Slanted journalism and fake news not only mislead the audience, but also affect society, politics, culture, and the economy of the country. Fabricated information can spread easily in a matter of seconds and can lead to the public forming incorrect collective intelligence. It is estimated that by the end of 2022, the majority of individuals in developed or developing economies will consume more fabricated and slanted information than true and reliable information. According to research conducted by MIT scholars, fake news stories spread more rapidly and are more likely to be shared than true stories. Similarly, research studies have reported a positive relationship between fake news exposure and a decline in mainstream media trust.
Pakistan’s mainstream media has enjoyed unprecedented freedom and liberty since 2000 but without much systematic accountability. Even though media freedom has been under question by hundreds of individual incidents of crackdowns on journalists and reporters. All such incidents have been condemned and discouraged by all sections of society. On the other hand, the unrestricted involvement of media houses and their owners in politics has allegedly resulted in corrupt and ineffective media corporations. The prevailing opinion of media organizations is that they are blackmailers, liars, and are for sale to the highest bidder.
Understanding the matter better
The influence of media coverage on public perceptions and political behavior is well recognized across the world. The political bias of mainstream media not only affects the audience’s views but can alter the results of political and civil crises. GEO and ARY are the two highest-reach news channels in Pakistan. Traditionally, GEO News has supported Pakistan Muslim League (N). Whereas, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) enjoys the back of ARY News.
This state of affairs has not only given birth to fake news but has also made it difficult for the common man to distinguish between truth and falsehood. In recent weeks, however, accusations of bias in political news reporting have intensified. Apart from the organizational and editorial policies of GEO and ARY, the majority of the journalists working under such organizations have become on-air advocates of political parties, and use their online presence to promote political narratives of their favorite political parties.
The function of the media in covering politics is very important, since media organizations have the freedom to gather and disseminate information and data, yet it must be accurate and reliable. Media outlets with biased policies usually change the shape of news content to ensure that more focus is paid to their coverage that glorifies a particular view or ideology. On many occasions, the initial political information provided by the mainstream media is full of disinformation, and most of such news content is not updated for hours. It is well documented that mainstream media can influence the opinions and perspectives of the general public.
Awareness, mindset, and expression of the media organizations deliver certain beliefs, principles, and perspectives. The definition of a political victory and its players, the preservation of high moral ground, and the recommendation for solutions to the political crisis, represent the media’s commitment to the idea of ethical journalism. As a response to the need for better ethical coverage, media organizations should follow the existing ethical rules and implement up-to-date regulations or create new principles on how to handle reporting during a time of political uncertainty.
Muhammad Adnan is a journalist and researcher. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.