== Sent: 21 June 2010 10:44 PM To: Alistair.Burnett@bbc.co.uk; Subject: TWT's partial framing on Afghanistan
Dear Alistair Burnett,
The framing of your discussion tonight on Afghanistan was ideological, and not at all impartial.* The concept of "progress" in Afghanistan obscures the reality: that the West is not there to protect us, despite all the self-serving military and political claims, but for its own strategic and economic interests. This is all well documented and there are informed speakers you could have interviewed. Why does The World Tonight seemingly ignore or marginalise such rational perspectives?
As the Canada-based Russian journalist Nikolai Lanine has pointed out, such media performance as yours echoes the Soviet media's coverage thirty years ago of the Soviet invasion-occupation of Afghanistan:
The invasion was also portrayed as an act of self-defence to prevent a “neighboring country with a shared Soviet-Afghan border... [from turning] into a bridgehead for... [Western] aggression against the Soviet state”. (Izvestiya, January 1, 1980) Soviet intervention was also a response to unprovoked violence by Islamic fundamentalists (described as “freedom fighters“ in the West), who, it was claimed, planned to export their fundamentalist struggle across the region “’under the green banner of Jihad’, to the territory of the Soviet Central-Asian republics”. (Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, p.45) The Soviet public were told they faced a stark choice: either fight the menace abroad, or do nothing and later face a much greater threat on home soil that would, geopolitically, “put the USSR in a very difficult situation”. (Sovetskaya Rossia [Soviet Russia], February 11, 1993)
This theme was endlessly stressed by the Soviet media system - Soviet forces were “not only defending Afghan villages. They keep the peace on the borders of [our] homeland”. (Pravda, April 2, 1987) The goal was "peace and security in the region, and also the security of the southern border of the USSR". (Mezhdunarodnyi Ezhegodnik, 1981, p.224) The unquestioned assumption was that Soviet forces had no option but to act “pre-emptively” in “self-defence”. See:
From: email@example.com Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2010 14:30:19 +0100 To: David Cromwell Subject: BBC Complaints
Dear Mr Cromwell,
Thank you for your email to The World Tonight’s Editor which he has forwarded to me. For future reference, if you would like replies in future you need to send any complaints via the webform at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints . The BBC has gone to some trouble to establish procedures that will enable us to be as responsive as possible to complaints from the public at the same time as exercising due regard to the need to use licence fee payers' money efficiently. For this reason, we prefer complaints to be processed and logged centrally and staff, such as Mr Burnett are contacted for the responses as necessary.
You raise a number of points which I have discussed with Mr Burnett. The World Tonight, as a daily news programme, does not approach the news through an ideological framework. What it does is consider the day’s news stories and the issues and questions they raise and decide whether they merit inclusion in the programme. The programme also has to take into consideration its brief which is either to cover stories not covered elsewhere on Radio 4, or ask questions that have not already been asked on The World Tonight's sister programmes, Today, The World at One and PM.
On Monday, the main story of the day was the announcement of the 300th British death since the beginning of the international military intervention in Afghanistan. The programme decided to ask a basic question, namely, how valid is the government's justification for the intervention?
The programme had clips of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the senior British officer in Afghanistan, General Parker, saying why the armed forces are there and responding to the question as to whether the mission is worth the deaths.
This was followed by an interview with the Washington Post correspondent, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who had just been in Marjah and said that the highly publicised offensive there had not been a success despite what the Nato forces had said earlier this year. In this interview, he said a key element of the strategy is that the Afghans in an area need to want to be protected by the international forces and that they were not saying this to him.
Given that British policy in Afghanistan is dependent largely on what the United States decides to do, the programme then discussed the implications of this with two American analysts who were selected because they are familiar with both Afghanistan and policy making process in Washington, Malou Innocent and Bruce Reidel.
The presenter, Ritula Shah, asked them whether the stated strategy is working and also asked them whether the stated objective of the mission of preventing terrorist attacks in the UK and US can be effective. The analysts disagreed on this. Ms Innocent described the stated objective as a 'specious argument' while Mr Reidel was more supportive.
The programme was seeking to achieve impartiality by having a variety of viewpoints and also asked a fundamental question about western governments' justification for having military forces in Afghanistan.
If you are a regular listener to The World Tonight, you will know that the programme seeks to reflect a wide variety of views and viewpoints from around the world on a range of issues in international affairs, and this applies as much to Afghanistan as any other story.
I hope that helps to address the points you raise.