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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The curse of yellow journalism in Pakistan

News Desk |

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court (SC) to probe into Dr. Shahid Masood’s allegations regarding the rape and murder case of 6 year old Zainab Ansari has submitted its report to the SC on Thursday. The report has declared all the allegations of Shahid Masood false and baseless.

Zainab was abducted on 3rd January from near her house in Kasur. Later on 9th January, her raped and abused dead body was found in a trash heap. The main accused, Imran Ali, was caught through DNA tests. He was later found to have been involved in attacks on at least seven other children, five of whom were murdered. Imran was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore on 17th February.

Read more: Dr. Shahid Masood’s claims about Zainab’s murderer prove false

On 24th January, senior anchorperson Dr. Shahid Masood in his program on channel ‘News One’ alleged that the culprit in Zainab’s murder case held 37 foreign accounts and was part of an international pornography ring. Masood also alleged that the pornographic organization had links with a senior Punjab minister. The Supreme Court also took a suo moto notice of the case and summoned Dr. Shahid on the next day and asked him to provide evidence of his claims.

Masood’s claim that Imran Ali held 37 foreign accounts was debunked by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on 26th January. The SBP sent Imran’s CNIC to all commercial banks but couldn’t find any accounts in his name. The JIT report debunked the remaining claims of Masood. It clarified that Masood didn’t provide the name of any Punjab minister to the SC and couldn’t prove Imran’s links with any political party or pornographic ring.

Masood is expected to face severe punishment by the SC now that his allegations have proven to be false.

The report further stated that there was no evidence of Imran holding any foreign accounts and he was a poor man. The JIT also failed to find any evidence that Imran had accessed the dark web to sell child pornography. Masood had also claimed that some influential people will try to prove that Imran was a mental patient or try to get him killed during custody but no proof was found for either of the claims.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar had warned Masood that he will face dire consequences if his claims turn out to be false. Masood is expected to face severe punishment by the SC now that his allegations have proven to be false. After the SBP’s statement, Masood had taken a U-turn and told the media that journalists often report false news and if he had done so, it was not a big deal.

Read more: Shahid Masood summoned by SC after revealing Zainab culprit has foreign…

Media circles had severely condemned Masood for his false accusations in a very sensitive case. He tried to give a political color to the whole Zainab murder issue and aggravated the feelings of the public, especially that of the family of the victim. Some media reports speculated that Masood was fed this information from some background forces who wanted to topple the government of PML-N in Punjab.

Many political experts claim that media is the fourth pillar of state since media has the power to make and break opinions. National narrative is also shaped through the media and with the advent of private news channels, the flow of knowledge is in control of the people rather than the state. It is the responsibility of the media to report objectively without any bias and refrain from mudslinging at political parties. Their responsibility is to report the facts and inform the masses.

Read more: Zainab case highlights Punjab police incompetence

The whole Shahid Masood saga has greatly tarnished the repute of media organizations and added weight to the speculations that certain media houses are owned by certain groups. Media experts believe that the Shahid Masood scandal has greatly hurt the cause of free and fair journalism in Pakistan and the SC might impose some level of censorship on the media for this act which would affect the reporting of all cases in the future.