Lahore, June 14 (ANI): The US Government mouthpiece Voice of America has come under the scanner for allegedly providing a platform for Taliban propaganda, as its Pashto language service is being asked to explain VOA's interview with Baitullah Mehsud in Pakistan.
According to papers obtained by the Washington Times, US State Department's Acting Inspector General, Harold Geisel, said his office would conduct a review "to determine the effectiveness of their broadcast and editorial practices and policies".
"The probe was spurred by concerns first raised by Mark Steven Kirk, an Illinois Republican. Kirk said he became concerned that American taxpayers were providing the Taliban a megaphone after he learned that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud had been interviewed by the service - and claimed responsibility for terrorist bombings in the Pakistani city of Lahore in March," the Daily Times quoted the paper, as saying.
"The US taxpayer should not be subsidizing free airtime for Al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban leaders. These broadcasts put the lives of American soldiers in danger and undermine the policies of the US in Pakistan and Afghanistan," Kirk said in a letter to Geisel.
VOA Director Danforth Austin, however, said Deewa Radio had only sought to report news in a way that was credible to listeners from the same ethnic Pashtun group as the Taliban.
He claimed that the Taliban had threatened the families of his reporters and broadcasters and declared Deewa Radio "haram" - forbidden by Islamic law.
Nonetheless, the station at times has inadvertently served as an outlet for the Taliban to advance its military strategy by misleading Pakistani authorities, the paper said.
"For example, a Taliban spokesman told the VOA service in an April 24 interview that they were withdrawing from Buner when they did not do so," it claimed.
The investigation of VOA's Pashto service is another example of the long-standing tension about the role of American-funded broadcasting.
The VOA staff considers the operation parallel to BBC and other Western news outlets, Austin said. Hence, the correspondents from time to time interview Taliban leaders in the process of covering news from the NWFP and Pashtun areas in the neighboring Afghanistan. (ANI)