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Reporting Afghanistan…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hello, this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 hello and welcome this week details of a power struggle within the Taliban have emerged as a crucial moment as we wait to see what kind of government it wants to create.

What are this? Week's there's evidence the world's me is starting to tune out of Afghanistan well.

It's unusual organisations are doing that we are tuning into how Western media and the Afghan media have told this story and understand how the relationship between the Taliban and journalists is working and look at whether this story is revealed structural problems in how newsworks has there been enough space given to context history tell those of you who are asking.

Why is this happening will get into these questions with the CEO of the country's top TV news network with the BBC correspondent currently in northern.

with a news media analyst in the US with one of the BBC world services best-known presenters in Afghanistan and would cnns chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward who is clip became one of the faces of the story of the Taliban C-SPAN to leave and head for our car the fighter takes the safety and pushes through the crowd is to strike producer brents Wales when the Fighters are told we have permission to report they lower their weapons and letters pass from

Vaginas on the media show will know it very well.

Just tell us about how you came to be in that position close to Kabul Airport to get a sensor what it was like for afghans who were desperately trying to get into the airport and so we arrived outside there were large crowds and we started trying to push closer to get a better ideal.

Would it look like the Taliban Fighters there were Carrie Webbs instructions? They were a very very aggressive as I think you can see from that clip which had not in my experience without the Taliban Fighters in other parts of the city and they were not particularly receptive to you.

No desire to talk to them and Orders are to talk to other people around the airport one thing that you can see an eclipse was that we were immediate.

Warm by Afghan desperate to show us their papers look I worked at this US military base look I was a translator for the US Embassy here's my paperwork.

Help me get out.

Help me get into the work which is always a really tough position to Vienna to draw as many many stories and the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq the conflict in Syria to the situation now in as I wonder given all of those experiences if you anticipated the degree to which that particular report would reverberate around the world.

I don't think I possibly could it predicted.

How are reporting during that week that the Taliban took over would resonate with people and it's always difficult when you're in the field.

Have a real sense of how your reporting is being received elsewhere because you're working 19 hour days your bandwidth have left is being used to think about things like what will I

How are we going to put this piece together at cetera? So I only really had sent that when I looked at my Instagram account that some weeks later and realise that I had 2:00 on your followers and you're talking to this from London now, so I wonder if you think you could do the kind of reporting you did a few weeks ago now.

I know there is no substitute for being on the ground.

I mean you have to be there you have to smell things in the air.

You have to talk to people on the streets.

You have to see it for yourself to really get that this real feel of work, but feels like what people are going through so I don't think there's any substitute for being there on the ground.

What would you like to do with us on the media show let's bring inside Sophie a presenter BBC Pashto song you got a new documentary called Afghanistan and me on the BBC World Service this weekend the people who haven't listened to you before just explain where you go.

And how you came to move to the UK thank you, so I was born in and then it was the time of the major heating the Western backed Freedom Fighters as they were called back then in 250 fighting against the Syrian regime of my parents were present and then they had to take refuge with my aunt in the province of Helmand which is also in the south in the south of the country under Taliban took over Afghanistan and it was bended.

I wasn't allowed to go to school so I had to go to three different underground schools and 5 years of the Taliban were in charge and then came 911 happens after 11th international important happened.

I went to my first official school in 2002 forceful.

Would I got a job with a local radio tuner station in 2000?

6007 the BBC in came to the UK I was 18 the documentary is the history of Afghanistan through the stories of my life and those of my loved ones, but this was a very quick version of illustration of when it was like of course people more detail in your documentary so you're based here with the BBC Pashto team which also has an operation in Afghanistan you have many millions of listeners in the country.

How do you go about covering? What's happening in your country from a far it has been very difficult to cover Afghanistan because we've had instances of staff having to relocate to different parts of the country in order to tell the stories of quality journal.

Agencies but also to keep them save so I remember different cases in the last 2020 years that we had then some want to use their own names.

We we give them that option that they do if they don't want to name you they could use a different name or they could completely not username in some extreme cases, we had to re voice a report by the protect the identity of the original journalist or the reporter we had to make a constant on the day decision to speak because the situation was so fluid and it still is and of course you're making those calculations because you know saina and of course Teresa and her CNN colleagues know as well the reality now as if you want to report in Afghanistan you need to deal with the Taliban and I would understand how that works and how that.

