WASHINGTON – Two out of three Pakistani journalists view United States drone strikes in the region as acts of terrorism, according to a new study conducted by Washington State University and Pakistan’s Lahore University of Management Sciences.
Only 27 percent of Pakistani journalists said the US drone attacks did not constitute acts of terrorism. Six percent did not know. The study surveyed 395 Pakistani journalists and was supported by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
That said, about one in five also didn’t view the Mumbai attacks of 2008, or the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl, as acts of terrorism.
The figures still underscore the public relations debacle facing President Barack Obama as his administration oversees a continuing drone program in western Pakistan, in an effort to wipe out Islamic extremists spilling over to the eastern side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
The unmanned drone strikes in the region began under the Bush administration and have continued unabated under the Obama administration. The volume and frequency of the attacks has intensified in recent years, according to collected reports.
Northwestern Pakistan is believed to be a hotbed for activity among Islamic extremist groups.
Although US officials say the drone attacks have killed high-ranking members of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, Pakistani and international media have reported that innocent civilians are also dying in the process.
Three-quarters of the Pakistani journalists viewed the American people are favorably, but a whopping 77 of them had a negative view of US foreign policy.
“Indeed, as the United States broadens its effort to win the hearts and minds of Muslims, it would do well to look into the heads of the journalists who shape opinions in those societies,” wrote Lawrence Pintak of Washington State University and Syed Javed Nazir of Lahore University in the New York Times.