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Tuesday July 23, 2024

Targeting the messenger

By Editorial Board
November 18, 2022

The term ‘fake news’, as originally understood, was meant to reference deliberately false stories usually pushed by professional trolls to advance their agenda. Starting with Donald Trump, and quickly adopted by other authoritarian leaders around the world, shouting fake news at the media has become a way of dismissing stories that are critical of the powerful. And no one has used this trend better than the PTI – both when in power and now when out of it. The way the party has reacted to Geo’s Shahzeb Khanzada’s interview with Dubai-based businessman Umar Farooq Zahoor shows it has learnt little from its time out of power. Several PTI leaders tweeted out false allegations that Geo News did not air Umar Farooq’s interview on its UK or international beam and that it was deleted from YouTube as well. They did this despite the fact that a simple Google search would have shown that it is available without any editing on YouTube and those who are in the UK would have seen the exact same programme as it was shown in Pakistan because it was not censored.

But the point of such propaganda is hardly the truth, and such allegations on social media are consumed unquestioningly by its followers. As Shahzeb Khanzada has already said, both on air and on social media, if the PTI and its leader wish to debunk the claims made by Umar Farooq, all they need to do is answer the logical questions that arise from this whole episode. However, it seems the previous ruling party had rather go after journalists who are merely doing their job. Ever since its ouster from power, the PTI has been on about freedom of media and freedom of expression but that generosity seems to dwindle when it comes to anything critical of the party and its leader. This is hardly shocking behaviour given the state of press freedom during the years the party was in power.

This is not the first time Jang/Geo have been targeted for doing their job of providing news to the people. But Geo News has always stood by its journalists, and has in fact even raised a voice for some of its most vocal critics. The Fourth Estate is vital in serving as a watchdog on accountability and rulers’ excesses – but how can it do its job when it has to constantly face targeted and manipulated propaganda attacks?