Just recently, Geo News ran a news ticker that the number of Coronavirus cases in Pakistan have climbed to 243. That is not only a huge number, but also a fake news at that. A lot of people panicked and some asked why are their numbers way off? That’s the worse thing you can do on the verge of a global epidemic.
As if the state of journalism in Pakistan hasn’t already given us enough reasons to facepalm, this blunder also has contributed to public distrust of news channels.
The media giant ran a ticker listing the number of COVID-19 cases to have peaked to 243. That’s over four times the 62 cases reported in India, which has the world’s second-largest population.
So what led to this?
Clearly, this news was based on faulty intel. How did Geo TV get it wrong? They read it all wrong.
The government is also responsible for this fiasco
It seems as though someone running the television tickers was quoting State Minister of Health of Pakistan, Zafar Mirza. More specifically, his tweet.
Dr Mirza has a habit of numbering his tweets. That’s something all his followers know. So we knew what the real figure of Coronaviris cases was when he updated the count on Twitter.
“All 19 cases have brought this (COVID-19) from abroad.”
Lets take a look at his tweet:
243/ Cases in Pakistan have more than doubled in last 24 hours. This is not surprising. Disease has spread in 106 countries. All 19 cases have brought this from abroad. All are stable. There is no evidence of local spread as yet. If we act responsibly we can avoid spread.
— Zafar Mirza (@zfrmrza) March 10, 2020
Now obviously, the government official in question should have realized by now that simple communication and sentences work best. Especially given the very real fear of coronavirus cases these days. People who handle Zafar Mirza’s PR could have done well to advise him over that.
This was on the government to correct. However, it does not absolve an experienced media organization of making a giant gaffe itself.
This wouldn’t be the first time the news outlet did such a thing. Back in November 2018, then chief justice of Pakistan, Justice (R) Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice on the inaccurate news reported by the Jang Group.
Jang Group had reported that Saqib Nisar has remarked ‘the government lacks capability, planning’. The Supreme Court sounded the alarm bell on the misinformation as then CJP had made no such remarks.
At the time Saqib Nisar observed that reporters of Jang Group do not come to the court, get their intel from other news, and attributed the misinformation to this practice.
Though when it comes to containing the panic surrounding this viral pneumonia they could’ve done better.
Oddly even though Geo TV reported 243 cases, at least Geo English reported the accurate 19 cases as of March 10th.
What are your thoughts on this?