Two-day information blackout creates panic among public

Because of the shutdown, an information gap was created which was filled by the remaining modes of communication

Ammar Sheikh November 27, 2017

LAHORE: The rumour mill was in overdrive for almost two days after the government opted to block news channels and conspiracy theories circulated on Whatsapp groups, SMS and through word of mouth creating panic among residents.

"I was about to leave to pick up my wife and children from my in-laws, when I received a message on a Whatsapp group, saying that certain areas of the city were under siege. I was stressed as it included the area of my in-laws," said a resident Asad.

The message, however, turned out to be false and Asad was able to get to his family safely.

CPNE condemns media blackout

Many such messages circulated the remaining online social media space after news channels, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube were blocked in the country. These messages churning out gossip of gloom and doom included forward messages designed to create panic among the citizens, other had out-dated or unverified news about law and order situation of different parts of the country.

Speaking on the information blackout, Punjab University Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences Dean Dr Zakria Zakar said, "In any situation, information should not be blocked because whenever sources of information are blocked, rumour mongering starts."

He said that freedom of information was the constitutional right of the citizens of the country and was also the fundamental by which people decide to see and use their vote.

PEMRA blocks all TV channels

Punjab University Institute of Communication Studies Assistant Professor Shabbir Sarwar was of the view that Pakistan had become an information-rich society in the past decade, especially because of the electronic media.

Because of the shutdown, an information gap was created which was filled by the remaining modes of communication.

"However, the remaining modes also contain a lot of misinformation and to some extent propaganda. It is natural that when an information-rich society is deprived of information then such elements use the situation to their advantage.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2017.


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