- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2011

PAKISTAN OUTRAGE

The Pakistani press denounced U.S. AmbassadorCameron Munterfor “meddling” in the country’s domestic affairs, but a media watchdog noted that the reports deliberately distorted his recent remarks about the need for Washington to monitor aid to a country widely noted for official corruption.

In venomous headlines, newspapers screamed about the ambassador justifying the U.S. right to track how more than $3 billion in American aid is spent.

Both the News and the Nation, two of Pakistan’s largest newspapers, reported that Mr. Munter claimed a “right to interfere” in the country’s domestic affairs because the United States is the largest donor to the South Asian nation.

A headline in another newspaper, Dawn, blared: “Munter’s blunt talk: We pay, so we intrude.”

However, Pakistan Media Watch criticized the news coverage for misrepresenting the ambassador’s message delivered last week to a think tank, the Islamabad Program in Global Studies.

Media Watch said the “news media [have] jumped on an opportunity to twist the words of an American diplomat to promote the belief that the U.S. is duplicitous in its support for Pakistan.”

In his speech, Mr. Munter explained that the United States is both “demanding and respectful” in its disbursement of foreign aid.

“But I would add that we make every effort to do so with full respect for and understanding of Pakistan’s traditions, culture and legal and constitutional history,” he said.

“If we seem intrusive, it is because we care. We are Pakistan’s largest donor. Our aid comes as an outright grant of assistance, which is very different from offering loans that must be repaid. Therefore, we need to be sure that the American taxpayers sees that any foreign government, including yours, is making good use of its resources and responding effectively to its citizens needs in a transparent and accountable manner.”

Media Watch added that the Pakistani press should praise Mr. Munter, rather than criticize him.

“As is clear to anyone who will read the full speech, Ambassador Munter said that the U.S. wants to be certain that Pakistan ‘is making good use of its resources and responding effectively to its citizens needs in a transparent and accountable manner,’ ” the media monitor said.

“Again, with the constant refrain from [the Pakistani press] that a culture of corruption in government is ruining the country, you would think these media groups would be cheering for Ambassador Munter’s call for transparency and accountability.”

ICELAND UPSET

The WikiLeaks affair put a chill in relations between the United States and Iceland this week.

Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson summonedU.S. Ambassador Luis Arreaga to complain about that a U.S. federal court is seeking details of a Twitter account of a member of Iceland’s parliament.

“Our ambassador was called in. The government of Iceland expressed its concerns,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington on Monday. “We took the opportunity to underscore how seriously the U.S. government takes the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and the harm it has caused.”

The court upheld a Justice Department demand for Twitter to provide information about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who released more than 200,000 classified diplomatic cables. The Justice Department subpoena included the accounts of Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland’s parliament and a former WikiLeaks volunteer.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.