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.