Have the media misplaced their spectacles?

It just seems to go from bad to worse in the news these days, particularly when it comes to the War on Terror. From the latest deaths on the front line seized upon by the red tops and scrutinised (to the extent that a private letter from the Prime Minister to a grieving widow became front page news for several days) to the corruption allegations against the Afghan President that the US and Britain are actively supporting, bad news is being constantly flaunted to the public. And whenever the press tires of constantly covering the Afghan struggle, there is always yet another negative story concerning Iraq to splash over the news. No wonder that, as a nation, we’ve become more than a little disenchanted with the behemoth that the war on terror seems to have become.

That is not to say that none of this should be reported; on the contrary, it is vital that the public is aware of what is happening. But it has to be said that the articles are overwhelmingly negative – are we actually doing anything good out there, or should we really just bring our troops home and be done with the entire affair?

The truth is that there are, believe it or not, some positive stories that come out of our occupation of the troubled nation. Reuters recently published an article detailing the efforts of Helmand’s Provisional Reconstruction Team, which is spending £190 million in improving Helmand Province’s infrastructure. Their current projects include a new road link between the cities of Lashkar Gah and Gereskh, returning the hydroelectric plant at Gereskh to a fully working condition, and continued efforts to make it more viable for Afghan farmers to forsake the contentious poppy crops in favour of other, less problematic produce.

On a more military front, The Independent recently told the story of Cpl. Danny, a sniper who managed to drive away a Taliban attack on his patrol with a single bullet. Unable to locate the men firing, but able to see an unarmed man apparently directing the attack, he placed a bullet at the man’s feet. The attack retreated, leaving the British soldiers unharmed without killing someone who could potentially have been an innocent.

Furthermore, it seems that in this country dominated by men for so long, women are finally gaining some recognition. The popular television programme ‘Afghan Star’ – essentially an Afghan version of shows such as the ‘X Factor’ – has had a female finalist for the first time. This was, to be fair, a highly controversial event for Afghanistan society, but could nevertheless prove a stepping stone to a society where women have equal rights and opportunities.

It may seem odd that these news stories have received such little coverage, but is hardly surprising as the media seems to find it almost impossible to admit any fault in its coverage of current affairs. One case in point is the general consensus among the media to decry the ‘surge’ in Iraq – only to become a lot more quiet once it became obvious that the surge was having a positive effect on the area intended. This seems a rather petty way to go about informing the general public and begs the question as to whether newspapers are more interested in printing the truth or pandering to popular opinion. It’s not so much a case of lacking rose-tinted spectacles as perhaps not having a proper focus on what is actually happening. A perfect example of this is the EDL march in Nottingham where most papers, presumably having mentally written their articles long before the actual event, failed to report the day’s events with much accuracy. Luckily, Impact writers were on hand to correct them on this oversight.

It cannot be said that the war in Afghanistan is a cause to be accepted without question, or that everything we are doing out there is of benefit to us, the Afghans, and the wider community. That said, we should not just focus on the negative, no matter how many papers such stories sell. It is about time that the press took some responsibility over this issue and tried to look at what we are actually achieving. Who knows? They might even be surprised with what they find, even if it is only a glimmer of hope. It is probably more than many would have had otherwise.

Ben McCabe


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