World Is Cracking Down On Fake News: Is Pakistan Media At Serious Risk?

After Donald Trump brought the problem of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ to the attention of the world, internet editors have begun to ask questions about the credibility of so-called ‘news’ sources. The latest sign of a widespread crack down on fake news is the announcement that Wikipedia has banned using UK newspaper Daily Mail as a source, terming it as ‘generally unreliable‘. This is a major development because it is banning of a newspaper that was founded 120 years ago, not some shadowy website that popped up over night.

With wide spread concern about the ill effects of ‘fake news’, banning of Daily Mail  may be just the beginning, and Pakistan media may be at serious risk. Since the past several years, dozens of fake news sites in Pakistan have been exposed. The most famous example was blog Cafe Pyala that shined the light on shadowy propaganda rings that appeared close to the deep state including even a Pakistani fake news source called ‘Daily Mail‘! Then last year an APP report may have  accidentally busted another fake news operation with ties to ISI.

Tight control of Pakistan media by Army is already well reported in international media. In 2015, The Guardian published an expose about Army officials threatening journalists and forcing them to self-censor. How can such media be deemed as reliable if it is well known that it is threatened and coerced by Army? These threats have again come under view after a group of bloggers who dared question Army mysteriously disappeared earlier this year, resulting in new global attention to the dangerous turn of censorship in Pakistan.

However, it’s not just censorship that threatens the credibility of Pakistan media as a whole, it is also the number of obvious deep state puppets who dominate the media. There are the obvious jokers like Ahmed Quraishi and Zaid Hamid, but there are also the more ‘serious’ journalists like Mubashir Lucman, whose fake news cost ARY millions after being judged by an international court, or Moeed Pirzada who is widely seen as close to the establishment.

As the world makes moves to limit the negative influence of fake news, will Pakistani media find itself caught between the rock of international questions and the hard place of establishment operations to keep tight control over national discussions? If UK Daily Mail is termed as ‘generally unreliable’, what can we say about most of Pakistani news? As the world community takes on the problem of fake news, Pakistani media will be facing a lot of difficult choices.

CENSORED: Who Will Pay?

The following op-ed was originally published by The Nation on 26th Dec. It was quickly deleted from the newspaper’s website due to unknown orders from unknown offices. We are re-posting the piece in accordance with Articles 19 and 19(A) of the Constitution which guarantee “the right to freedom of speech and expression, and…freedom of the press” as well as “the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance”.

Pakistan Media

So Pakistan’s public will be made to bear the cost of about three million pounds damages and costs for the case filed by Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman (MSR) of the Jang/ Geo group against ARY channel for Mubashir Luqman’s twenty four libelous shows.
This will be the result of the UK High Court’s verdict against ARY for twenty four unbridled and defamatory programmes by Mubashir Lucman against MSR whilst at ARY.

But the UK court didn’t ask the citizens to pay, you might remark.
And you would be right to remark thus.
The court has stipulated ARY to pay out for damaging MSR’s reputation and endangering his life, as a lesson to ARY (and others) to not indulge in such activities.
But imagine: will the owner of ARY channel Salman Iqbal take this lying down, when he has no dog in the game except support from ‘the agencies’? A one-time loss he might even be willing to bear.
But given the slew of cases now being filed in the United Kingdom against ARY (including by the strongest Pakistani industrialist, Mian Mansha, and human rights activist Malala’s father) he would be inclined to bill the agencies for this bill, to set a precedent and basis for them footing the bills for all he has been doing at their behest.

Which brings us back to ‘Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency’.
Salman Iqbal will likely forward the bill to them.
And ‘they’ should rightly pay.
But what does that mean for us, the citizens? What it means is that in addition to its already invisible and unaccountable budget, millions of further pounds will have to be allocated, such that it can pay the bills for the new trend in foreign suits.

Is this, then, not the time for the people and the parliament to renew calls to bring the ‘the primary intelligence agency’ under democratic and financial oversight? This latest ARY casualty would just serve as the peg, the actual thousand leagues under the sea that is ‘the intelligence agency’ being the real target.

But here I must make a very important correction: in recent years the PR arm of the military has been a veritable arm of the military’s intelligence agencies, with the head of said PR agency, while leading the onslaught of military chief’s PR campaign, leading social media attacks on human rights and democracy activists, and leading social media attacks on ‘anti-nationalists’ and ‘ghaddars’ with his bevvy of the ‘Baloch girl’ army, has been reigning supreme.

So will this PR agency be made to pay part of the ARY bills (present and future)? Clearly, whilst ARY is now somewhat chained because of its broadcasts in the UK, BOL will carry on unfettered (to my knowledge it does not broadcast in other jurisdictions, and will cancel any plans to do so because of the ARY fiasco).

But what all this means is that we, the Pakistani citizens, will end up paying more for attacks against us, in the shape of (nontransparent) higher budgets for the country’s premier PR and intelligence agencies.

Moving on to Qazi Faez Isa and Najam Sethi’s take on the report: I was one of the first persons to identify the gaping hole in the honourable justice’s report.
That of not holding the Frontier Corp (FC) to account in any manner for the Quetta horror, obliterating in one fell an entire generation of lawyers and activists.
But Sethi saheb’s editorial of last Friday, whilst correctly criticizing Justice Isa’s report for not holding security agencies to account, ‘doth protest too much’ against the criticism of Chaudhry Nisar, the Interior Minister.
Not a word spoken against him in the Quetta Commission Report is untrue.
Did he not ignore all requests to proscribe Jamat-ul-Ahrar and Jamat-ud-Dawa Al Almi for months despite their claims (and no evidence to the contrary) of having perpetrated the Quetta lawyers massacre? Was he not caught hiding behind NACTA, which was hiding behind the ISI, which said, ‘they should have done their job per the law (despite the unwritten norms with regard to us’?

