Indian journalists condemn misinformation about Karachi ‘civil war’ 

There was an explosion caused by a gas leak in Karachi, but there were no clashes between troops and police. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 October 2020

Indian journalists condemn misinformation about Karachi ‘civil war’ 

  • Indian media and social networking sites reported that clashes took place between the police and army, resulting in the death of several officers
  • Ties between Pakistan and India have been particularly tense since August last year, when New Delhi revoked the special autonomy of the disputed Kashmir region it governs

NEW DELHI: Indian journalists have condemned a “garbage fake news” wave from media outlets that published fake reports about a “civil war-like” situation in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

Outlets including News18, India Today and Zee News reported unrest in Pakistan’s biggest city in the wake of opposition protests. Many Indians also went on social media to spread the reports.

The misinformation came a day after an inquiry was ordered by the Pakistani army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, into the circumstances surrounding the police arrest of opposition leader Mohammad Safdar in Karachi. 

Indian media and social networking sites, however, reported that clashes took place between the police and army, resulting in the death of several officers.

“It is not a fake news, it is garbage fake news because there is certainly a problem in Pakistan but to exaggerate it to the point of falsification is the height of irresponsibility," Mumbai-based activist and columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni told Arab News.

“The Indian media wants to create an impression that Pakistan has become very unstable and chaotic with some fake news and some fake photographs. On the one hand, we call ourselves the world’s largest democracy, but it’s a democracy that feeds on the hatred for its neighbor. It reflects poorly on the Indian media and India as a nation. I strongly condemn it.”

Senior Indian journalists admitted to being confused about how such a hoax could take place and why.

“I am not sure how the Indian media spreading fake news about the happenings in Pakistan would help the Indian government,” Sanjay Kapoor, editor of the English-language publication Hard News, said.

“I am not sure India would benefit from this. Pandering to fake news reflects on all media, wherever they are located. It shows poorly on their professionalism. At the time of tension, truth is the casualty on both sides. Editors should be mindful everywhere that they do not succumb to propaganda. The media should do its job — reporting the truth and speaking truth to power.”

Ties between Pakistan and India have been particularly tense since August last year, when New Delhi revoked the special autonomy of the disputed Kashmir region it governs.

The Muslim-majority territory has been a source of hostility for decades between the two nuclear rivals, with both claiming the region in full but ruling in part.

"When there is a trust deficit, when there is no dialogue, when there is no political outreach, such exaggeration of news is possible,” Jatin Desai from Mumbai-based Pakistan-India Peoples' Forum for Peace and Democracy told Arab News. 

The younger, social media-savvy generation was unsurprised that there were Indians peddling misinformation about Pakistan.

“If you look at the reporting on Pakistan in Indian media you will find that the domestic media is trying to portray the Islamic nation in a very negative way all the time,” University of Delhi student Siddhant Sarang said. “I am not surprised if the Indian media went overboard in its recent report on the political turmoil in Pakistan.”

Arab News contacted some of the news outlets that published the fake reports, but none of them responded.

Related


Hezbollah, Amal loyalists attack journalists covering fire

Updated 26 November 2020

Hezbollah, Amal loyalists attack journalists covering fire

  • Sawt Beirut International founder says they will not be deterred from carrying out their work
  • Sawt Beirut International journalists were beaten as they attempted to flee down the stairs, Arab News was told, until they reached the street, where the Lebanese army interfered

LONDON: Sawt Beirut International reporter Rabih Chantaf and cameraman Mahmoud Al-Sayyed were attacked and harassed by Hezbollah and Amal party loyalists on Tuesday while covering a fire in Beirut.

“Sawt Beirut International will be taking additional steps in the coming period to confirm that it will not give up in the face of this terrorist attack carried out by Hezbollah,” Sawt Beirut International founder Jerry Maher told Arab News.

“We are convinced that Hezbollah gave the order to the groups that attacked our crew and this operation was organised.”

In a video depicting the incident, Chantaf is seen reporting from the 11th floor apartment in the Zouqaq Al-Blat district in Beirut where the fire occurred.

A group of firemen can be seen attending to the damage and, soon after, plain-clothed men approached the reporter and cameraman ordering them to stop filming. Voices were later heard struggling until the filming abruptly ended.

Chantaf and Al-Sayyed were beaten as they attempted to flee down the stairs, Arab News was told, until they reached the street, where the Lebanese army interfered.

“One of those terrorists even warned a soldier telling him ‘move away or we will shoot you.’ There was a very high level of incitement,” Maher, who is also the media adviser to Bahaa Hariri, the brother of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.

“This incident pushes us to carry on with this confrontation. We will not back down, we will not give up and we will not allow this corrupt system and those who protect it using illegitimate weapons, namely Hezbollah, to endanger the future of Lebanon and of the Lebanese people through such acts that undermine the security of the Lebanese people,” Maher said.

In a tweet Bahaa later condemning “the cowardly attack on the Sawt Beirut International team in Beirut by supporters of a duo who do not believe in freedom of the press.”

The duo refers to Hezbollah and Amal, the predominantly Shia political parties in the country.

This is not the first time Hezbollah and its allies have harassed journalists in Lebanon. Last month, journalist Luna Safwan was a victim of an online abuse campaign after a tweet she posted criticizing Hezbollah was carried by an Israeli news channel and she was accused of cooperating with Israel.

Lebanon is currently witnessing several crises. Even before the August port explosion that left at least 200 dead, the country was facing an unprecedented economic and financial slump, which the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated.

Saad Hariri was asked to form a government after his predecessor PM Hassan Diab resigned following the explosions, and prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib gave up after struggling to form a cabinet on his terms.