Sun coverage of the Taliban tell me do that.

I contacted sadness any he's based in London is the CEO of the company that owns tolo news now any discussion of media coverage in Afghanistan it was launched in 2003.

So not long after the Americans and their allies had removed the Taliban from power and it's now grown into a global operation with an audience of millions inside Afghanistan and an influential voice outside of it.

We have a TV which is the main network at which is most entertainment and news as well, but most entertainment news as an offshoot of tolo TV it has about 100 employees they aim to deliver news like you do in the in the UK and it has a national audience.

It's broadcast and both passed on and diary.

It's available online and it's available.

Restaurant in Azerbaijan satellite, how would you categorise the relationship between the Taliban and your journalist before they took power the relay? It was always been professional we did have an insulin there where they take one of our buses in 2016 which resulted in The Killing of seven of our employees which network took too early for having that the relationship has been fully professional they they're always on the phone that always available online and errors.

They can they provide provide us with safe packing the passage we were even in bed with the caravan rat forces special unit when they took on Isis in this country which which is an external documentary we prepared.

I think they they've always been perhaps more Media savvy than the present and the former president's team.

The employees in the palace, they will not responsive they wouldn't get back to us.

They lied to us was a Solomon responsive professional so we in in lots of ways.

We had a better relationship towards the end column under the previous government Communications team despite the fact it's offshoot the haqqani network and killed some of your stuff.

Yes, yes absolutely it's a different neighborhood.

We have benchmarks and we have different standards in terms of dealing with people but France I mean we're always come with editorially 2AP still we felt that end in some sort of negotiate selling within a few look afghanistan's history recent history with 40 + years of fighting given the Taliban KNOWHOW around the power of Media inside after on an outside is there a risk it's using you absolutely just like you would be using us as well as sort of a benchmark in terms of

Cala Bona behaving I mean we are a bit like the Canary in the coal mine that I think a lot of Western audiences are commentators are looking at Assen in terms of we survive and that would be a clear indication.

How others would Survive by said civil Society and so forth but when you run those stories which could be seen as being negative for the Taliban are they on the same drop this not yet? I think we're not there still they still don't have the bandwidth to deal with everything every single day.

I think play right now or reverse scrambling to deal with the airport with security with food with the new cabinet appointments, but I'm sure they'll become a lot more they'll have monitoring teams and they will be calling a media and this is where the real challenge Frost will start that how much kapow.

The 4:30 criticism at sod mercede the CEO of the company that owns tolo News he has a striking turn of phrase doesn't he describes Afghanistan as a different neighborhood coffee from BBC Pashto Chris award from CNN you both will have what he calls working relationships with the Taliban carissa.

Help Me Understand how you engaged with them for a couple of years now.

I did a story in the north of the country in January of 2019 which entailed spending time territoria getting permission from them credit for which I think sad sort of touches on their is that there was a process and when you did have a guarantee protection and you did have the sign off from the Taliban you could be reasonably secure knowing that you weren't at risk at least have been kidnapped on trip and that you would be given axe.

What you had been promised that sell their there wasn't a mechanism for dealing with them and from what were seeing on the ground now that mechanism still exist department that you go to there's paperwork that signed off on the problem the commons now particularly that your dealings with the rank-and-file on the street or not the same as your dealings with the sort of Upper echelons of the Taliban in the Presidential Palace and it can be very difficult no matter how much you want that piece of paper in front of someone on the street that you do have a legitimate right to be there and doing your job as a reporter experience of dealing with the Taliban there more professional than some of the people that we used to do with but I also would say that they have double standards so for international media.

People like Clarissa with a huge fat woman audience and Dad where the funding is coming from abroad there isn't much more polished.

I guess interaction but for local staff like in the people and it allows rose, who don't have international funding of huge platforms behind them.

They do have some somehow but the treatment has been horrendous.

We saw that all of their journalists were badly beaten and the same with Ariana news.

It's businessman.

This were treated in some of the most inhumane ways, so I think the Taliban or intelligent and clever in knowing that we need to polish out a message to the international medium.

