The media discourse during the recent Pakistan-India escalation is a stark example of the integral role media and social media play forming public perception which, in turn, influences government decision-making and policy.

Reports of the first Indian Air Force (IAF) airstrike grossly exaggerated the damage done in Balakot. They were quoting astronomical figures for the amount of casualties as well as structural damage as a result of the strike.

For the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) air strike, they claimed that they had shot down a PAF F-16 while pursuing the aircraft back into Pakistani airspace. This claim was debunked by multiple sources; first by an expert on an Indian news outlet and then by Finnish expert Veli-Pekkalt, who proved that the parts being displayed as wreckage of an F-16 was, in fact, that of a Soviet-era MiG 21, used by the IAF.

The Indian news media as a whole has been acting as an instrument of propaganda; influencing the perception of the Indian public. They have manipulated truths to benefit their narrative; heightening anti-Pakistan nationalist sentiments. Pakistani media has also been guilty of similar tactics albeit to a lesser extent.

Another, more local instance of fake news is the Baloch Sub-Nationalist Groups’ (BSNGs) falsifying information for the sake of their propaganda. They have also been observed to exaggerate military casualties on social media as a result of the attacks they conduct.

An example are reports of an attempted attack with rockets, on Frontier Corps (FC) forts in Khuzdar, claimed by Lashkar e Balochistan. They claimed that they had caused heavy structural damage as well as casualties, when in reality, the rocket they had fired landed 300m outside the fort boundaries there were no casualties.

Another instance is an attack on an Army check-post claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). Their reports to the media claimed multiple military casualties as well as structural damage, whereas really, the rocket had landed 700m away from the check-post. These exaggerated reports serve as testaments of success for the BSNGs’ cause and invite more people to join the cause.

It may be argued that the escalation between Pakistan and India might have been much slower had it not been for the aggressive discourse between citizens of each country over social media; where many were spreading hate and creating a thirst for war. A warmongering public would further feed its warmongering leader who would then very easily be able to take aggressive action with their support.

Such discourse over mainstream and social media influences public opinion, this public perception influences government action. Falsification of facts is never ethical, even when justified to improve public morale. It sets a dangerous precedent for media outlets, where they feel free to manipulate information to benefit the powers that be. This manipulation of public perception also tends to create an environment of mass hysteria and fear.

We as viewers need be more aware of the content we consume on mainstream media and the discourse we partake in on social media. We need to be more wary of the information we see and not believe everything we read. It’s also important to identify media outlets that are disseminating false news and those that are disseminating correct information.


About Author

Leave A Reply