In politically charged times, the media has a tendency to become somewhat akin to a game of Chinese Whisper; by the time the message reaches its destination it is distorted beyond recognition. In the feverish hours leading up to the speeches of Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri, the media broke a scintillating story: the investigation commission holds the government and police guilty, the Lahore session court charges Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif for murder! Catchy headlines, perfect timing, but it presents a much distorted picture. It’s time to clear the air.

Firstly the Commission; (sometimes referred to as the Judicial Tribunal or Judicial Inquiry) after the Model town incident CM Shahbaz Sharif formed a one-man Judicial Commission to investigate the issue. Headed by Lahore High Court Judge Justice Ali Baqar Najfi, it has been receiving affidavits, conduction investigations and probing the matter since last month. It is a commission convened by the Chief Minister; while its findings may be considered accurate and will carry political weight, no one can be convicted on its basis. This report has been completed and handed over to the chief minister since last week. In a bid to not add fuel to the fire the chief minister has kept the contents of the report under wraps. Interpreting this action as an admission of guilt (a plausible conclusion), rumors spread that the report holds the government and the police responsible, which were promptly given airtime by the media. Other rumors hold that the government is absolved while the police are not and others still, that everybody is. In the absence of the actual text, it is irresponsible and incendiary to talk about blame, and the executioner’s axe must, for a while, rest.

This report must not be confused with the completely separate proceedings being carried out in the session court. In the wake of the incident, the Minhaj-Ul-Quran wanted to file a First Instance Report (FIR) against the Prime minister, the Chief Minster, the Law Minister, Inspector-General of Police Punjab and the CCPO Lahore amongst others, for murder of its 14 members. The police, itself tying to bring Tahir-Ul-Qadri to court or perhaps balking under political pressure from the PML-N, refused to register the FIR. The matter went to court, where on the 16th of August, the session court ordered the Station House Officer (SHO) Faisal Town to immediately register cases against the 21 nominees. This does not mean all the nominees are found guilty; only that a case will be registered and the matter investigated. Yet many PAT workers, and media personalities, are failing to see this distinction.

In times like these, the responsibility to be accurate is greater than ever; the media will do well to remember.