The recent media freedom conference at London, in which Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was a guest, could stand to teach not just governments but journalists as well lessons on the importance of reporting fair and truthful news. As journalists, it is our duty to hold the government’s feet to the fire, yet in our pursuit to provide oversight of the government, we should also not fall prey to promoting vicious unwarranted attacks by discredited sources.

On Friday’s media freedom conference in London, for example, some among the opposition and in international media rejoiced a Canadian media outlet’s verbal assault on Shah Mehmood Qureshi. During a panel discussion on free speech, Mr Qureshi was interrupted by journalist Ezra Levant, who behaved extremely unceremoniously, calling the Minister “censorious thug” and alleged that his Twitter account had been suspended over complaints from the Pakistan government.  Most of the international media, and some of Pakistan’s too unfortunately, have painted Levant as a courageous “journalist” uncovering Pakistan’s true face.

Yet how credible is this “journalist” and was his verbal assault really a well-intentioned courageous move for the cause of media freedom? Levant runs Rebel Media, a right-wing white supremacist website which promotes content featuring fear-mongering about immigrants and advancing racist, Islamophobic, and white nationalist tropes. Rebel Media has also shown extremely antagonistic sentiment towards Pakistan- it has advocated against foreign aid to the country, calling it an “extremist, radical state, home to some of the greatest monsters on earth.”

The source and context of criticism are important. When the source of the criticism is an Islamophobic and racist outlet which has previously betrayed an agenda against Pakistan, we should not laud such attacks upon our Foreign Minister, just because one of the ten allegations may be true. The increasing cuts on media and the new measures by PEMRA are indeed a concern that should be raised by civil society and the journalist community, yet the source for those grievances should not be from right-wing figures and the forum does not necessarily have to be international, considering some western countries’ own oppression against journalists and whistle-blowers like Julian Assange.

In our quest for the truth and in our efforts to enable a free and honest media, we ought to distinguish between valid legitimate criticism of the government, and malicious attacks by bad-faith actors. Otherwise, we shall lose credibility, and the honest critique that the government deserves because of its new restrictive measures shall also go unheard.