Please, Keep It To The Facts

Sep 6th, 2010 | By | Category: Blogs

The following comment was left on a column by Ms Beenish Ahmed for Huffington Post. Ms Ahmed writes about the rumours being circulated that Asif Zardari has purchased a London flat for some £140 million. Whereas Waj’s evidence was an email being forwarded around, Ms Ahmed’s proof comes from statements of Dr Saeed Elahi in The News.

Dear Miss Beenish Ahmed,

There are a few problems with your story that I think require addressing. First, you say that The News confirmed that Asif Zardari purchased the flat. But the article you link to says that this was a claim of Dr Saeed Elahi – an opposition MPA from PML-N. How is this a confirmation? Also, while Mr Sehbai has certainly made this claim also, the original source of the rumour appears to have come from an email being circulated (http://pakistanmediawatch.com/2010/08/27/waj-s-khans-real-estate-rumours/) which is clearly a political propaganda.

Second, your concluding paragraph suggests that the rumours are as yet unproven, but you also claim that Mr Zardari has “habit of skimming government moneys for personal use”. This is a very serious charge – what proofs do you have to support this claim?

It seems that the overall point of your article is commendable – that media organizations such as The News should not “twist the truth for political appeal” which you deem “occupational corruption”, but even in your argument you are making several assumptions that perpetuate rumours without any supporting evidence. Please, keep it to the facts.

As I point out in the comment, it does appear that Ms Ahmed is trying to be fair. She does correctly point out that,

If the story is a false account, it will only prove a willingness of one of Pakistan’s most revered media outlets to twist the truth for political appeal, in other words, enter into the same sort of occupational corruption it tries to hold the government responsible for.

Unfortunately, as noted in the comment, she also repeats other claims that may exist in the popular opinion, but have not been proven by any actual evidence. This makes them neither true nor false, but unkowns. This is something that we believe is a regularly occurring problem in media that is difficult to fix, but must be addressed: Only reporting actual facts that can be proven, not “facts” that are really “assumptions” or “beliefs”.

I was encouraged by Ms Ahmed’s clear attempt to move toward an objective review of the story, but her repeating rumours and her failure to report that the source at the foundation of her claim, Mr Saeed Elahi, is an opposition politician demonstrate that there is still more work to do.

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