Sunday, April 1, 2012

US Soldier’s Sacrifice in Afghanistan, and Pakistani media’s silence

Ernest Dempsey — Two days ago, the news of a US soldier saving the life of an Afghan child at the cost of his own made news in all major media sources. The soldier named Dennis Weichel was 29 and stationed in Laghman province. Over a week ago, he rushed to pick a girl and move her out of the way of an army vehicle that could have crushed her to death. In this attempt at saving the child’s life, Weichel was hit by the vehicle while the girl was saved by his heroic move. Weichel succumbed to the wounds sustained in the line of duty as a true soldier – one who saves innocent lives.

After the recent incident of a US soldier’s shocking killings of Afghan civilians in the war-torn country, the public outrage was given voice in an equally spirited fashion in most media sources, including Pakistani media. Hardly any newspaper or channel missed presenting the news, often repeatedly with comments. Yet, the heart-winning altruistic act of Dennis Weichel has been so shamelessly ignored in Pakistani media that its absence seems to tell more about the selectivity of reporting by these sources. But then we know how very selective they have been in the past about what to give voice and why. Ignoring the confession of a Muslim man in the Koran desecration case that resulted in a horrific incident of violence against Christians, ignoring the Muslim fundamentalists’ call to ban bible, and misrepresenting the case of dismissal of Muslim drivers in the US—all these cases, and many more, tell what a biased media does in making opinions, or strengthening prejudices and fueling hatred—to be more precise.

Electronic media in Pakistan is ravenously vocal when it comes to slamming any action of the American or NATO forces hurting a civilian in Afghanistan. However, for all heroic actions of the American or western forces in the same area, this is just the opposite—complete silence. Of course, a very meaningful silence here, for the self-interested media sources do ‘good’ job in filling colors in the pictures the fundamentalist networks drawn for the masses. And this has been so for decades. How then can they dare contradict their own agenda by showing the flip side of the coin? This tells a lot about what scale of attraction the media is on toward positive, factual reporting.

From a humanist viewpoint, Dennis Weichel truly is a martyr; for if he isn’t called that, then there never was a martyr in human history. We have heard calls for apologies on the highest political level on incidents of killings of civilians by US troops. Now is the time when Dennis Weichel should be honored as a martyr by these very heads of state and fundamentalist drama queens who pose as defenders of humanity. Likewise, now is the time for all bigoted media to open their eyes (if there are any left) and take the professional demand and moral courage to tell the stories of real heroes—heroes like Dennis Weichel. He is not one who makes a nation or a family proud, but the universal human spirit in its pure and uncorrupted state.