Fake News

A news article published in the Independent has wrongly stated that a “village council” in Pakistan has sentenced a 19-year-old woman to death by village elders in Rajanpur for being raped.

Earlier this week, four men were booked in Rajanpur for their involvement in Panchayat (an unofficial village council) declaring a teenage girl, who was allegedly raped by a relative, a ‘Kari’.

The misleading word “court” apart, the report attributed its source to Press Trust of India which is an Indian news agency and oblivious to the incident that occurred in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Distorting the facts further, the report kept quoting the Indian website and followed the same propagandist style of reporting.

“I could not raise an alarm as [he] was holding a gun,” she told police, Press Trust of India reported. “But the panchayat refused to accept my statement and declared that I willfully slept with him,” the Independent’s report added.

Panchayats are illegal village justice systems that operate in remote areas of Pakistan and have been criticised for cruel punishments for adultery. The sentences have no legal standing and the state has dealt with them with an iron hand.

However, contrary to what is being disseminated in an apparent propagandist vilification campaign, a case has already been registered against four men and two members of the Panchayat after the girl approached the police.

The police said the four men had absconded and teams had been dispatched to the surrounding areas to arrest them. The girl has been taken to a government-run refuge in Rajanpur.

Most of India’s news websites and tabloids have indulged in creating fake news in the past. It is unclear yet if this is part of a deliberate strategy, but the consequences of such actions patently favour the India’s fake news industry and right-wing groups.

Often these are in the form of morphed photographs and even quotes from fake Twitter accounts and quotes taken out of context and reference.

It’s shocking that the best and most potent weapon of propaganda machinery, fake news, can make it to international websites like the Independent.