The US has bought time on Pakistani television stations to run a series of advertisements in a bid to stem Muslim protests at an amateur anti-Islam film, a US official said on Thursday.
The US State Department has spent US$70,000 to air the ad in Urdu across seven Pakistani TV channels in a bid to dissociate the US government from the inflammatory film, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“After the video came out there was concern in lots of bodies politic, including in Pakistan, whether this represented the views of the US government,” Nuland told journalists.
“So in order to ensure we reached the largest number of Pakistanis, some 90 million as I understand in this case with these spots, it was the judgement that this was the best way to do it,” she added.
The 30-second ad shows clips of US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton taken from their speeches made since violence flared last week in Muslim nations, in which the US ambassador to Libya was killed.
It also includes an image of the US seal “to make clear it’s official,” Nuland said, and a notice that they are paid advertisements.
A senior official later qualified that some Pakistani stations had carried the ad free of charge, while others used it as a paid public service announcement and labeled it as “paid content.”
The aim was “to make sure that the Pakistani people hear the president’s messages and the secretary’s messages,” Nuland said of the adverts, which was produced and edited by the US embassy in Islamabad.
Obama is shown saying: “Since our founding the US has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”
Clinton then says: “Let me state very clearly, the US has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its contents. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.”
Nuland said that such TV adverts have been used in other countries in the past and were also adopted in 2005 in Pakistan in the wake of a huge and devastating earthquake.
However, it was unclear whether the message was getting across on Thursday as thousands of protesters clashed with police close to Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave in chaotic scenes that left at least 50 people injured.
The outrage across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia was triggered by a crudely made movie entitled Innocence of Muslims, which is believed to have been produced by US-based extremist Christians.
Protests have erupted in at least 20 countries leading to the deaths of more than 30 people in violence linked to the film.