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Source Verification and Harassment in Pakistan.

Isn’t living in a technologically expansive world, astounding and horrific at the same time? Journalists of all kinds are open to internet sources and are continuously using varied sources for their work, yet they have to face inconvenience. Fake news has now become a trend and is spreading like an epidemic. Journalists who fail to take this into account suffer as they fall trap.

When tweets from fake accounts of journalists were quoted in news reports on different news platforms, the issue was highlighted. Tweets from a fake account of journalist, Hamid Mir, were circulated which targeted the judicial system of the country. Later, it took upheaval when the news of Asia Bibi’s escape from Pakistan was floated. Despite it being unverified and stated fake, it created controversy when religious extremists took to the roads to protest.

Now, concentration is built on advocating for the importance of source verification. Source verification is a systematic process through which the authenticity of the news and its provider is checked. It is checked whether:

  • The news is unbiased; and
  • The publication of the news benefits the provider.

This process might be stressful and hectic, especially for Pakistani mainstream media, where sources are not verified in order to create instant news. This not only reduces the authenticity of the news but may result in controversy too. Mainstream media outlets are losing its importance due to the constant rush to win over one another. Rather than stating the facts, news is being sensationalized.

Along with it being out of practice, source verification can become unsafe, especially for females. According to Parker (2015), among the journalists who reported experiencing occupational intimidation, 11% are harassed or intimidated by the sources[1]. The contact information of the journalist lies with the sources which can easily be exploited. Sources can in certain cases find the journalist, especially women, vulnerable. Female journalists can thus become a victim of sexualized threats and harassment while relying on these sources, specifically in Pakistan where the field is dominated by men. This leads to women journalists providing separate information that is for professional use. They try not to let out any personal information and this becomes extremely stressful to manage.

The situation is worse if they are working on sensitive cases such as corruption etc., where they also might have to face surveillance and political pressure. In this scenario, the contact information of the journalist becomes even more vulnerable. In most cases, sources expect the journalist to blindly trust them, and when they cannot, conflict arises which may lead to threats and harassment. Investigative journalists are more likely to face such harassment.

The question that arises from the current scenario is whether Pakistan would be able to create a safe journalistic environment or not? Would both male and female journalists be able to safely practice their profession. In order to achieve this, firstly it is essential to understand the importance of source verification; secondly it is essential to have safe sources for verification. It is also essential that standards of journalism in Pakistan are set which are supposed to be mutually followed by all media outlets. However, it is a dire need of the hour that journalists are given a safer environment to operate.


This blog has been written by Anushe Noor Faheem, Member of  DRF’s Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights.

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