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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Shades of Gray: What we, the journalistic community, want

“I am convinced that the killing and the maiming must stop,” Sirajuddin Haqqani writes in an opinion piece published by the New York Times. 

At face value, it’s an unproblematic statement, one upon which, barring a small handful of people, the general population would likely universally agree, in any context. Ironically, when compared alongside the brutality of Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and others, Sirajuddin Haqqani would be a member of that grouping.

Directly below his byline, the Times refers to Haqqani as the “deputy leader of the Taliban.” While the association itself is arguably sufficiently deplorable, Haqqani is, in fact, so much more than that. 

According to the FBI, Haqqani is a “specially designated global terrorist,” and for information on whom the U.S. Department of State is offering a reward up to $5 million — a terrorist bounty exceeded by few including al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri

Haqqani is wanted in connection with several attacks and kidnappings — including that of a New York Times journalist. He is the current leader of the Haqqani network responsible for unspeakable acts of violence. All of which would have been good to know whilst reading such lines as his promise for a “new, inclusive political system,” in which the rights of women would be guaranteed, “from the right to education to the right to work.” 

These are lofty claims from a man who heads the very organization that, just seven years ago, was responsible for the execution-style attempt on global activist and then-teenager Malala Yousafzai. The very same organization that, in the heyday of its extraordinarily brutal regime, indiscriminately massacred civilians, denied women nearly all their human rights — namely that of education, stoned women for perceived violations of Sharia law and ran networks of human trafficking, amongst countless other atrocities. Despite being removed from power in 2001, however, the Taliban’s brutality has not ceased — public stonings of women have been reported as recently as 2015. In a statement to Reuters, an Afghan presidential palace spokesman expressed his disappointment that the New York Times “has given their platform to an individual who is on a designated terrorist list.” 

I concur. It is saddening, upsetting, and nothing short of despicable the way that the New York Times has shown complete contempt for journalistic ethics in pursuit of a good scoop. While it is undoubtedly not only a journalist’s responsibility, but their obligation, to report on all sides of an issue — which could and should have been accomplished through an interview — allowing a global terrorist at the forefront of one of the most brutal organizations in history a platform as reputable and widely-read as the New York Times not only gives legitimacy to Haqqani’s empty and baseless promises of peace, but is also enormous affront to the countless American soldiers and Afghani civilians who have suffered indescribably at the hands of the Taliban. 

The New York Times has a responsibility and an obligation to apologize to their readership and the entire journalistic community, and going forward, to recommit to responsible journalistic practices.

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