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Combating Fake News: Unveiling the Truth Behind Dr. Zubair's Tragic Death

Recently, numerous Twitter accounts shared a picture of Dr. Zubair, falsely claiming that he was a martyr of some imagined freedom struggle.

by TNN Editor - 21 Jun, 2023 1541
combating-fake-news-unveiling-the-truth-behind-dr-zubairs-tragic-death

Rifaqatullah Razarwal

Peshawar: Dr. Muhammad Umair, a resident of Peshawar, has come forward to refute the false news circulating on social media regarding his brother's untimely demise. Dr. Umair clarified that his brother, Dr. Zubair, tragically drowned while bathing in the Kabul River, dismissing the claims suggesting otherwise.

According to Dr. Umair, Dr. Zubair, a dedicated doctor, had gone to the Haji Zai area of the Charsadda district with his friends for a leisurely dip in the Kabul River. Unfortunately, the strong currents swept him away, and his body was later recovered from Nowshera on the same day.

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Dr. Umair expressed deep sadness over the circulation of baseless news on social media, particularly the claims that his brother's body was found in a drain. He expressed shock and dismay that while his family was grieving the loss of their loved one, some individuals associated with the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) party were making derogatory remarks about the deceased.

Setting the record straight, Dr. Umair stated, "Neither my brother nor our family had any affiliation with any political party. He was a devoted father of two children and always actively engaged in social service."

Dr. Umair appealed to the public to delete any tweets or posts related to his brother that perpetuate misinformation. He further warned that if necessary, he would approach the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against those responsible.

Recently, numerous Twitter accounts shared a picture of Dr. Zubair, falsely claiming that he was a martyr of some imagined freedom struggle. These posts alleged that Dr. Zubair's body was discovered in sewage several days after he went missing. They also accused him of being involved in the events of May 9 and voting for the PTI.

These misleading tweets garnered millions of likes, comments, and retweets within a short span of time. Among those actively participating were not only ordinary users but also journalists who allegedly support the PTI.

One particular user, Ishaq PTI, received 9,000 retweets, 15,000 likes, and approximately 1,500 comments within hours of posting about Dr. Zubair. Even prominent anchorperson Moeed Pirzada retweeted this content from his official accounts.

Upon reviewing the timelines of several official accounts, it became evident that most users were supporters of Imran Khan, the chairman of the PTI. The content shared by these accounts largely portrayed positive sentiments toward Imran Khan, without any opposing views or support for his political opponents.

It should be noted that on May 9, 2023, Imran Khan, the Chairman of the PTI, was arrested in connection with the Al-Qadir Trust case. Following his arrest, PTI activists, according to the government's position, engaged in acts of arson targeting government and military properties. In response, the Parliament passed a resolution to hold these individuals accountable and agreed to prosecute them in military courts.

Be Careful: Combatting Fake News and Promoting Media Literacy

Dr. Bakht Zaman Yousafzai, a renowned professor of journalism at Peshawar University, emphasizes that the root cause of fake news lies in the overall lack of awareness within society, not only among journalists but also among citizens. The relentless pursuit of instant news from mainstream media or personal social media accounts has the unfortunate consequence of propagating false information.

According to Dr. Bakht Zaman, the principles of journalism dictate the necessity of corroborating news from two credible and responsible sources. However, in the race for ratings, these principles are often disregarded.

Dr. Bakht Zaman explains that news should be based on verifiable facts. To determine the authenticity of a news item, certain criteria must be considered. First, it is crucial to ascertain the source of the news and the credibility of the informant. Second, one should assess the plausibility and logical coherence of the news. Lastly, it is essential to question who stands to benefit or suffer from the dissemination of the news.

He states, "Why do we prioritize being the first to report the news? Why don't we prioritize ensuring that the news we provide is verified and based on facts? It is far more significant to deliver news accurately than to rush and risk bringing shame upon ourselves and our institutions."

Fake News: A Global Challenge Requiring Strong Countermeasures

Fake news has emerged as a pervasive global problem, particularly in regions where ordinary individuals lack the means to verify news and where the legal framework against disseminating false information is weak.

Mehmood Jan Babar, a respected senior journalist based in Peshawar, asserts that the propagation of fake news has transformed into a lucrative business, driven by individuals seeking to achieve their ulterior motives.

Highlighting the global nature of the issue, Mehmood Jan points to the United States presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. During the campaign, Trump utilized fake news as a strategic tool, ultimately securing victory and assuming the presidency.

Similarly, in Italy, Christians disseminated false news accusing Jews of heinous acts, resulting in widespread anger and damage to Jewish property and lives. However, upon investigation, it was revealed that the news was baseless.

Mehmood Jan emphasizes that social media platforms, particularly WhatsApp groups, have become hotbeds for the rapid spread of fake news. While YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have implemented measures to curb misinformation, stronger legal enforcement is needed to effectively combat the problem.

Journalistic Responsibility: Countering Fake News through Critical Examination

To combat the menace of fake news, both journalists and the public have important roles to play in promoting truth and accuracy in information dissemination.

Dr. Bakht Zaman Yousafzai emphasizes the need for individuals to approach the news with a critical mindset. When encountering any news, the public should question its reliability and evaluate the background of the reporter or source. By examining the track record of past news provided by the same source, one can gauge its credibility. If doubts persist, it is advisable to withhold belief until the news is confirmed by reliable sources.

Mehmood Jan Babar directs his message to journalists, emphasizing the vital role they play in preventing the spread of falsehoods. Journalists must adhere to the true spirit and principles of journalism, serving as guardians against lies. Verification should be the foremost step before broadcasting or publishing news received from organizations, groups, or political parties.

Mehmood Jan highlights the case of Dr. Zubair, underscoring that the dissemination of false news regarding him neither represents the family's stance nor seeks to obtain input from the police or associates. The sole intention behind such news is to cause harm.

Communication experts stress that journalists bear a significant responsibility in countering fake news. Their duty lies in verifying information before presenting it to the public. By fulfilling this responsibility diligently, journalists can effectively curb the spread of fake news.

By practicing critical examination, adhering to journalistic principles, and promoting verified information, both journalists and the public can contribute to the prevention of fake news. Through collective efforts, we can safeguard the integrity of news and protect the public's right to accurate and reliable information.