We need to give them what they want but crack down on a local staff people who have no other way of protecting themselves and then.

Escaping from it and I search Clarissa is there a risk that foreign journalists such as yourself or being played by the Taliban there's always being played.

It's just that you have to go into it with your eyes open and you have to know that the way I'm treated as Sunnah rightly points out is not the way another journalist particularly a local journalist might be treated so when you're looking at the sort of professionalism or the savvy of the Taliban you have to understand it in in it's proper context and that it is largely transactional.

So then they're hoping to get out of that and the veneer of them.

What we've seen is pretty thin right because on the one hand It's All About You Were protecting the right.

It's a people to protest and people to carry out their jobs as firing at protesters the beading journalist, so they just cause you're talking and if you don't walk the Walk were going to cover that would help me understand you.

Stations on these issues Clarissa you were part of the first international team in to Myanmar in February after the military.

Coup there that would have only been possible with the military's acquiescence.

What are your calculations when you're deciding to work to some degree with people like the military in the Alma or the Taliban we are putting this position all the time whether it's North Korea Syria with the Assad regime were you're giving access to a country by a repressive regime and your job when you that access is to make sure that you tell the story to the absolute best of your ability and that you go even further in ensuring that you hold people's feet to the fire because that privilege that's on at talked about can occasionally be used for good as well because in Myanmar for example were local mi amor journalist for doing it straordinari work from a secure.

It was impossible for them to look at top general in the eye and confronted with evidence of children being killed by his own forces got a privilege that as a foreigner because I'm allowed to leave the country at the end of it and I don't run the risk of being sent to prison in the same way.

I would still say that based on our experience of the airport with the Taliban though, it's much more of a fluid situation and even is a foreigner if you get the wrong person on the wrong day that situation can very quickly become very dangerous issue detailing how the Lynn deals with the Taliban Song of your help us understand how BBC World Service interact with the Taliban letter from another person who deals with in the BBC news correspondent secunder kermani.

He's covered the van tokova as the story unfolded and is currently in the city of mazar-e-sharif in northern Afghanistan I told him we were discussing these issues and it can be recorded this for the media show.

There's definitely a privilege that comes from being an international journalist in Afghanistan we seen unfortunately at times local I've got and reporters being beaten tortured by the Taliban just for that.

That's not something that at least so far.

We've seen happened with the foreign Media one.

I think because that I know they would be even more negative publicity around that also is simply aren't reporting at the same frequency in the same level of detail is local Afghan journalist, of course there are still challenges that we Face times.

You've had confrontations with Taliban Fighters wanted us to stop filming demonstrations or at the airport when they were killed it seems there but on the whole I have to say they've been really very co-operative with us and really very friendly that's probably a mixture of being on an individual level something of a normal T2 most.

I love on Fighters as foreigners.

Also because centrally the group is wanting to project a very particular more.

To the rest of the world in the most important thing, I try and remember in in our reporting here is the importance of Newent so when were talking for example about the games that would be made over the past 20-years in fields such as women's education well.

We should also remember to talk about the rampant corruption over those past decades as we talked about the understandable and a legitimate fears many people in cities have about the future.

We also talked about some of the the hopes that those living in more rural areas have after having years and years of violence.

It's now come to an end.

It's BBC news correspondent secunder kermani in mazar-e-sharif and we could pick up on second final point there.

Do you think there's a risk that the Western media and indeed Afghan media in accurately portray Afghanistan by focusing too much on the capital.

Is absolutely that risk and we have seen it in the last 20 years, so he is I'm sorry use as well as days since the Taliban have taken over the capsule and because the phone has been on the airport initially and then it went to the rest of Kabul in the banks, but actually at that time and during that time of the summary executions take place.

I am getting videos videos of men being shot on the spot from different parts of the country and none of that has been reported by the international media and I don't know why maybe it maybe they just talked about the privilege and responsibility in international media.

I think not to use the privilege to really power to account.

They could have used this this this time and reported on the horrific crimes that are happening in the rest of the country Inn l.i.

Can mention Callaghan Eurostar

Barbie and the video so horrific I watched one.

I couldn't sleep.

