Facts and Perception: More Misleading Reporting on Memogate

Apr 24th, 2012 | By | Category: Dawn, Express Tribune, Geo TV, The News

The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned its hearing on former Ambassador Husain Haqqani’s plea to be given the same opportunity to respond via video link as his accuser, the American businessman Mansoor Ijaz. When it did so, the Court issued some decision. What you believe that decision may depends on where you get your news.

Reporting the Court’s decision, Dawn carried the headline, Commission free to record Haqqani’s testimony via video: SC. According to this report, the Court favoured Haqqani’s plea and urged the memo commission to provide the former Ambassador with video link facilities.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the judicial commission probing the memo scandal could record Husain Haqqani’s testimony via video link from London, DawnNews reported.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, heard Haqqani’s petition urging it to allow him the video link facility on security grounds.

The court ruled that the commission could record Haqqani’s testimony through video link if it thought fit.

The News/Geo, however, carried a very different headline about the same hearing: ‘SC rejects Haqqani’s video link plea’.

The Supreme Court (SC) resumed proceedings on a plea of Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, seeking its direction for the judicial commission to record his statement via video conferencing that was rejected by the court.

Ironically, both of these reports can be technically true, even though they are giving very different perceptions. The Supreme Court appears to have decided that it would not interfere directly in the commission’s proceedings, so it gave its advice to the commission to comply with Husain Haqqani’s request while not actually ordering it to do so.

Unfortunately, the article in The News/Geo does not provide this information, allowing for the misperception that the Supreme Court believes that Haqqani should not be allowed to record his statement via video link when, in fact, it said the opposite. Dawn, on the other hand, gave a more full accounting of the facts. We do not know why The News/Geo reported the Supreme Court’s decision the way it did, but we are concerned that people getting their information from these media outlets may be misinformed about what the Court actually said.

In a post titled ‘Fragmented Media, Fragmented Nation’ earlier this year we asked, ‘How can we agree on how to solve the most important issues facing the nation if we can’t even agree on what the most important issues are?’ In the case of the Supreme Court’s decision on Haqqani’s video link plea, media may agree on the issue, but by leaving out certain facts, some groups are fragmenting the nation by creating confusion about what actually happened. In order for the public to make informed decisions, we need all the facts – not only those that are convenient to a particular agenda.

We would also like to give special recognition to Express Tribune who, like The News/Geo originally reported that the Supreme Court had rejected Haqqani’s plea. Realising the mistake, the editors quickly corrected the report to reflect the facts. Additionally, the editors left a ‘Correction’ notice to prevent further confusion about why the report had changed:

Correction: Express News had earlier reported that the Supreme Court had rejected Haqqani’s application. This is incorrect. The application was referred to the judicial commission. The correction has been made.

We have noted in the past that mistakes happen, and media groups can earn the public’s trust by admitting their mistake and quickly correcting it rather than becoming defensive and making excuses. Express Tribune‘s correction note is an excellent example of responsible journalism that sets a standard which other media groups should be encouraged to follow. We look forward to a similar correction by The News/Geo.

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