The insensitive coverage after the Lahore’s Defence Y Block Market explosion has added one more chapter to the all ready length book of electronic media’s irresponsible role in Pakistan. Approximately an hour and a half about the blast at the Y Block Market news channels reported that there has been another blast in Lahore, this time in Gulberg. Some outlets reporter that the blast targeted the franchise of an international food chain, another said the blast occurred after police stopped a car, if that was not all one news channel went to the extent of saying that the blast has happened outside a girls college in the area. Fear gripped the city as the media outlets frantically reported that the second blast has occurred; phone lines were choked as people helplessly tried to get in touch with family and friends in the area to inquire about their well being. Imagine the state of mind of parents who had kids studying in the college. It is unthinkable to even perceive what these families went through. Around ten minutes later the news was conveniently withdrawn and it was reported that there was no blast and it was just a rumour.
It was bizarre to even figure out as to how almost the entire electronic reported a blast when no such thing had happened? Are there no checks in place in Pakistani electronic media; is the electronic media in the country not aware of terms such as fact-checking? A blast is not a trivial issue; no one should be allowed to spread such rumours with impunity when the country is faced with a crisis of this magnitude. Media’s role should be to spread calm and aware the public regarding how to react in the face of such a threat, but instead of playing its due role our TRP’s obsessed electronic media tramples upon even basic ethics.
On one hand media groups are seen reprimanding government officials from issues ranging to ineffective response to terror attacks to unethical behavior while at the same time the media groups themselves go around spreading panic due to irresponsible reporting.
All media groups must devise a strict set of protocols and educate the staff regarding how to report and disseminate news in such an instance. Reporters and newscasters in particular should be trained to effectively provide news when faced with any tragic event let alone a terror attack.
Apart from electronic media, unverified forwarded Whatsapp messages have also become a panic spreading tool. Over the past few days since the recent terror way has plagued the country there has been an exponential increase in such unverified messages. Such messages usually tell of some apparent terror alert and ask people to avoid visiting certain areas. The government and relevant institutes need to take strict measures against such rumour mongering campaigns. At the same time it is vital that the government launches a full fledged awareness campaign to educate the public regarding how to deal with terror incidents and help police and law enforcement agencies counter the threat posed by such elements. In various European countries local communities have played key role in foiling the designs of such elements by intimating the law enforcement agencies in advance. However, this is only possible if the government educates the public regarding the importance of these steps.
The rumour mongering after the Lahore explosion resulted in panic & chaos.