for "Vanity Fair." His photographs, which provide a rare glimpse of what it's like for soldiers fighting the Taliban, are featured in the current issue of "Vanity Fair."

Tim Hetherington has attracted industry acclaim. And he was named winner of the 2007 World Press Photo of the Year Award for one of his images from Afghanistan.

Earlier, I spoke to him about his assignment.


SWEENEY: Thanks for joining us. This photo really was one that made your name. What's it about?

TIM HETHERINGTON, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER, VANITY FAIR: This photo was taken from a set of images made for "Vanity Fair" in northeastern Afghanistan in the Congo Valley, where the Americans are fighting a counter insurgency war.

I was following a platoon of soldiers from battle company of 173 Airborne. And I followed them over the last year for the entire deployment. And the picture was taken in the outpost, where second base, which is on the side of a mountain and the furthest part of the Congo Valley. And they built it by hand. They dug it in the side of the mountain. And it was taken in the bunker area after a day of heavy fighting.

SWEENEY: I think the picture says it all. If we move on to the next photo, we see a kind of negotiation taking place between an army commander, presumably American, with a tribal leader. What's going on here?

HETHERINGTON: Well, in fact, this is Daniel Kearney, who is the captain, the head of the battle company in the Congo Valley. And he would hold regular shirrahs (ph), meetings with village elders every week. And as part of this counter insurgency technique, obviously, you fight against the enemy. You know, you're - it's active combat. But then there's the counter insurgency. Other side of it is bringing, you know, resources for the local populations, try and bring a road in or a pipe project or whatever it be. And that he meets with local elders.

And on this day, I remember this character that this man came, who hadn't been at a shirrahs before. And he came to argue for a prisoner that had been taken by the battle company, a guy called Niem (ph). And the prison was being taken to outside of the valley for questioning.

And I remember it very well because he came from a part of the valley that was definitely in control by insurgents. And he said to Kearney, you know, you - you know, we want Niem back. And Kearney said well, look, you know, Niem's been taken out of the valley for questioning. And he said - Kearney said but I guarantee he'll come back. And Niem said well, he better come back or else there's going to be a lot of trouble.

SWEENEY: And in that moment, that's around the moment you took that photograph?

HETHERINGTON: That's right. Yes, this was around that time.

SWEENEY: And in this valley where, you know, the other photographs that we're about to see as well are from, do you think that this is perhaps one of the templates for a lot of the problems the coalition are having in Afghanistan?

HETHERINGTON: I think there's a sea change happening between the wars in Iraq and the focus going to Afghanistan. I think, you know, that's something that's definitely been happening in the discussions by both Democrat and Republican politicians in the States.

I think the fighting in Afghanistan has certainly stepped up. If you look at the statistics last month or the month before was the heaviest casualty rate for U.S. forces in the world. Moreso than Iraq. And techniques that are being employed in Iraq are coming into Afghanistan, specifically IED techniques.

And what's interesting is they're two very different places. Iraq, the type of warfare there, which is mostly kind of humvee warfare, you know, where 70 percent of American casualties are from IEDs that blow humvees. In Afghanistan, it's very different. It is all small arms, mostly. It is, you know, RPGs and machine guns.

SWEENEY: And speaking of RPGs, we're looking at one now. And it's a photo of an RPG beside some school children?

HETHERINGTON: Yes. What I found interesting about the image was the sense that counter insurgency suggests that you work to win the population over. And you know, I think that a lot of the American soldiers in the Congo, despite the ferocity of the fighting there, did control themselves in exemplary ways.

But you know, I do question the idea personally that you can win the hearts and minds battle against when you're fighting as people. I mean, at the end of the day, I think last year, the Americans were fighting a lot of Congoli (ph) youth and killed a lot of young men. And the idea that these young kids probably as their brothers are dying, that they will somehow be won over. I find that very difficult to believe personally.

SWEENEY: If we have a look at the next photograph, this really - the look on the Afghan man's face almost says it all. What was taking place there?

HETHERINGTON: Restreppo (ph) the bunker and the outpost were a second platoon base is by a small road that comes out of a village called Localais (ph). And with the harvest time, certain villages wanted to bring their families in trucks past the outpost. And so there were stopped. Their vehicles were searched. And then, the young - well, the men are fingerprinted and photographed into a system where they can start to be, you know, accounted for.

And so, in this case, here is a Congoli (ph) man being fingerprinted by members of (INAUDIBLE).

SWEENEY: Members of a platoon who were on their own base, but nonetheless it's Afghanistan. And it's - we're talking about this just a little earlier, both of the American soldiers, they're not wearing kind of any T-shirts or tops. Whereas if we move to the next photograph, this is the same soldier taking the fingerprints, talking to or certainly dealing with another Afghan man.

HETHERINGTON: Yes, I mean, here, they're on patrol. And they are obviously very strict rules in terms of engagement, the population when they go out on patrol. It's the Afghan army that will go to search houses. And the Americans, you know, soldiers are users are kind of back-up.

So yes, it is a very different scene here. What's obviously interesting is that, you know, Afghanistan and America, those are two very different cultures.

SWEENEY: Do you think the cultures understand each other any more since 9/11 and the seven or eight years since 9/11?

HETHERINGTON: I mean, that's the question really. I mean, if America is back in Karzai, and to what extent is Karzai understood in the Corango (ph), I mean, there are very different tribal relationships and cultures clashing within Afghanistan. And then obviously now with the present coalition forces internationally. Do all those sides understand each other? I don't think so. I mean.

SWEENEY: Doesn't look like there's a lot of understanding going on there. And just - or communication particularly. Let's go to the next photograph. This, I gather, has a very interesting story behind it?

