With a sensational headline, today’s The Nation reports today that Jamiat Ulama -e- Islam (JUI-F) leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman says that there are over 9,000 Black Water personnel in Islamabad. The Nation reports these statements without verifying the truth of the JUI-F leader’s claims. As such, The Nation joins the ranks of media outlets acting more like political stooges than legitimate news organizations.
The report, published in the Politics section, simply parrots the words of the JUI-F leader without any comment as to the reliability of the claims, easily leading some readers to accept that they are true. But despite their 7 seats in the National Assembly, JUI-F is not an intelligence organization and has not, as far as I know, actually determined the number of Black Water personnel (if any) in Islamabad.
The sensational claims of the JUI-F leader do fit with the general tone and political stance of The Nation, but they are not a subjective opinion open for debate. If The Nation would like to only be a political propaganda paper, then it should advertise truthfully as such.
Individuals can have an open and honest debate about whether or not foreign security contractors should be allowed to operate in Pakistan. This is a good topic for opinion pages and editorials. What is not open to debate, however, is the number – if any – of foreign security contractors actually in the country. This is an objective fact that is verifiable with proper research. The Nation failed to do their jounralistic duty and conduct any investigative research to verify the politician’s claims. Instead, they simply repeated what the politician said with no question.
If our media is going to serve the public and be a service to our democracy, they are going to have to do more than repeat the unverified claims of politicians and conspiracy theorists. Investigative research and fact checking is hard work, but it is a vital part of a healthy news media. This is a lesson The Nation still needs to learn.