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User Name: Noman
Full Name: Noman Zafar
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Voice of Taliban on VOA being probed

* Republican says US taxpayers worried over Voice of America being used as Taliban propaganda channel

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Complaints that the US government�s Voice of America (VOA) interviewed a top Taliban leader in Pakistan have sparked an investigation into VOA�s Pashto language service to determine if it had allowed itself to become a platform for terrorist propaganda, the Washington Times (WT) said.

In a letter obtained by paper, 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 paper said.

Worries: �The probe was spurred by concerns first raised by Rep Mark Steven Kirk, an Illinois Republican who in the past had championed the Pashto-language service known as Deewa Radio. 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 WT said.

�The US taxpayer should not be subsidizing free airtime for Al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban leaders,� Kirk said in a May 5 letter to Geisel. �These broadcasts put the lives of American soldiers in danger and undermine the policies of the United States in Pakistan and Afghanistan,� the letter had said, WT reported.

VOA Director Danforth Austin 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 told The Times that the Taliban had threatened the families of his reporters and broadcasters and declared Deewa Radio �haram� � forbidden by Islamic law, it said..

Nonetheless, the station at times has inadvertently served as an outlet for the Taliban to advance its military strategy by misleading Pakistani authorities.

�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,� the paper said.

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 akin 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.

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