By Hina Haroon
The Kite Flying in Indian Journalism is the rule of the day nowadays and India has become the top country popular for fake news, disinformation campaigns, and embedding of journalistic cadre with its intelligence networking to malign China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The Economic Times is an Indian English-language business-focused daily newspaper owned by “The Times Group”. The Economic Times (ET) began publication in 1961 and had been considered as a reliable source of the Indian economy and business in the past.
In one of its recent stories at its paid content site, it claimed that it got hold of a 278-page report, which lists malpractices to the tune of $625 million in the independent power generating sector of Pakistan related to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
ET story cited a 278-page report in almost every para but did not give any link to the original report it was citing. No photo of the hard copy was included in ET report or even not title page of this original report was found in ET story.
This article got my attention while reading its first para that we call “Intro” in Journalistic language because its second and fourth lines were loaded with an adjective. The foremost rule of independent, balanced and unbiased reporting is complete avoidance of using any adjective—at least in the first three paragraphs of a story.
The intro says:
An internal report submitted recently to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a sensational allegation that China may made huge profits at the cost of its all-weather ally from CPEC projects”.
Two adjectives “Sensational” and “Huge” in a four-line intro developed my further interest in this story as a student of Journalism.
The story had the catchy title “Pak internal report alleges China may have made huge profits from CPEC at cost of locals”. The headline looked like another crafted work of a campaign launched by India against CPEC so I read the story till its end. Fabulously placed fake information were claiming that a 278-page report titled “Committee for Power Sector Audit, Circular Debt Reservation, and Future Road Map” lists malpractices to the tune of $ 625 million in the independent power generating units of CPEC related projects.
ET story cited a 278-page report in almost every para but did not give any link to the original report it was citing. No photo of the hard copy was included in ET report or even not title page of this original report was found in ET story. This was quite intriguing that if ET had access to such a Report then why did it not publish or incorporate the original Report in its story? This factor pushed me to go for the realty check and fact-checking process about the so-called report ET was referring to as the base material of its story.
The reality, however, is otherwise. The entire ET story is contrary to facts and ET made a so-called special report out of two power sector stories already published in Pakistan in year 2019 and 2020.
CPEC related projects had never been under the purview of this Committee that submitted its report to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
ET got base-material for fabrication from a story published in August 2019 in Pakistani newspapers that Pakistan had decided to investigate malpractices in the past while awarding projects to independent power producers (IPPs). A Committee was formed to review matters pertaining to payments made to the IPPs, payables to the IPPs, lower-than-required collection of consumer bills by distribution companies, electricity tariff determination policies and procedures, and identify unethical or illegal practices if any. Similarly, the committee was asked to review the policies and models of the power sector globally and recommend the way forward for changes in the country’s power policies, administrative setups across the entire value chain, power generation and billing to end-consumers, regulatory and market reforms with a view to avoiding circular debt in the future and reduction in the cost of power supply to consumers.
The Committee was empowered to review compliance of the IPPs with their respective power purchase agreements (PPAs) and any illegal relaxation given to the IPPs in terms of tariff determination, financial close, construction period, capacity payment, and merit order, review the fuel efficiency allowed under the tariff policy and actual cost accounting of the IPPs and capital structure allowed under the tariff policy.
However, this Committee was formed to look after IPPs being established before and under 1994 policy, 2002 policy, and 2006 renewable energy policy including bagasse plants being set up under the 2013 co-generation framework. CPEC related projects had never been under the purview of this Committee that submitted its report to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In April 2020, the government decided to recover over 100 billion Pakistan rupees from corrupt IPPs and ET manipulated this story of Pakistan Today published on April 11, 2020, titled “Govt asked to recover Rs100bn from ‘corrupt’ IPPs” written by Ahmad Ahmadani”.
This report says:
“The nine-member committee submitted a 278-page long report, ‘Committee for Power Sector Audit, Circular Debt Reservation, and Future Roadmap’, to PM Imran Khan, which put the blame of these losses on the violation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that include the cost of the installation of IPPs, government agreements, alleged embezzlement in fuel consumption, power tariff, guaranteed profit in dollars, and certain conditions of power purchase”.
The above mentioned is the original para that has no mention of CPEC because the Committee had never reviewed CPEC power projects.
ET almost used the same para but with fabrication and baseless material as:
“An internal report submitted recently to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a sensational allegation that China may made huge profits at the cost of its all-weather ally from CPEC projects. The reality investments in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been revealed in a 278-page report titled “Committee for Power Sector Audit, Circular Debt Reservation, and Future Road Map” which lists malpractices to the tune of $ 625 million in the independent power generating—-“
Last year in December the independent, non-profit disinformation watchdog EU DisinfoLab exposed that more than 750 media in 116 countries; over 550 website domain names registered; the resurrection of dead people; the impersonation of EU institutions and direct control of more than 10 NGOs accredited to the UN Human Rights Council, utilized for the purpose of pushing fake news and false Indian propaganda against Pakistan since 2005.
What kind of journalism is in practice in India can be judged by this ET story and one can understand that connivance of Indian Media, Indian Intelligence Agency RAW, and BJP government has played havoc with journalist norms, ethics and standards and Indian journalism that had been an example for other South Asian journalists had nosedived to the unimaginable lowest level of professionalism.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.