A three-member joint investigation team (JIT) appointed by the Supreme Court concluded in its report on Thursday that every single claim made by anchorperson Dr Shahid Masood in the tragic Zainab rape-murder case was without any sound basis.

The extraordinary claims made by Dr. Shahid Masood, an established journalist, is a reflection of the poor standards of journalism in our country, as well as the complete lack of an ethical code in the profession.  The fact that such damaging allegations were allowed and propagated on television without requiring any proof is evidence of the integrity of the media, which instead of doing its job of informing and neutrally guiding the public of what is going on, often exacerbates events through pre-emptive heightened and inappropriate reporting. This was seen when journalists printed out Imran Ali’s picture and CNIC details before the police had confirmed he was the accused, and in doing so, risked potentially damaging the investigation. Similarly, the role of the press had played a part in the sensationalising of the events in Faizabad, which lead to further outrest.

Shahid Masood’s allegations also reveal the societal mentality of not accepting the phenomena of child sexual abuse and chalking it up to conspiracy theories. While instances of child abuse ring do happen, the statistics and further such incidents show that plain individual instances of child sexual abuse are rampant, and unless we accept this problem, we will never be able to solve it.

Lastly, the Court must be careful in deciding the consequences against Shahid Masood. We don’t want to set too harsh punishment, in order to balance the line between defamation and freedom of speech, not set a deterrent against journalists to out actual credible truths. The response must come from the journalist community itself, to harshly condemn such poor ethical standards of reporting.