As of this writing, The News and the Express Tribune have both published retractions, though
A screen grab of the apparently hacked The Nation editorial
Of the television channels, I am also not sure if Dunya TV, which carried news reports based on the same planted stories, issued an apology. But even more dismally, long after the alleged cables were exposed as fake, Absar Alam on his evening programme on Aaj TV on Thursday, based his entire programme on the fake cables. Among the participants of his programme: General (retd) Hamid Gul, who insisted that Indian generals were indeed of the same character that the (fake) cables described them as, and Geo anchor Hamid Mir, who commented on how the Kashmir-related portions of that story indicated Kashmir would "inshallah" be one day free. At one point, Absar Alam even thanked God that the American diplomats had not used the same kind of language for Pakistani generals. Sigh. Only goes to show you how much research goes into these 'talk shows.'
But coming back to the retractions and apologies, the most hilarious part of the entire episode is the 'defence' issued by Online wire agency, which
On Dec 9th 2010 a news item attributed to our organization was published in some English Newspapers and Urdu Papers with regards to WikiLeaks disclosures regarding Indian Interference in Balochistan and Waziristan, Indian army and Israel. We had lifted this news by searching various search engines as part of regular scanning process for finding news about WikiLeaks disclosures, which has become a hot topic of every newspaper.
On Dec 10 some of English and Urdu newspapers had criticized us of the report not being accurate and some of them even went to the extent of accusing us of wrong use of WikiLeaks documents for propaganda purposesand we had released a planted news item. While the truth is just the opposite if anyone goes on Goggle and writes: Wikileaks Leak About India, Israel And Afghanistan one would be able to get the same news we got. We are also attaching the news which we downloaded from the Internet so that the matter is clarified. One more thing we like to mention is that we had not received any notice or written compliant from WikiLeaks spokesman.
The only mistake on our part was that we had not mentioned the link or source of the news for which we apologies. I hope you would publish our point of view as well in your esteemed newspapers.
Online Int'l News Network"
This 'clarification' does clarify many things about Online. The first and foremost conclusion that news organizations should draw from it is to run as far away from this wire agency as they can. This is how they gather their news??? By "lifting" (their words) stuff from Google???
The defence that "if anyone goes on Goggle [sic] and writes: Wikileaks Leaks About India, Israel and Afghanisan" one would be able to get the same news we got" would be uproariously funny were it not simultaneously so appalling. That's your defence Online??? So tomorrow, if you go on the net and search for "Conspiracy Theories About Moon Landing Being Fake", you would pass that along to news organizations as valid news? Second point: why exactly then do news organizations need you? I mean all they need to do to get their 'news' is Google (or Goggle, if that's your thing), right?
Of course none of this takes away from the news organizations' own responsibilities to verify stories they take on. Are we to gather from this that the news sense of the staff at these papers and channels has deteriorated to such an extent that NONE of them saw anything remotely strange about the story?
The News has announced that it will not pay Online its subscription for the month as punishment for making it into a laughing stock. Whoop de whoop. The 'clarification' of Online, one would have thought, should have been reason enough to immediately terminate any relationship.
: : : UPDATES and CORRECTIONS : : :
Jang did in fact run a retraction at the same time as The News, and also ran a follow-up about its notice to Online today. The retraction was on the front page and the follow-up on the back page, nowhere as prominent as the original stories, but still. Our apologies to Jang for missing the items and misstating its position.
Also, Omar R. Qureshi in his blog in Express Tribune on December 9 did in fact mention Cafe Pyala as having commented on the story, though he did not exactly acknowledge the fact that we were the first within Pakistan and abroad to actually raise the issue of the fake cables.
According to this blog, the editor of Online, Siddique Sajid (who wrote the above letter to news organizations), has resigned over the affair. We do not have independent confirmation of this.
: : : 2ND UPDATE : : :
The following is the text of the notice published by Online about the sacking of its editor:
Online Editor Sacked
Decision made after Editor found solely responsible for making a fabricated story.
December 11, 2010 Islamabad
"The enquiry was ordered and led by Mohsin J Baig, the Editor-in-Chief of Online, soon upon his return from
, where he had accompanied Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani during his official visit there. Turkey
The decision to sack Mr. Siddique Sajid was made after it was established in the enquiry that he had ‘solely misused’ his editorial authority in the absence of the news agency’s Editor-in-Chief by ‘fabricating a false story’ on a highly sensitive subject such as the WikiLeaks’ disclosure.
The Online Management regrets the release of the said story by Online, its subsequent publication by media, and the consequent erosion of their public credibility. It assures the subscribers and readers of the news service that stringent measures are being adopted to prevent vested interests from planting such fabricated stories.
The Online International News Network is Pakistan’s largest news agency, with well over a decade long track-record of fair and balanced reporting, both news and photos, from Pakistan, the region and across the world.
‘We shall continue to perform this useful role in a responsible way as we have always done,’ said Mohsin J Baig, the Editor-in-Chief.
’I know the difficulty of reporting in a place laced with vested interests operating clandestinely, but reporting on currently the most volatile subject in global media and, that also, without corroborating the story’s contents with factual documents is unacceptable,’ Mr. Baig added, while justifying the sacking of the Editor Online."