Policy, Social Justice

In Pakistan, people will believe anything if it’s said out loud and on TV

Our people should be better than that. We should stand taller.

The rumor mill. We all know it, sometimes, we fuel it, and sometimes, we’re a part of it.

Everyone has heard of Zainab’s murder

So when Dr. Shahid Masood made some claims about the accused, Imran Ali, people listened. They listened and they began spreading the word. Slowly, the way goosebumps take over your arms when its cold. The way your heart begins to beat a bit faster when you get nervous. It spread. 

And the people, what did they do? Some believed because that’s in our nature, to believe what we hear. But the smart ones, the right ones, they wanted facts. 

They could not be swayed by one man’s words on a television show.

These claims stated that Imran was, in fact, a part of a child pornography ring. They went on to state points, without corroborating it in the least. The joint investigation team (JIT) expanded its search for the truth after these so-called ‘facts’ were revealed. Shahid handed the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Saqib Nisar, two names that he stated were tied to international child pornography. The State Bank of Pakistan outright contradicted Shahid’s allegations against Imran. 

All this, for what? 

To what end will the rumor mill continue to take over?

Marianne Webster defines the word sensationalism as “empiricism that limits experience as a source of knowledge to sensation or sense perceptions”. And this is exactly what Shahid has done.

A journalist’s job is to convey the truth to the people, no matter what. Having worked in the media, I understand the need for taglines and click bait and getting the best story out there.

But for someone like Shahid to create words out of dust is disconcerting. It’s angering. It’s just plain sad. 

Get a life, man.

But I’m not really here to talk to you about that. For now, Shahid has been suspended by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra). 

Will that teach him not to spread fake news? Will that teach anyone in Pakistan to speak the truth?

More often than not, the media is blamed for accounts like these but we need to hold people responsible individually. And I’m so glad to see that mostly, people are holding Shahid accountable. He is taking the brunt of the blame like he should.

Recently, Bilawal Bhutto also took the stage to talk about fake news. And boy, was that successful…

He couldn’t even give a simple yes or no answer when asked whether Pakistan had a rising problem with fake news. If our politicians react to questions like that with open-ended answers, how will we, as a populous, ever have access to the truth?

Pakistan is acrawl with fake news. Fake news is the murderer of the individual voice. It is the killer of freedom. It is the last and final alarm clock that you try to snooze over and over again. It’s spreading and we can’t seem to stop it. 

The only question is: When we realize that the truth is more important than any of this? More important than ratings, and false hope. It’s what should essentially matter.

So maybe Shahid wanted more ratings. 

Maybe he wanted to get his late night show bumped to a different time. Maybe he just wants attention. Who knows? But honestly, who cares? At the end of the day, he tarnished his own name while trying to spin a web of lies. 

Our people should be better than that. We should stand taller. We should demand the truth.

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Maheen Humayun

Maheen Humayun

Author of the novella 'Special.' She writes about women's rights and explores short fiction as well.

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