I had to do a bit of searching to find the 'news item' referred to. There was a reason I had not seen it: it never appeared in the print edition of the Karachi paper (the one I get). I'm not sure if it actually appeared in the Islamabad and Lahore editions, but surprisingly, it was on the web - even though the web edition of The News is actually culled from the Karachi edition. Here is what the 'news item' was, in its entirety:
Video of girl’s flogging in Swat was ‘fake’
Monday, March 29, 2010
: A resident of Swat, who claims to have prepared the fake video of flogging of a girl in Swat, has termed it drama and revealed that he received Rs0.5 million for doing so before the launch of military operation ‘Rah-e-Rast’. "PESHAWAR
Before the operation ‘Rah-e-Rast’, an NGO financed preparation of fake video of flogging in which they portrayed the Tehrik-e-Taliban
(TTP) members flogging a woman. The provincial government and Malakand Commissioner Syed Muhammad Javed ordered investigations and sought report from the authorities concerned. Pakistan
After the successful operation in Malakand division, the law-enforcement agencies had arrested the children who were present in the video while a resident of Swat was apprehended by Kohat administration. The children and the arrested man revealed that the video was fake and said that it was made on the demand of Islamabad-based NGO which provided him Rs0.5 million.
Sources revealed that woman who was flogged in the video was also arrested and she revealed that she had received Rs0.1 million while Rs50,000 were given to each child. Sources said that the NGO produced the video to defame the country’s integrity and respect.
Sources stated that the law-enforcement agencies dispatched the report about the arrests of the culprits and proposed action against the NGO. They also said that the security agencies also apprehended the TTP workers who flogged the people."
Now, there are a couple or three points to note in this report, which should be glaringly obvious to any half-decent reporter or editor.
1. There is no byline.
2. The 'sources' are all anonymous.
3. Even the 'resident of Swat' who makes these serious claims is not identified.
These, ladies and gentlemen, are all straightforward clues that the 'report' is what is known in Pakistani journalistic parlance, as a 'plant' or 'planted story.' Obviously, at least one news editor came to the same conclusion and decided NOT to carry the story (i.e. the Karachi edition), which should give us some indication of how seriously it was taken. Now, who planted the story, how it was managed and with what motives, is up to you to judge. But there is no iota of doubt in my mind that the story deserved to be killed, at least until some serious questions were asked about its sources and credibility.
Of course, that has not stopped the assorted nutjobs going ballistic on various net forums about conspiracy theories involving the West, RAW, the army, NGOs and Westernized liberals. You can see a sample of their frothing at the mouth on Teeth Maestro's blog here and the Pakistan Defence Forum blog here. You may recall that the Supreme Commander of the Nutjobs, Aamir Liaquat Hussain, had even at the time of the surfacing of the video attempted to discredit the video on his show and in his Jang columns, while weasels like Ansar Abbasi had simultaneously attempted to justify the barbarism (God, I'd almost forgotten why the man makes my blood boil!).
Just to remind ourselves of the actual circumstances of the case at the the time (rather than the planted stories appearing now), you can read what Dawn had reported on 4 April 2009 via DawnNews, or take a look at TTP spokesman Muslim Khan accepting responsibility for the flogging here:
Small wonder, then, that human rights campaigner and filmmaker Samar Minallah, who helped to publicise the video in the media, has reacted with a blistering and eloquent rejoinder in the oped pages of The News and The Daily Times. After all, the planted story was squarely targeted at her. You really should read her piece fully. But what is really needed is for The News to issue a clarification about the unsourced report. If it stands by its story, it should tell us what its sources are. If not, it should issue an apology, not only to Samar Minallah but to all its readers. It's about time there was some accountability for the media too.