Headline or Teeli?

Aug 18th, 2012 | By | Category: headlines, The News

On Friday, The News published a front page story with the headline, ‘Public trust in govt shattered: CJ’. Here is how The News reporter Sohail Khan described the CJ’s statement:

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Thursday said that Pakistan was passing through a critical phase of its history wherein day-to-day incidents of kidnapping for ransom, abduction, target killing, forced disappearances, energy crisis, corruption and nepotism had crippled the socio-economic development and shattered the confidence of the public in government functionaries.

According to the official transcript on the Supreme Court’s website, this is what the CJ said in paragraph 11 of his address on the retirement of Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan:

Pakistan is passing through a critical phase of its history wherein the day to day events of kidnapping for ransom, abduction, target killing, forced disappearances, energy crises, corruption and nepotism; have crippled the socio-economic development and shattered the confidence of public in the concerned functionaries. It is the need of the hour that such authorities should work hard to rescue the democratic setup from being distorted in the backdrop of these social evils. They should devise workable mechanisms and adopt high ideals of democracy in order to bring peace and harmony in the country. I am hopeful that all the State institutions and civil society will join hands for achieving the common goal of transforming Pakistan to a true welfare State by following principles of rule of law, fairness, accountability, transparency and constitutional supremacy.

As is clear, Sohail Khan inserted the word ‘government’ which the CJ never said. Also, he ignored the CJ’s later expression of hope in the state institutions. The News could have easily headlined the piece, ‘CJ hopeful that state institutions will transform Pakistan’. Actually, neither headline would be very good for the report, however, because this is only the last few lines of the CJ’s speech, almost all of which was actually about judiciary and the career of Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan on whose retirement the CJ was speaking.

Obviously this does not mean that the public is not frustrated about issues like kidnapping for ransom, abduction, target killing, forced disappearances, energy crises, corruption and nepotism. But the CJ was merely pointing to this frustration in a larger context, not holding a press conference to condemn the government. So why did The News pick this one line from the end of such a long speech on a different subject to headline its report?

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