Why did Spanish media not go and report from Kabul?
Three weeks ago, the first videos and information out of Kabul about the then rapid Taliban advance towards the Afghan capital were mostly mobile phone videos shared on different social platforms, and tweets. Then correspondents for some of the largest media organisations in the world, Sky News, CNN, the BBC, NBC, turned up to do some proper reporting, at least from the airport on the terrible situation at the gates. The English-speaking world got better images, better information and more context about what was really happening at that point, if not the rest of the country. Spaniards didn't even get that.
There were no Spanish correspondents on the ground in Kabul. No one from the state broadcaster, TVE. No one from La Sexta. Nothing. The only sliver of an exception was El País publishing some texts and photos from a Salvadorean freelancer who was already there and a video from a Chilean journalist who was also already there working on another programme. But from Spain, for TV dispatches to properly inform 47 million Spaniards, or 500 million Spanish speakers, about what the Spanish soldiers and police officers were doing at the airport or on the flights, nothing. Not a single one.
I spoke to the MoD and the Spanish Foreign Office last week about this and the reply was that the government had rejected all media requests to accompany Spanish troops. Worse, when I asked how many requests we were talking about, the reply was "not more than half a dozen", which was reduced to "two or three" who had asked to fly on one of the A400Ms used for the evacuation. Nobody had asked to be able to report from Dubai. Lots had asked to be allowed to go to the Torrejón airbase outside Madrid.
So when the Prime Minister told the nation at his press conference on Friday that "this is a national success, this is a collective success, and that is how we have to experience it", there was no original Spanish reporting from Kabul to contradict him. The Defence Minister, Margarita Robles, went as far as to say on the radio on Monday morning that "millions of Spaniards vibrated with this mission". Vibrated. The official message from the Spanish government on Afghanistan over the past two weeks is smiles, hope, heroes and national success. This is what happens when the media doesn't insist on reporting on reality.
Spain's public broadcaster, RTVE, gets at least 367 million euros a year from the Tax Ministry for providing a "public television and radio service". Some reports make that figure almost a billion euros when other budget items are included. In any case, hundreds of millions or a billion is more than enough to send some reporters and cameramen and producers to Kabul for 10 days like Sky or the BBC or CNN. It's Spain's national TV channel. And why have no big media outlets made a fuss about the MoD's prohibition? Why do Spaniards, and Spanish-speakers everywhere else, not deserve the same quality of original reporting about the situation, and their own troops' actions, as other countries?
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