LAHORE: A video filmed by a couple of television journalists at a printing press in Lahore — touted by the PTI as being ‘proof’ of post-poll rigging — created waves on social media, only to be debunked hours later.

The viral video, which was also shared by PTI founder Imran Khan’s official X account, appeared to show two journalists inspecting ballot papers labelled as being meant for NA-15 (Mansehra) — where PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had contested — at a printing press in Lahore.

But as the clip circulated on social media, questions began to be raised over why ballot papers would need to be printed so long after the elections. Others asked why Rai Saqib Kharal and Imran Arshad, the reporters seen in the video, had not uploaded or shared the footage themselves.

While this debate was raging, accounts from the two journalists and one of their editors seemed to indicate that the video’s authenticity was suspect. The men said that they had been led to the printing press by a source, who had demanded that the videos be released immediately.

However, senior journalist Nasrullah Malik, who had been approached by the duo to air the video, waded into the fray to say that he had posed several questions: questioning authenticity of the source; why the printing press was lying wide open for anybody to come in; and whether the news could be ‘planted’ and might give credence to a particular political party’s narrative against its rivals.

“I wanted a detailed investigation into the matter and not become part of any political party’s agenda. I did not want to run the half-cooked story,” he added.

Another journalist, Mansoor Ali Khan, claimed to have spoken to the duo and said that it was their ‘source’ who had leaked the videos after the two journalists said they wanted to do some digging into the claims.

The duo who filmed the video had claimed that the printing press was owned by a member of the PML-N – a claim that was repeated in the post shared by PTI founder Imran Khan’s official X account.

But seizing on the ‘propaganda value’ of the videos being shared, PML-N Punjab information secretary Azma Bokhari accused the journalists of being “PTI social media activists” and called for the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe the matter.

At the time of going to press, the videos in question are still visible on Imran Khan’s official X account, and have also been shared by other prominent party activists, including Mr Khan’s focal person for social media, Azhar Mashwani.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2024

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