HETHERINGTON: Yes, this is Sergeant Steiner. And he shows the helmet where he was shot in the head during a fire fight. And in fact, the bullets knocked him out. And the fighting was so fierce that he was lying down on the ground. And his friends thought he was dead. And two minutes later, he kind of got up and everybody surprised, you know, just carried on fighting again.

He later had the bullets with feathers tattooed onto his shoulders. He said those are sort of a guardian angel overlooking him that day.

SWEENEY: Let's move on to the next photograph. What is it about the terrain or your journeys or your trips to Afghanistan that have made you appreciate about the difficulty of that kind of conflict or warfare or winning over hearts and minds?

HETHERINGTON: What was interesting about Afghanistan when I went there in first time with this unit in September of 2007 was how arduous the combat was, and how it was old fashioned fighting. I mean, I really felt the parallels to Vietnam in terms of the arduous nature of it and the intensity of it. It certainly wasn't the kind of humvee based warfare that we see a lot in Iraq.

You know, you're fighting at two and a half thousand meters. You know, running, carrying a lot of weight at this moment. You know, this would be the route that we walked to the outputs because you could only go so far. You couldn't even take a vehicle to the outpost. You had to - literally, you had to walk up there. And you're carrying weight. And the troops are carrying ammunition and weapons. And being attacked at the same time.


SWEENEY: Photographer Tim Hetherington speaking to me earlier.

Now are you an integrator, a net newser, a traditionalist, or perhaps disengaged? Well, those terms sum up how you get your news. And it seems more of us are using the web to do so. The changing trends in news consumption when we come back.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. You're watching the nightly news not quite. It seems fewer of us are tuning in to the evening broadcast and reading the daily newspaper in favor of the web. A recent survey by the Pugh Research Center found more Americans are getting their news online, but television still remains the leading source for news. It's biannual survey on news consumption splits the audience into four categories, the integrators, they make up 23 percent of the public, are regarded as well educated, affluent, and middle aged. Television is their main source for news, but most access it online during the day. And they have a greater interest in political news and sports.

The second group, "Net-Newsers", well, they're about 13 percent of those polled. And again, they're well educated, affluent, but relatively young. The majority of them are men. They are frequent online news viewers and regularly read political blogs. They have a strong interest in technology news.

The traditionalists make up 46 percent of the audience. And typically, they are older, less educated, and less affluent. They have a heavy reliance on TV news. Most have a computer, but few get news online, and have a strong interest in the weather rather than science and tech news.

Well, the final category with 14 percent, they are what we call the disengaged, those who generally have a low level of interest in the news.

In all, 3,615 people were polled between April and June this year with a margin of error of two percent. Well, while the survey was carried out in the U.S., we took it to the streets of London to see where people here get their news.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mainly from the Internet. I turn on my computer in the morning and see what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's more accessible on the Internet. And the three papers on the bus, so I'm more available.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I go online a lot, but I tend not to really read the news online. And newspapers I just buy occasionally if I'm taking a train journey or something like that.


SWEENEY: Our selection of views from London on where people get their news. Well, for more on the Pew Research Center's report and findings, we turn to associate director Carroll Doherty, who's in Washington.

Carroll Doherty, what struck you most about the research you undertook?

CARROLL DOHERTY, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: Well, I think it's the facts that you mentioned at the beginning, I think the fact that these integrators, very interesting group. For so long, we've been seeing the Internet as kind of a threat to cable news and things like that. But these integrators integrate, literally integrate both.

At night, they might watch cable news. During the day when they're at work, they log on for news. So it's a new style. It's not either/or. They're doing both.

SWEENEY: And let's not underestimate the impact of those three nightly news broadcasts on the three main networks. I mean, they draw a huge amount of viewers, although declining, and huge advertising around with it.

DOHERTY: Right. And we've been tracking that for many years. Our trends go all the way back to the early 1990s. And it's been a steady decline since then. Perhaps more stable in recent years. And what you see there, too, is that the audiences are getting much older. The audience for both nightly news and for newspapers, print newspapers as well.

SWEENEY: And I don't know if you're in a position to answer this, but I mean, it seems that America in some ways is behind countries in Asia in particular in terms of those who get their news from the Internet?

DOHERTY: Well, perhaps that's the case. But I think what you're seeing is the leading edge here catching up in a way. I still think Americans are behind on, you know, online video and things like that.

SWEENEY: But do you think that the Internet should have had more of an impact by now in the U.S.?

DOHERTY: Well, it's hard to say. I mean, one of the things we were looking for is that it would perhaps, you know, we've been chronicling for years that young people in this country have been less informed about the news, less engaged by the news. You see in this presidential election perhaps a bit of more interest among young people. But still, the Internet hasn't really added to their base of knowledge and really hasn't added to their news consumption over the past decade. And that's a bit worrisome.

SWEENEY: Perhaps, but perhaps quite so good news for the advertising companies who continue to advertise on television. Tell me the scary thing. What happens or what percentage of people have you found that actually don't get their news from anywhere at all?

DOHERTY: Yes, a significant number, and especially among young people. You know, what's surprising to us, I think, is that 34 percent of those under 25, under age 25, say they get no news from anywhere on a given day. And that's up significantly over the past decade, despite the rise of the Internet.

So we're seeing this hard core out there of young people who get no news at all. And I think that's a very worrisome sign.

SWEENEY: Carroll Doherty in Washington, thanks very much indeed.

Well, it doesn't matter which news source you prefer, because we're on the air and online. Log on to to see the show again. You can also view our archives, take part in the quick vote, and read the weekly blog. The address again

And that is all for this edition of the program. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.