The Listening Post

Afghanistan’s propaganda war

After the recent series of ‘PR disasters’, are the Americans losing their battle for hearts and minds in Afghanistan?

For years the US army has been talking about winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan but it appears to be fighting a losing battle.

On March 11, one US soldier went on a shooting rampage claiming the lives of 16 Afghan civilians – nine of them children. It was just the latest in a series of PR disasters for the coalition. Last month a group of US soldiers caused outrage in the country when they accidentally – or so they say – burnt the Holy Quran. Before that, video surfaced of coalition snipers urinating on the dead bodies of alleged Taliban fighters.

While the Obama administration shifted back into damage control mode, the story was also picked up by the now vibrant Afghani media landscape whose various media outlets, including the Taliban’s media machine, all had a different tale to tell.

Our News Divide this week looks at the propaganda war in Afghanistan and how the big threat the coalition forces face in the battle for hearts and minds could come from within.

In this week’s News Bytes: Syrian authorities warn the international media not to enter the country illegally; Turkey releases four journalists who have been held for more than a year on terrorism charges; Spain frees Al Jazeera correspondent Tayseer Allouni after six and a half years of captivity; and leading German tabloid, Bild, decides to stop publishing naked women on its front cover.

Ecuador: Press vs president

We have been following a media story in Ecuador at a distance for more than a year, but the stand-off between Rafael Correa, the country’s president, and the right-wing media has reached fever pitch.

Correa recently took the owners of the El Universo newspaper to court for libel and fought a case against two authors who had written a book exposing a corruption scandal involving his brother. He won the cases but issued a pardon amidst a flurry of international criticism.

The developments are part of a wider debate in Ecuador about what critics see as the president’s assault on press freedom – and what the president pitches as an epic fight against the tyranny of the right-wing media.

In this week’s feature, the Listening Post‘s Marcela Pizarro looks at the stand-off between the president and the media in Ecuador.

Anyone monitoring the viral video chart this month will be aware of the video produced by the Invisible Children charity. The video was made to raise awareness of a wanted Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony, and went viral within a matter of days – but as the hits grew so did the criticisms. Our Internet video of the week has been produced by a US-based NGO named Mama Hope and is part of a trend – NGOs working in Africa and using social media to change people’s perceptions of the continent. 


Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

Click here for more on Listening Post.