So there is a risk and also to the international audiences presented very inaccurate the country about the history of the war who is involved and is now in charge and everything else to 1 challenges to make sure the coverage is accurate is comprehensive the whole country the other challenges does it just make sure that the coverage is being carried on that subject let's bring another person to our discussion Alex Shepherd is a staff writer with new Republic magazine play this on the media show and Alex is it reasonable to say that us Media is already starting to move away from the story and it's certainly correct myopia in American media that Focuses so intently on partisan and particularly on electoral politics that the story was almost instantaneously that into this.

In which it became a story about Republicans and Democrats disagreeing about what was happening you almost immediately had this sense that so 20 year 20 years of context in Afghanistan set to the site focusing on immediately with the chaos of the airport in the problem with that framing is that we have a story of bipolar person failure the press loves to cover a bipartisan 6s.

Still a bit when the Democrats come together and sinker you know maybe or maybe not passing interest rate ability really struggle to cover bipartisan failure and I think in Afghanistan what you what was the story that was endemic of that other particular problem, but also that showed I think a larger bias.

There is a tremendous and very important humanitarian.

Story is happening in Afghanistan covering that instead with the story about that quickly became more about Joe Biden riding then it was about the impact of American American

20-years agree with that critique everything I would say when I was supporting was then kind of shoehorned into someone's political murder or appropriated by one side of the other and it was like Chris Awards first awarded was whatever it was and none of it had any bearing on reality and all of it frankly was a distraction from the real store in my mind which was what the Afghan people were going through and what they were experiencing and what America's role was in that and what Americans responsibility wasn't that and so it is frustrating as a journalist when you see both sides politically trying to weaponize these issues that ultimately support attention from with the real Focus should be but it's not just about.

Politics making it about both sides, but also decisions being taken by editors who perhaps think it's easier to make content that's popular if it's seen through the prism of domestic politics been through the experiences of afghans.

I think it depends where you work.

I mean obviously if you're working at one of the big three networks in the US and you have a half hour Evening News show your a lot in how much tax you can get into 24-hours a day and I was doing live shots for morning.

So that would sometimes Go 8 minutes were you're able to have a more expensive conversation, but there's no question that there's a trickle that of course there is another certain areas that are more interesting to Americans and obviously get the most attention analysis that you offer us.

Do you draw that conclusion because there are structural problems within how American news work.

Do you think it's particular to this story? I think there is structural prancing.

It's it is pretty cure this problem was glaring example of it in part because he's been going on and also the Assumption has been that Americans either don't care about Afghanistan or assume that the war with the occupation of that medicine is not going well to begin with two things that I've written about before they think they related when is that there is a biased towards when I call new news, so essentially the story in Afghanistan is much bigger than the chaos at the airport that airport the case of your purchase directly related for instance 20-years of endemic corruption in the Afghani government.

It's tied to the effect of American Air strikes, but we got we didn't get much of that because we had all these images of the reports that the distinction between episodic and semantic covered shooting people like Clarissa to exceptional job showing us what's actually happening on the ground.

Does what does an always happen is that is that because the matter coverage so instead we get a narrow focus on what's happening immediately but there are too few people ever again the American media for willing even able to talk about things in a much broader context and if those are some of the challenges for us Media is it covers Afghanistan Sunday suffer from BBC past you? Let's look at it from the other side when you tell the story of Afghanistan to afghans.

How do they see this story in domestic terms or in terms of a failed Western intervention over the last 20-years very hard to judge, but we get also differences and so some serious as a completely other coverages it shows a Western failure and another side who see it as an Afghan there is no one way in that we probably have the hardest job because only audiences or

The critics and designs of very difficult to operate for anybody especially somebody like a public broadcasters like community stories because at the moment if you look at what's happening in pension and we're getting fighting the Taliban or being against the pain theories linguistic and sectarian very hard for us and in fact all of our guests.

Thank you very much indeed.

We're going to have to leave it there many thanks to all of you hearing from Teresa Ward chief international correspondent for CNN Sana Safi presenter of BBC Pashto Alex Sheppard staff writer at the new Republic sadness any the CEO of Moby group, which owns told and S Kilmarnock the BBC news correspondent the media show will be back at the same time next week.

You can also subscribe to our podcast as well, but for now from me and the

thanks very much indeed for listening and goodbye.

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