Jihadi outfits running media organs: study
Islamabad- A new genre of Jihadi journalism with its wide range of media products has grown up on Pakistani media landscape with some of the militant organisations bringing out a wide range of publications, a study by a German Non Governmental Organization (NGO) reveals.
The study titled “Mediaeval Mindset, Modern Media: Kabul to Kashmir,” published by Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, discusses the growing culture of hate speech and ponders how media could be instrumental in promoting culture of religious and political tolerance and peace in Pakistan.
Expounding the genre of “Jihadi” journalism in Pakistan, Project Coordinator Zafarullah Khan said in legalistic terms these publications have legitimate declarations issued by competent authorities, a few among them having been certified by Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) that entitles them to get government advertisements.
According to the study, the four renowned Jihadi outfits offer following publications: Lashkar-i-Taiba publishes monthly Voice of Islam (English), monthly Al-Ribat (Arabic), monthly Majallah Al-Daawa (Urdu), monthly Tayyibat (Urdu for women), monthly Zarb-e-Taiba (Urdu for youth and students), weekly Jihad Times (Urdu and Sindhi). The organisation also has a web-based radio, Al-Jihad in Urdu and Arabic at http://www.markazdawa.org.
Harkat-ul-Mujahideenn, the study points out, prints monthly Sada-i-Mujahed and weekly Al-Hilal. These publications are sent complimentary to the families of Shuhada (martyrs).
Jaish-i-Mohammad, the study says, brings out fortnightly Jaish-i-Muhammad (Urdu and English), and monthly Binnat-i-Ayesha (Urdu for women). Jaish also offers electronic newsletter at its website http://www.jaish-e-muhammad.org
Al-Rasheed Trust, ostensibly a charity organization, advocates a Jihadi view of life through daily Islam (Urdu) and weekly Zarb-i-Momin (Urdu/English). The contents of these publications support Taliban, Jaish-i-Mohammad and occasionally Lashkar-i-Taiba, the study said.
Kashmir specific publications making their regular appearance on the news stands include monthly Mahaz-i-Kashmir (Jami’at-ul Mujahedeen Jammu and Kashmir), monthlies, Shahadat (Urdu), The Message (English), and an Arabic monthly (Tehreek-ul- Mujahideen Jammu and Kashmir), fortnightly Jihad-i-Kashmir (Jamaat-i-Islami, Jammu and Kashmir) and monthly Kashmir Digest (Urdu/English) printed in Birmingham, UK, for Kashmiris.
The study says the publishers of these newspapers, weeklies and monthlies often make claim of circulation touching the otherwise known largest ones in the market. Monthly Majallah Al-Daawa (Urdu) claims the highest circulation of 400,000 copies per month. Next comes weekly Zarb-i-Momin with the claim of 250,000 sold copies every week. Weekly Jihad Times recently announced that it’s weekly print order is 200,000 copies. Daily Islam, Karachi/ Islamabad, launched on Sept 18, 2001, after attacks in New York and Washington, claims that its 60,000 copies are sold every day throughout the country. The visitors count at the websites of Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad reveals that on daily average these site are browsed by approximately 500 and 150 persons respectively.
In terms of their contents, the study says, these publications fall in the category of alternative media as they propagate the Jihadi view of life and aspire to sharpen Jihadi identity. According to their own claims these publications employ over 500 journalists, the sole conditionality to be part of their team being to believe in Jihadi worldview.
About emergence of Jihadi journalism, the study says, this genre coincides with Afghan Jihad of 1980s, when wire services like Afghan Islamic Press and later on in 1990s Kashmir Media Service and Kashmir Press International cropped up. With the rise of Taliban to power in Afghanistan these publications got massive boost and became pretty vocal and proactive in favour of what could be described as “Talibanization of mind and soul” in Pakistan.
Analysing the trends, the study says, many Jihadi outfits print magazines and offer services in Arabic on their websites instead of offering any publications in Pushto, Dari, or Kashmiri, which are the local and popular languages of Afghanistan and Kashmir and are the theatres of their main operations. In the wake of global war against terrorism in Afghanistan, Jihadi outfits established about seven FM radio stations in Bajaur Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Examining the political economy of Jihad, the study says, the whole thing sounds like a profitable industry and these media products forcefully market that. Citing examples, the study says, the pictures of women donating their ornaments for the cause with highly emotive captions frequently appear in Jihadi publications. Moreover, these publishing houses can quite conveniently help whiten the black money pouring into the Jihad industry along with attracting much more in the name of donations for the cause. Ostensibly the decision to opt for separate publications in the Arabic language by these outfits also hints at this aspect, the study points out.
Terming the Pakistani publications being reactive, the study says that within the South Asian context the effective publication network of hawkish Hindu organization the RSS has been an inspiration for the Jihadis. “It is worth mentioning that the RSS – mentor of extremist Hindu political party BJP – floated the Bharat Prakashan Trust in 1946 and launched the Organiser in July 1947. Later, the Sangh Parivar started its publications for children, youth, women and general public in various Indian languages. “The Jihadis have imitated the same methodology and could not be regarded as a totally alien trend.
About contents, the study says, many publications carry standard articles like the last will of any martyr, a letter from his mother, sister or wife eulogizing the sacrifice of their dear one. The lists of martyrs published in these newspapers and magazines testify that many non-state actors are busy in Jihad, it says.
Identifying the challenges posing the Musharraf regime, the study says the emergence and rapid rise of Jihadi outfits could be attributed to the “Military-Mulla-Market Alliance” woven in 1979. But after the October 1999 military coup this alliance has broken down, it maintains.