The curious case of the ‘158 Indian soldiers’

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By Minerwa Tahir

We, as Pakistanis, tend to be over-enthusiastic when it comes to our love and hate relationships with neighboring countries. Our patriotism, which often translates as hatred for India, is at times nothing short of jingoism while our love for China hangs on to the edges of Stockholm syndrome. A perfect display of such feelings was made via yesterday’s media reports that cited ‘sources’ to claim that 158 Indian soldiers have been killed by the Chinese Army.

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Two major Pakistani media outlets ran this story, which comes at a time when Bhutan, China and India have been embroiled in a month-long standoff at the tri-junction Doklam border. Consequently, ‘158 Indians’ became a top trend on Twitter as many believed the story to be true. Interestingly, the pictures used to substantiate the claim of 158 soldiers’ killings were tweeted by Congress leader Salman Nizami. The damage showed in the photos took place when Pakistani troops struck the Indian army at Poonch on the LOC.

While electronic media in Pakistan has expanded in recent years, we are still marred by a lack of basic journalistic ethics. We will resort to click-bait headlines and sensational stories as we care about getting the most number of ‘hits’. Perhaps no electronic media outlet can claim that they ensure media ethics. Nonetheless, generating a fake news item for whatsoever reasons is a new low even for the budding Pakistani electronic media. As one Twitter user pointed out, killing of 158 of a country’s soldiers is tantamount to initiating a full-fledged war. I mean, okay I understand CPEC and all. But really?

This is not just a violation of journalism ethics – it is sheer abuse of your audience’s trust. Media is supposed to be extra cautious when it comes to such affairs, not become part and parcel of the agenda of certain quarters. In my university, I was taught that the basic duty of a reporter is to dig out the truth. This is what we owe to our audiences. Seems like sense of responsibility is lost upon some Pakistani journalists.

Meanwhile, India has responded to the unverified and incorrect news items, saying that the reports about casualties of Indian soldiers in Sikkim due to military action with China were ‘utterly baseless, malicious and mischievous’. External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said responsible media should take no cognisance of these reports.

Times of India reported that the standoff emerged after Chinese troops were stopped by the Indian Army from construction of roads in the Doklam border. India considers Sikkim border as part of its territory while China has said that the area falls on their side as per the 1890 treaty signed between the British and China. Consequently, China suspended the annual Kailash Manasarovar yatra and conceded that the decision to suspend the pilgrimage was due to the border scuffle. It also alleged that the Indian troops had crossed the Sikkim sector of the Indo-China border.

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Story first published: 18th July 2017

Originally Posted on SamaaNews

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