Pakistani media: Making a terrorist out of an innocent man

Revealing someone’s name and address on national TV, in suspicion, is a gross intrusion of their private lives!

Farwa Zahra November 21, 2012
On November 18, in the name of soi-disant sectarian fights an Imambargah in Karachi was attacked. The incident undoubtedly deserved media attention and so it received this with live coverage by various news channels.

What struck me, however, was the way one of these channels treated the incident.

While most news channels reported that the motorbike on which the bomb was planted had an illegal number plate, one of these channels decided to be over-efficient with some “exclusive” bits of information – the name and location of the man who owned that number’s legal plate.

Despite repeated mentions that his motorbike was still parked in his house thereby making him least likely to be involved in the terrorist activity, the innocent man's name and whereabouts continued to be a part of the breaking news! While this information was irrelevant to be a part of the news bulletin, its inclusion only worked to violate media ethics on multiple fronts.

Firstly on a very general level, it served to take the limelight away from the real issue at hand – the fact that the blast had claimed innocent lives, leaving many others injured. Turning the focus away from the problem is not necessarily done by completely ignoring the issue. Use of rhetorical devices like over-completeness and vagueness also contributes to achieve the same goal whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Secondly, despite the presence of counter-evidence, the channel strongly implied that the legal number plate’s owner could be a terrorist.

The motorbike used for the blast had to have a number plate that could be deceptive. It could be a fake copy of just about anyone’s number plate. Also, why would a terrorist use a number plate registered with their name?

Thirdly, revealing someone’s name and address details on a public platform is a gross intrusion of their private life whether it is done by a morning show host or news reporters - their can be no argument on this clause.

With no formal document followed to ensure media ethics in Pakistan, there is only little one can expect. However, it is ironic how the same channels have the audacity to criticise the incompetence of politicians, social workers or, as seen in this case, the government officials.

Read more Farwa here.
Farwa Zahra Farwa Zahra is a Qatar-based journalist. She has studied Gender and Media at the London School of Economics. She tweets as @syedaz (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


jahandad | 9 years ago | Reply Media people should be patriotics first , and neautral to extent of not damaging the truth plus anti criminal in such a way that it may help strengthen the country rather than weakning it through their useless and sensless truth,which only helps the enemies
Raza | 9 years ago | Reply Totally agreed! There should be predefined rules and regulation regarding media ethics as well. Strict guidelines must be followed, and which ever channel breach the law should be imposed with fines. These days, our media could have played a vital role for making the law and order situation better, but it seems like they are running their business without any boundaries. They are allowed to make anyone from zero to hero, vice versa.
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