Media’s Pre-poll Rigging: Journalists or Phappay Kutnis?

Mar 28th, 2013 | By | Category: The News

We wrote last week about the lack of attention being paid to one of the biggest sources of pre-poll rigging going on in Pakistan – the way media reports all manner of unfounded rumours and gossips against politicians. The example we used in our last post was a story in The News that accused PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif as a Taliban sympathiser. This week we have seen even more evidence of media’s pre-poll rigging, this time against PPP.

The media’s dislike for President Zardari and PPP is well documented. Since day one of the present government, media have declared the government a failure, predicted its early demise, and published ridiculous and slanderous reports that were easily disproven. When the government defied the wishes of their media opponents by not only completing their term but calmly handing over power to a caretaker set up with the consultation of opposition parties, many in the media were left speechless.

News turned the worst for Zardari haters when a national survey by Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBS) found that “a majority of people in Pakistan are willing to vote for the PPP” in the coming elections. It was soon after this that rumours began appearing in social media that declared a rift between President Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had left the party rudderless as elections approached.

These rumours were quickly answered by the PPP leadership who explained that the party had concerns for Bilawal’s security.

“Such reports are part of a malicious propaganda campaign against the PPP and there is no truth in them and he (Bilawal) will be back in the country soon to lead the election campaign,” said the party’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira. He was asked to comment on the reports that Bilawal had left the country because of differences with his father and aunt Faryal Talpur over the award of the party tickets.

This is our internal matter. We have serious security concerns for Bilawal. How much blood do you want the PPP to shed,” Mr Kaira said.

It should be noted that these social media rumours quote ‘unnamed sources’ and were originally published by Press Trust of India (PTI), leaving questions about why certain members of the media are more sceptical of PPP’s explanations than anonymous rumours published by Indian media. As Dawn noted in their report, this was not the first time that  reports of rift in the family had been “mischievously purveyed”.

Despite PPP’s clear explanation and the lack of any credible source for the original rumours, however, some media groups are using the story to sow doubt about the PPP’s internal matters with elections right around the corner. A perfect example of this mischievousness appeared in today’s The News (Jang Group) which has been infamous for its vicious political attacks.

In an editorial titled Family drama?, The News does not provide any credible sources for its claims, instead reporting that “it is said”. But it is said by who? Who is saying this? Are they credible sources? Or is The News once again being misled by “incorrigible liars”? To quote The News itself, “From the outside, though, it is impossible to know the truth.”

The News does not stop by merely repeating old rumours, though, instead cleverly taking the opportunity to add their own pinch of masala to the story. After repeating these unfounded rumours, The News goes on to say that “What the party is left with to bank on are two tainted ex-prime ministers who have nothing inspiring to offer.” Is this journalism or political campaigning?

With elections coming soon, all we ask is that the politics be left to the politicians and that each party be given a fair chance to tell the people why they should get their support without the interference of outside institutions. Just as politics should not be manipulated by foreign governments, national agencies, or through pre-poll rigging by bureaucrats also the media should not attempt to manipulate politics through pre-poll rigging by giving a favourable or unfavourable impression of any particular political party based in rumours, speculations, conspiracies, or anything other that what the media should be reporting – just the facts.

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