Whilst I’m the first one to agree with Sethi sahib regarding the egregious oversight with regard to security agencies far as the Quetta Inquiry Commission report is concerned, I am not with him in trying to exonerate the Minister of Interior.
I understand that what Sethi saheb is saying is that this is unfair.
But then rather than exonerate the boys’ man Chaudhry Nisar, why not question ‘them’? Why not try and expose ‘them’ rather than shield elements in the government? Let Chaudhry Nisar be the first casualty.
Only after might we be able to reach his enablers? My most humble submission to Sethi saheb: let’s catch what we can; only it can lead to the elements we have never been able to ‘catch’.
Let’s not exonerate obvious culprits.
Let’s try and get through to culprits via culprits.

The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist. Follow her on Twitter at @gulbukhari

The Right To Be Wrong

Keep calm and let's agree to disagree

When I first started writing for this blog, I thought the hardest part was not finding topics to discuss but handling the abuse that came with giving an opinion. After receiving some particularly nasty emails, I told my father I was thinking of giving up writing. He could see I was clearly depressed about it because I truly enjoy writing and discussing important topics. Not because I think I have all the answers – no one does – but because I believe that it is in discussion and debate that we find them. Baba sat me down and said, ‘beta, before you make your decision, I want you to recite Al-Baqarah 256’. I paused. With a puzzled look I said, ‘There is no compulsion in religion? But what does this have to do with my problem?’ My father nodded his head and said, ‘Now tell me this: These pieces you write, are they about something more important than religion?’ I was still puzzled. ‘Of course not. They are important issues – politics, economics, foreign policy, etc etc – but not more important than religion’. My father nodded again. ‘If Qur’an teaches us that there is no compulsion in religion, how can there be compulsion in these issues that you are writing about which you yourself admit are of lesser importance?’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just stared at him. He smiled and continued, ‘Prophet Muhammad (SAW) used reason, not compulsion, to spread Islam. Follow his example. Don’t let anyone bully you into silence, and don’t let them compel you to agree with them. Admit when you are wrong, and allow others the right to be wrong sometimes also.’

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Good Taliban, Bad Taliban, and Useful Idiots

TTP media cell has been busy since the past few days. In addition to new promises to murder young girls, spokesman Shahidullah Shahid has also explained that TTP is receiving funding and sanctuary from the Afghan Taliban.

“The Afghan Taliban are our jihadi brothers,” said Shahidullah Shahid in an interview in Waziristan, the Taliban’s main tribal sanctuary in Pakistan along the Afghan border.

“In the beginning, we were helping them, but now they are strong enough and they don’t need our help, but they are now supporting us financially.”

None of this is really news, of course. TTP has been telling of their support from Afghan Taliban for long. In 2009, TTP leaders even swore allegiance to Mullah Omar.

That the idea of ‘Good Taliban’ and ‘Bad Taliban’ even exists is a testament to the effectiveness of media operations out of certain quarters who, despite being convinced of their own cunning, haven’t figured out that they’ve been had.

And so, while TTP militants are butchering innocents and giving life threats against defenceless school girls, we are served the same old reheated dishes.

Meanwhile, unable to think of how to defeat the real enemy, media gazis are shadow boxing….

…and trying to start the war they want instead of fighting the war they have…

geo

…which I’m sure Shahidullah Shahid appreciates since it makes his job so much easier.

Attack of the Clones

Pakistan is currently under attack by a sinister foreign force. No, I am not talking about drones. This is much more deadly and much more sinister. As we all know, Husain Haqqani gave visas to possibly 3 crores CIA assassins. Using advanced Illuminati black magic, they have transformed their shape into the most patriotic of Muslims to wreak fitna. Because of their Western arrogance, however, they have once again over played their hand and exposed their true nature.

The first evidence of these clones was the rise of terror attacks in Pakistan after 9/11. As is well known and accepted, there was no terrorism in Pakistan before 2001, and all Pakistanis were healthy, educated, and upper middle class. 35,000 of innocent Pakistanis have been killed since that terrible day. Since we know that Muslims don’t kill Muslims, only explanation is it must be clones!

Then came the so-called raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Once again the Americans used their Illuminati witch craft in a nefarious scheme intended to defame the Fortress of Islam by telling that an evil terrorist lived there. However, a gora friend of General Hameed Gul spilled the beans to Iranian media and told that the Abbottabad operation actually led to the death of a clone!

Their lust against all that is good and pure unsatisfied by the success of this diabolical operation to defame Pakistan, they continued to target our national treasures, this time by deploying a clone of Aamir Liaqat to undermine the people’s religious sensibilities.

The evil of the American conspirators knowing no bounds, they then targeted the well loved preacher of peace Hazrat Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (RA) by deploying his dastardly clone to preach violent jihad.

Now, though, they have gone too far. The American crusaders have used clones of two of Pakistan’s greatest heroes, Meher Bokhari and Mubasher Lucman, and made it appear that these saints were actually a cheap pair of corrupt liars.

Does their evil know no bounds? This is the greatest threat to Pakistan today, and they are being supported by dual nationals, seculars, university graduates, musicians, EPL fans, takfiris, London walas and various other liberal scum! Who will be the next victim of their cloning technology?