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New media regulatory authority in Pakistan should adopt Chinese plan to stamp out fake news


News Analysis |

Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Mr. Fawad Chaudhry announced government’s plan to abolish Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and Press Council of Pakistan. Both these bodies separately used to monitor the electronic and print media respectively. The government now is planning to bring in a unified regulatory authority which will be supervising the news content on mainstream as well as cyber media.

The on-paper plan was certainly the need of the hour, however, the extent to which the current administration will be able to execute is a matter of time. On the other hand, the Chinese government has decided to actively pursue the rumor-mongers by means of launching an online platform which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and feedback from the users to extinguish the fake news.

Pakistan still has the problem of illiteracy and lack of awareness where millions of people who have a smartphone and fast access of internet, courtesy of 3G/4G, cannot differentiate between a genuine and fake news.

The Platform, Piyao, has a website along with a mobile app which lets the users report something they deem untrue, fabricated or sensationalizing. “Rumors violate individual rights; rumors create social panic; rumors cause fluctuations in the stock markets; rumors impact normal business operations; rumors blatantly attack revolutionary martyrs,” Piyao said in a promotional video of the launch on its website.

The Chinese government is often criticized, generally for the good, valid reason, of the state censorship of news content which reaches the Chinese people. But it also remains a fact that news media, especially at the cyber front, is particularly been used to instigate a sense of emergency all the time which ultimately leads to paranoia on the investors and masses end. Especially for a country like Pakistan, with a fragile security and economic condition at hand, social media, as well as the mainstream media, is flooded with fake news and rumors which ultimately affect the interest of the state.

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Pakistan is in the transition phase of history where the reason and logic have started to prevail in the matters of public interests rather the bigotry and illiteracy. But it is still a beginning of the long road. The technological revolution which has led to the fall of status-quo also has its own drawbacks. Pakistan still has the problem of illiteracy and lack of awareness where millions of people who have a smartphone and fast access of internet, courtesy of 3G/4G, cannot differentiate between a genuine and fake news.

Facebook and YouTube are two most visited websites in Pakistan by masses at large and both of them are stuffed with news which is deliberately orchestrated to sway the public opinion, build a false narrative and create a distrust about an issue of national importance. Unfortunately, the dilemma is not restricted to loosely controlled cyber media, but the mainstream media in Pakistan has been known to fabricate the news which suits there vested interests.

Pakistan as a state is facing multidimensional challenges and the masses must be educated about them through the electronic and other mediums.

For instance, recently during CM Punjab Usman Buzdar’s visit to a government hospital in Mian Channu, certain media houses started to circulate the death news of a minor girl who allegedly died because of CM’s protocol. The news later turned out to be a fake one and the media house did not even bother to apologize for it. As par the Chinese law, the rumor-mongers can be indicted with a seven-year prison looming over their head. And for the cyber medium, if a fake news is clicked up to 6000 internet user, the owner of the website can also be tried in the court of law.

While media has emerged as another important pillar of the democratic state, there is absolutely no debate that in Pakistan it should be subjected to the state scrutiny, like China. However, active regulation of the content which reaches the public is a must particularly in the sense that media is exploited as a substantial tool in the 5th generation warfare doctrine. Pakistan as a state is facing multidimensional challenges and the masses must be educated about them through the electronic and other mediums.

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But at the same time, it is the responsibility of the state that it does not allow the freedom of expression to hurt the national interest and integrity. The new regulatory authority which the current government is mulling over must be equipped to tackle such challenges. The blueprints are readily available in the form of the latest Chinese platform Piyao.

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