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May 27, 2020

Fact Check: Picture used in media was old but PM was in Nathiagali

National

May 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Many people on social media spent second day of Eid discussing that where Prime Minister Imran Khan has celebrated Eid. A news item run at a TV channel’s website tried to resolve the riddle. “Prime Minister [Imran Khan] was photographed while walking in Nathiagali Monday morning. He is spending the Eid holidays with his family there,” read a tweet at the website. Hyperlink of the story was also attached.

A tweet from PM’s focal person on social media took the debate to another direction leaving many convinced as if the above-mentioned story was fake news. “These are very old pictures from [Nathiagali]. I am shocked to see how media groups [don’t] even do basic fact checking before posting any news,” tweeted Dr. Arsalan Khalid, the focal person. A reading of this tweet suggests that not only the picture was old; the report claiming PM’s presence in Nathiagali was also false. At least, this is how it was interpreted by the readers including the editor of the website under attack of trolls.

Another twitter handle sounded sympathetic to government added, “Will appreciate if this can be cleared with an apology from [TV website] for spreading misinformation as the references to the original photo from May 2017 have been shared,” tweeted Imran Ghazali. Submitting to this criticism, the website ran clarification and deleted the story. This gesture though provided much-needed fodder to the government’s cyber force on twitter, the news refused to die down.

Videos emerged one after another further suggested the PM’s presence at the said resort. The News spoke with residents of the area who said they had been confined to their houses due to VVIP movement. They said tourism business has been shut down due to corona-driven lockdown and no tourist is allowed in the area. The News then spoke to the information minister for reconfirmation and he did that. Even he double-checked before having this confirmed. It was further learnt that a pro-government channel had reported late Saturday that PM would spend Eid holidays with his family in Nathiagali. The News also spoke to Dr. Arsalan. He said he had only pointed out that photo was old he didn’t say PM wasn’t in Nathia Gali. Instead, he said he didn’t know where the PM was. When asked that his tweet was misinterpreted due to misleading content, he repeated his stance that he had neither denied nor confirmed that PM was in Nathiagali.

Apparently a simple episode, it has two lessons for journalists. One, they should double check the picture they intend to use. One way of doing this is to directly approach the person in picture or speak to somebody who is in a position to comment. It is however not a foolproof fact checking as the person concerned might try to conceal facts. An alternative option is to use search engine for reverse image. Doing so will let it be known when the picture had first appeared on internet. A Russian search engine, Yandex, is the most recommended followed by Bing of Microsoft and then Google’s reverse image search.

Second, denial should be carefully read and interpreted. It often happens that selective facts are shared to mislead the reader. In the case under question, mere clarifying the fact that an old picture was used as if it was the new doesn’t necessarily mean that story was out-rightly false. The PM spokesperson instead of being defensive could have also added that PM in almost 21 months has hardly taken a personal break and this is the first days off he has tried to enjoy with his family in a long long time. A senior source in PM House revealed that even during this time he was constantly on phone doing follow-ups in preparation for post-Eid schedule.