Editorial | Deliberate Misreporting Of Facts In Meesha-Ali Zafar Case
Meesha Shafi-Ali Zafar case has certainly brought to light some of the ugliness in sections of the Pakistani media. Unfortunately, media outlets have often found it difficult to maintain professionalism or even common decency in their coverage thereof. Misrepresentation, spin-doctoring and irresponsible innuendo have been the hallmarks of a lot of commentary on the case.
It appears that such dishonest coverage is being used to put direct pressure tactics to turn the media landscape hostile to Meesha Shafi’s side of the story.
An English newspaper which has, on this issue, repeatedly undermined its liberal-progressive credentials, misreported the recent hearing of the case. The report published on Wednesday claimed that Meesha’s own manager Farhan Ali was going “against her” and that he had claimed to not have seen any sexual harassment take place in front of him. The report went on to quote another manager claiming that Shafi blackmailed Zafar with the possibility of unleashing allegations of sexual harassment against him if he did not comply with her demand.
Whoever wrote the report was either not aware of the facts, or deliberately misrepresented them. Meesha Shafi’s lawyer Nighat Dad set the record straight on Twitter, and clarified that the report published by the said English daily was factually incorrect.
Meesha’s manager Farhan Ali told the court that he didn’t see any act of harassment because he was playing his instrument instead of paying attention to what Ali Zafar and Meesha were doing during the jamming session. He stated that it is impossible for the instrument players to be aware of such an action while they are busy playing the instrument. However, Farhan informed the court that following the jamming session, Meesha Shaif mentioned to him that Ali Zafar made her uncomfortable and that she would never work with him in the future.
But the said report twisted his words, thereby implying that Meesha’s own witness testified against her and denied her allegations.
The problem with such reporting on an ongoing legal case is that in its haste to prove a partisan point, it can end up grossly misrepresenting the actual position and context in which a statement was initially given.
Following backlash, the story was removed from the newspaper’s website. Now we can only hope that with so many unsavoury experiences from media coverage of this case already on the public record, perhaps in the future we might have fairer reporting and analysis? For a start, perhaps media organizations could begin resisting any pressure whose objective is to influence the outcome of the case through bad-faith coverage?