In 1476 Englishman William Caxton would not have dreamt of the kind of press we are blessed with, in 2013.
Gone are the days when penmanship was considered a catalyst of positive change in a society. Days when reporters gathered data and spilled their own sweat and blood to confirm its authenticity before releasing it to the public eye. There was a certain set of rules that every news publisher had to follow in order to preserve justice and freedom.
However, in this day and age, technology and on-screen data structures set all the rules and also break them. Readers no longer know what to believe and what not to believe. We live in a time where nothing is too good to be true, where honesty is just a mere perception, a point of view; not what it is in actuality.
But having said that, it is not my intention to suggest that a mere news article does not have the power to change a society, a country or the whole world. It surely does, sadly for both better and for worse.
It was once firmly believed that once a story is written and published it can’t be taken back. A fine example of how that belief has now just turned into a myth, is the irresponsible reporting incident on Shahzeb Khan’s murder case by an online news publisher named PakistanToday.
The publishing house reported that DSP Aurangzeb Khan (Victim’s Father) is accepting blood money from the parents of his son’s killers in exchange for Rs 250 million (PKR 25 crore).
However, when contacted for confirmation, Shahzeb’s father, Aurangzeb Khan denied any such allegations and termed the news story as “fake”.
This sparked anger and outrage among supporters of the Shahzeb Khan movement.
The news website, just after an hour of publishing the story, removed it from their website.
A stark reflection of how news channels have completely ignored the importance of authenticity can be seen here.
So much so, they didn’t even consider it appropriate to contact the accused person and take his statement regarding the allegations against him before publishing a story that could have potentially destroyed the now 100,000 strong movement for Shahzeb.
Victim: Shahzeb Khan, a 20 year old boy who was shot to death in cold blood on the night of his sister’s post-wedding ceremony (Valima).
Suspects: Shahrukh Jatoi and Siraj Talpur. Talpur was the neighbour of the victim and also went to the same university. Shahrukh Jatoi is a rich Sindhi landlord’s son who was deported from Australia for beating a professor in his college.
Scenario: Siraj Talpur’s servant had harassed Shahzeb’s sister two days before the killing. The brawl escalated and it resulted in Shahrukh Jatoi and Siraj Talpur murdering young Shahzeb in cold blood. Currently, Shahrukh Jatoi is at large while Siraj Talpur is under custody of the Sindh police. Shahzeb’s family and friends have started a movement for justice for not just Shahzeb, but for every man, woman and child who is killed in Karachi on daily basis.
Shahzeb Khan’s Facebook page has termed the “fake news story” as a threat to their movement and have demanded the CEO of the said company to publicly apologize.
This unethical reporting incident just goes to show how journalism can be used to manipulate perceptions of the general population. A method long in practice in the western media. Now slowly being adapted by Pakistani news media. This newly spawned trend of Yellow Journalism is posing a great threat to Pakistani Journalism.
In conclusion, I would leave you with what American philosopher John Taylor once said, “There`s no wound deeper than a pen can give, It makes men living dead, and dead men live”
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above article are of the writer’s only and do not necessarily represent Aaj.tv/Aaj News policies.
Story first published: 7th January 2013