Last week we revealed that almost the entire article attributed to ”highly placed defence sources” of senior Jang Group employee Mr Muhammad Saleh Zaafir was actually a cut-and-paste job from the website Wikipedia. Today we have received a statement from Mr Zaafir that gives his side of the story. According to Jang Group‘s “Editor Special Reporting”, the fact that almost the entire article is plagiarised from Wikipedia is not his responsibility since it was provided to him by his defence sources and he does not question or verify information received from his defence sources, he only publishes it word for word.
After some discussion, we have agreed that as a professional journalist and especially as one who has risen to the rank of “Editor Special Reporting”, it is in fact the reporter’s responsibility to verify the authenticity of all information received from sources. This is called fact-checking. We were able to determine the true source of Mr Zaafir’s information using a very high-tech system called GOOGLE. We recommend that Mr Zaafir and Jang Group please look into acquiring this technology as soon as possible as it can easily help improve the quality of reporting.
We also agreed that professional journalists have a responsibility to verify and authenticate any claims made by all sources, especially if they are official sources. Simply re-printing information received from anonymous government or defence sources without taking the basic step of fact-checking is not journalism, it is propaganda.
Actually, we would think that Mr Muhammad Saleh Zaafir would be well acquainted with this practice since he has already been warned by the Supreme Court for this failure in journalistic responsibility, after which he tendered his unconditional apology to the Court.
Muhammad Saleh Zaafir, who is the reporter of the said news items, when confronted with the same, frankly and honestly conceded that he had made no effort to verify the veracity of the allegations levelled in the said news items before publishing the same nor did he have any proof in support of the contents thereof. He, however, added at the very outset that he had utmost regards and respect for not only the said hon’ble judges of this Court but for the entire judiciary; that he did not have even an iota of doubt about their integrity and character and that reporting the said news items was a grave mistake on his part.
That the contents of the article in this instance are not specifically called into question is beside the point. Mr Zaafir found himself called before the court and made to humbly apologise for being an unquestioning mouthpiece four years ago. Today, he uses this same lapse in professional judgment as his defence. We hope that, in the future, such a senior journalist will set a better example for junior staff by carrying out his professional responsibilities before publishing articles.
We thank Mr Zaafir for explaining his position in his response, which we have re-printed in full below so that readers can decide for themselves.
My attention has been drawn towards a blog pertaining to a story that appeared in The News with regard a controversy about the debris of a US stealth chopper that was crashed in the so-called compound of Osama bin Laden on May 2 this year.
The western media claimed that Pakistan has provided access to the Chinese to the debris of the chopper since it contained the most sophisticated US technology used in the manufacturing of the machine.
It prompted me to contact the defence sources dealing with the subject. They came out with the denial of the story by saying as: 1-China never asked for access to the debris of the chopper. 2-No Chinese expert visited the site of the crash and examined the chopper debris. 3-China doesn’t need to have access to the US stealth technology and hence not interested in ‘stealing’ of the same through the debris of the tail of a crashed chopper. 4-China has already developed stealth fixed wing plan (Stealth Plan) that undertook successful test flight earlier this year. It shows that China has already complete access to the technology in question. 5-Pakistan did not receive any request by the Chinese for having access to the debris.
The sources provided additional information about the stealth technology and since it was highly technological and at the same time it did not involve any controversy regarding the subject matter. It was used in the story as added information which had only educational characteristics. Had this information not part of the news item, it would have no impact on the standard of the story. The information was not classified in any manner. Why it has been made subject of dispute that I am not interested to know because everybody has his/her on motives. The piece of simple information provided me by the sources is picked by some web or from any other mode that is not my responsibility. I should not question about it. Had I gathered some information from some web I would definitely quote that as it is normal in the news production these days reporting.
The blogger should show courage by giving credit to The News for the story that was CONFIRMED by the highest official spokesperson of the Chinese government on the following day in Beijing. All the facts and essential ingredients of the story were verified word by word. The government of Pakistan through its spokesperson also verified the facts narrated in my story. The confirmation of the information is the real credit of The News and the blogger must appreciate it with ‘heavy heart.’
The exclusive story of the Group must have hurt someone who has some professional jealousy with me or our group. I do take benefit from various sources of networks but I always avoid cutting and pasting because it could prove at times wrong. The question is the basic information that was disputed by any official from China or Pakistan and answer is big NO sir. The blogger has consulted the web and according to him he came to know through this that the additional piece of information was taken from there. Consulting and studying various webs is not a sin and if useful information provided by my sources from there, they have not committed any crime. I hope it should satisfy the dispute mongers and expect that they would come out with their trauma next.
Muhammad Saleh Zaafir,
Editor Special Reporting,
JANG Group- Islamabad