Lahore: Pakistani media went into a frenzy while reporting about the identification of a suspected suicide bomber of Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park explosion that killed 29 children and 44 men and women on March 27.

One news channel after another picked up the story and ran it round the clock without any proper attribution. Eventually, the government had to intervene to stop the feed based on speculation.

On a television program on March 28, the Special Assistant to the Chief Minister, Punjab, Zaeem Hussain Qadri, categorically denied the man, Yousuf, having any connection to the blast other than that he had been killed in the explosion.

Yousuf was a Quran teacher. According to the family sources, he had been living in Lahore for a couple of years.

The media outlets did not confine themselves only to misreporting. The fact that almost all the leading news channel sent their teams of reporters and camera crews to district Muzzafargarh, Yousaf’s hometown in Southern Punjab, strengthened the impression about media’s irresponsible reporting.

To find out as to why news channels picked the story without proper verification, News Lens Pakistan talked to the news controllers, Bureau Chiefs and President of three top of the line news channels in Pakistan; Samaa, Geo, and Dunya.

A top-gun of Geo network who first gave his statement to News Lens Pakistan on phone, and later backed off from it and said the CEO Geo Network would email new statement, which never happened.

In the wake of media ethics, News Lens Pakistan is not revealing his name after he sent a text message for withdrawal of his statement. But, again under ethical pressure, News Lens Pakistan is publishing his statement to reveal what a professional, sitting on the top, feels over irresponsible reporting by his own channel and how much helpless he is.

He said, “I agree Geo did not conduct in-depth verification. It failed to use more than one sources to find out if Yousuf was the suspected suicide bomber. It was a nasty speculation that Geo made and reflected bad practice.”

The problem, he said, lies in the approach of reaching out first to the public for an instant spike in rating.

“The culture of verification is undermined when media outlet sends untrained and unprofessional people in the field. The dearth of educational judgment is visible,” he added.

In his conversation Controller News Samaa TV, Ahmed Waleed, said, “We were the first to get the identity card of Yousuf, but we refrained from airing any news concerning Yousuf being the suspected suicide bomber. No one from any law enforcement agency had confirmed it. It was unfortunate that Samaa TV aired the report, in spite of showing professional restraint.”

How did it happen? News Lens Pakistan asked Waleed.

On the morning of March 28, a reporter on a night shift, seeing the news unfolding on nearly every channel, made an independent decision and filed a report that went on air, he responded.

“We certainly lack editorial control in news channels. New boys in their zest to race against others display irresponsible behavior. I agree there is no mechanism in television to verify and reconfirm news content,” Waleed deplored.

Khurram Kaleem, the News Head at Dunya TV Lahore, while narrating his channel’s chase into Yousuf’s bombing adventure, blamed Punjab Police for the misreporting.

“The Inspector General Police, Mushtaq Sukhera had told media about police apprehending the family of Yousuf. We only followed the investigation,” said Kaleem.

The Bureau Chief Dunya TV, Arsalan Rafique Bhatti went a step ahead and blamed the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan to have told the channels about Yousuf being the suspected suicide bomber.

The intelligence agency, according to Bhatti, had reached this conclusion after seeing the evidence on the crime spot.

“Yousuf’s beard and his severed body ripped from the torso made him a prime suspect,” said Bhatti
Bhatti, however, agreed that the channel failed to make any effort to verify the news. He said that such mistakes happened in pressure from our bosses to copy what other channels were doing.

News Lens Pakistan contacted DIG Operations Lahore, Dr Haider Ashraf to find out if Police had been involved in releasing unconfirmed information to media, he denied categorically.

“No police officer had talked to any reporter in this respect. I have no idea from where the Identity Card of Yousuf was found. I am surprised at the judgment media made. How is it possible that a suicide bombers’ upper body remains intact,” said Ashraf. Otherwise, suicide bombers conceal their identity to save their networks, and don’t carry their identity cards in pocket, he added.

Ashraf requested media houses to follow the code of conduct it had developed according to which media could not indulge in speculative reporting.

He further said that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority should get involved and make rules that unless the police gave official statement news involving terrorism-related incidents should not be aired.

“When cameramen and reporters rush to the crime scene, they inadvertently damage forensic evidences which are vital for investigation,” said Ashraf.

It is not the first time that media in Pakistan has been indulged in misreporting.

In 2009, a top new channel’s reporter while giving audio beeper about the attack on Elite Police Training School Lahore, reported that over 40 terrorists including women had attacked the school whereas there were hardly four terrorists involved.

Similarly, the Kasur scandal in 2015 was misreported, said Ahmed Waleed.
“Every channel had been airing that 280 boys were subjected to sexual abuse. In reality, hardly 20 boys were molested,”

Dr Mughees Uddin Sheikh, Dean of Mass Communication Department, University of Central Punjab, was contacted by News Lens Pakistan to find out reasons behind the irresponsible reporting in Pakistan.

“There are two problems, and both revolve around unprofessional attitude. We have unprofessional and untrained people running the day-to-day affairs in newsrooms and bureaus. Similarly, the so-called owners of the media houses, running the helm of the affairs, are also unprofessional and essentially businesspersons.”

“Our journalists are on the pay role of agencies and NGOs. They do not mind indulging in misreporting if it serves the purpose of bidding their masters. There is a complete lack of professional, nationalist and committed journalists in Pakistan these days.”

Veteran journalist, educationist, and Editor of an online publication Humsub, Wajahat Masood explained the malice of misreporting. He said, ““We have apologists of terrorists working in media. During government’s discussion with the Taliban in 2014, a handful of columnists used to advise the terrorists on the terms they should broker with the government. These elements divert the attention from the real issue and begin airing nonissues.”
At the end of the day, it was Yusuf’s family, who had to bear the brunt of both the police and media houses.

When News Lens Pakistan, contacted Yusuf’s brother Riaz to confirm if the family will sue the police for torturing them, as was reported by Dawn in a report on April 2. Riaz refuted the report saying we were poor people, and we had never given any such statement.

“Maybe in a fit of anger, someone in our family might have uttered such words, but the media should have waited for a while. Already our reputation has been marred because of both media and police, both of whom had raided our home without any reliable information.”

In another gaffe, it was aired that one of the family had to give Rs 2000 in bribe to claim the body of its victim.

According to Khurram Kaleem, as he told to News Lens Pakistan, it was Yousuf’s body.

When inquired by News Lens Pakistan from Yousuf’s brother, he again refuted the news and said the management at the Mayo Hospital morgue was cooperative and helpful.


  1. Excellent article. Rightly pointed out lack of responsible professional ethics in media houses.
    Well done ! Durdana.

  2. The report is partially valid. The bulk of this ‘un-educated’ breed of journalists belong to where Dr. Mughees had been teaching for more than 3 decades. The greatest joke was SAMA’s Controller News talking about ‘editorial constraints.’ We have a very strict editorial check on whatever goes on air. In my humble point of view, Over generalization has been willfully committed to serve the writers biased and prejudiced approach towards news channels, otherwise the example of Express News could be quoted here to show exceptions.

  3. Excellent article. Rightly pointed out a serious flaw directly affecting professional ethics of journalism. Well done Durdana !


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