Race towards breaking news has resulted in misinformation, says senior journalist

Updated January 17, 2020

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Senior journalist Lubna Jerar Naqvi and Supreme Court Advocate Shoaib Ashraf at the CFWIJ event. — Photo courtesy Coalition For Women In Journalism
Senior journalist Lubna Jerar Naqvi and Supreme Court Advocate Shoaib Ashraf at the CFWIJ event. — Photo courtesy Coalition For Women In Journalism

Senior journalist Lubna Jerar Naqvi said the race in releasing news as soon as it breaks has resulted in misinformation.

Addressing a discussion on fake news and the legal repercussions for media organisations that generate fake news, organised by the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ) at the Karachi Union of Journalists' office, Naqvi said: "The use of the term (fake news) is wrong. This means that the content is fake — the right term to use is misinformation or disinformation."

According to a press release issued on Friday, CFWIJ global coordinator Luavut Zahid and researcher Rabia Mushtaq had organised the discussion with Naqvi and Supreme Court Advocate Shoaib Ashraf.

Naqvi said that in Pakistan the issue stems from the need of local newsrooms to break the story first.

"Journalists are constantly trying to find stories that can captivate attention. The race towards breaking news first has resulted in many releasing information before it has been confirmed. This is just bad journalism.

"Don’t chase breaking news, chase good journalism," she said, adding that people were gradually understanding that verification is "extremely important" and "finding news is not good enough".

"It is the duty of the journalists to filter content to ensure that no misinformation is being released," she said and added that such checks just take minutes.

"If journalists fail to properly verify news they can lead themselves, and their organisations, into disaster," Naqvi explained.

Meanwhile, Ashraf explained the four applicable laws in relation to fake news and misinformation or disinformation.

"Pemra [Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority], Peca [ Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act], Pakistan Penal Code 499 and the defamation law deal with cases of liable, slander, defamation, and misinformation/ disinformation. Under these laws, criminal proceedings can be applicable."

Ashraf highlighted that misinformation spreads because it attracts attention.

“It’s sometimes information that people want to believe."

He explained that being ignorant of the law does not absolve any journalist of responsibility for the content they have created.

CFWIJ Global Coordinator Luavut Zahid added that clickbait travels faster and lives longer.

"In the past, we have seen examples of hoaxes or misinformation spreading like wildfire but their clarifications didn’t see the same kind of popularity. This is why it’s important to go through the process of verifying news before it is released," she said.

The discussion was followed by a question-answer session with journalists in attendance.