Last week one of the PMW team Tweeted about an article published by The News and Daily Jang as ‘National News’. The piece referred to was written by Abdur Rehman Bawa whose Khatm-e-Nubuwwat is an Anti-Ahmadiyya group. Leaving aside for the purposes of this post the question of whether it is appropriate for a media group (certainly one of Jang‘s influence) to publish articles against one religious group or another, the fact that the editors published the piece as ‘National News’ was entirely inappropriate. If the piece belonged in a reputable newspaper at all (which we do not support), it would only be appropriately published as an ‘Opinion’.
By publishing the piece as ‘National News’, Jang blurs the line between opinion and fact. This was demonstrated by the reactions we received to the Tweet, many of which supported Jang‘s decision to publish the piece as ‘News’ claiming that it is a factual report on the 7th September 1974 constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslims. But this is not what the article was about. The author included several statements in his piece that defy not only reason, but are obviously given with the intention of provoking hatred. Why else would he include in his piece the claim that “even if a small child of a Muslim dies, a Qadiani would never offer his funeral prayer” or that “Qadiani conspiracies” resulted in their poor treatment. We will not dignify the Mullah’s piece with any more attention – this is already more than it deserves – except to say that there is simply no way to justify the publication of this piece as ‘National News’.
It is also worth noting that this problem is not an isolated incident, but part of a larger pattern of poor editorial judgment at Jang. The day after the anti-Ahmadiyya piece was published, The News published two more pieces as ‘National News’ that were clearly opinion pieces.
One by controversial American linguist Noam Chomsky was given the headline, ‘Why America and Israel are the greatest threats to peace’. Whether or not one agrees with Mr Chomsky’s assertions, the unavoidable fact is that the piece presents Chomsky’s personal views on issues, not verifiable facts. This is even acknowledged in the piece itself as it includes certain passages like the following:
If Iran is indeed moving toward nuclear-weapons capability — this is still unknown to the US intelligence — that may be because it is “inspired to do so” by the US-Israeli threats, regularly issued in explicit violation of the UN Charter.
“If”…”may be”…this is the opinion of Mr Chomsky, not ‘News’. And nowhere in the piece is Pakistan mentioned at all. So how did it come to be published as ‘National News’?
Could it be that the piece was published because it seemed to give a black eye to the Americans for one of their own celebrity academics to make such claims as that they are one of ‘the greatest threats to peace’? Possibly. If so, the editors may want to do a little more research before giving too much praise to Mr Chomsky as he has also termed Pakistan as “the paradigm example of a failed state and has been for a long time”, telling AAJ TV that the nation “is in danger of collapsing”.
It’s not just anti-Ahmadiyya or anti-America opinion pieces that are being published by Jang as ‘National News’. Also on Saturday the same media group published a piece by PPP Leader and Former Central Secretary Information ARD Munir Ahmad Khan that carried the headline, ‘Nation must salute political sagacity of Zardari’. This piece reads like a PPP campaign rally speech, not an objective news report.
Could it be that Khan’s piece was given special treatment after The News published another piece of ‘National News’ on 27th August which claimed:
“the incumbent Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government has not only failed miserably to check the ever-soaring inflationary pressures on the public, but has also found itself all at sea when it comes to restoring law and order, resolving the grave energy crisis or in curing the ills plaguing the economy”.
And then returned again the very next day to ‘report’ that:
The period marred by mega corruption scams, sky-rocketing inflation, dismal governance, court defiance, terrorism, worsening law and order, grave energy crisis and ailing economy has haunted Pakistan during these last 1,615 days.
Whatever one’s personal opinion of the PPP or the incumbent government, this is obviously a personal opinion, not a ‘National News’ report.
Neither is the incumbent government the only party to be the subject of a political opinion being published by Jang as ‘National News’. Last month the same media group published a piece by former Information Secretary PTI Punjab Andleeb Abbas who sings the praises of Imran Khan. Once again the question remains why Jang published this as ‘National News’ and not ‘Opinion’?
On any given day, a newspaper will carry different types of articles. Each of these – news, opinion, business, sport, leisure – are carried on their own pages so that readers do not, for example, confuse the opinion of a political worker or religious extremist with the factual reports that inform them about the country and the world. By blurring the line between ‘news’ and ‘opinion’, Jang risks leaving its readers confused and misinformed about the world, and therefore more likely to make decisions based on false or misleading information. The perspective of the opinion piece doesn’t matter – it is inappropriate to publish opinions as news. And that’s a fact.