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‘Fake news is shaping the mindsets of people by and large’

Updated March 24, 2019

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DOSTAIN Baloch speaks at the Alliance Française on Friday.—White Star
DOSTAIN Baloch speaks at the Alliance Française on Friday.—White Star

KARACHI: Exploring the phenomenon of fake news in both the national and international arena of journalism, the third KB19 roundtable organised by the Karachi Biennale Trust at the Alliance Française de Karachi on Friday invited film-maker Dostain Baloch to comment on his documentary film.

The film charts the manipulation of facts by several local newspapers being printed in the conflict-ridden and contentious area of Lyari.

The documentary was shown at the discussion which narrated how blood, gore, rivalries and ulterior motives of different stakeholders in Lyari dictated the narratives present in these newspapers and created a sense of fear and paranoia among the locals.

A lot of the news reported was true, especially during the time when Lyari was plagued by gang wars. However, there was also a lot of embellishment, and fake and doctored news making the rounds.

Film-maker Dostain Baloch shares stories when gangsters ruling Lyari clashed regularly

Dostain, who hails from Lyari, shared stories when gangsters ruled and clashed regularly and why the documentary was a much-needed narrative from an area where reporting, or even entering, had become an impossible task.

“Most of the newspapers being printed in Lyari showed violent images, especially of the dead bodies of those who were victims to gang wars. These newspapers are available in almost every house in Lyari and I realised that the images in them, and this kind of reporting, had probably desensitised us and we are losing our humanity. And so that is one of the reasons why I made this documentary,” he said.

These newspapers resemble film scripts, he added. “There are protagonists, and even antagonists, similar to Bollywood films, while violence is also being perpetuated by newspapers.”

At a panel discussion moderated by Aquila Ismail after the screening, Sofyan Sultan, director Abm Group, said the documentary connected a global issue to a very specific local one.

“[The film] shows the microcosm of fake news and unethical journalism and the impact that can have within a very confined community which has a very specific reputation and culture. The documentary shows that in some sense the community has been shaped by this newspaper.”

Zohra Yusuf spoke about how the documentary revealed that the newspapers were under the pressure of the gangsters in the area to report and publish specific details and news to benefit them as and when required.

Journalist Zahid Hussain shared that a large percentage of the news being published the world over, research had revealed, came under the domain of fake news and is unfortunately shaping the mindsets of people by and large.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2019