Pandemic versus Infodemic: A Comparison of English and Urdu Newspapers in Pakistan
Keywords:Pandemic, Infodemic, Misinformation, Coronavirus, Pakistan
On the 23rd of March 2020, Daily Nawa-i-Waqat (one of Pakistan’s leading Urdu newspapers) published the picture of a lion released in Russia to enforce the lockdown because of the COVID-19 outbreak. A day after the publication of the picture—which became a front-page story—however, the Nawa-i-Waqat published a corrigendum about the false news. The bombardment of media messages in the wake of the pandemic led the World Health Organization to rightly declare the situation an ‘infodemic,’ wherein the spread of misinformation and rumors not only increased the atmosphere of uncertainty but also gave rise to an uncanny milieu of anxiety. In Pakistan, the Urdu Press manifested a failure to maintain the responsibility of fact-checking. By contrast, English newspapers in the country appeared to maintain the standards of accuracy in the provision of news related to the pandemic. This suggests that the English Press in Pakistan—albeit having low circulation because of the language barrier—is more meticulous and professional.The situation of the coronavirus pandemic helps us identify the different functioning of two types of newspapers in the country that are not only linguistically different, but also vary in terms of practicing journalistic standards that raise and uplift the taste and morale of people. By employing the methodology of rhetorical criticism, I analyze an Urdu (Nawa-i-Waqat) and an English (Daily Dawn) newspaper in Pakistan for the presentation of information related to the pandemic. Following Shoemaker’s media gatekeeping theory, I argue that studying the COVID-19 news in two different strands of newspapers is a perfect case in point to exhibit the chasm of English versus Urdu Press in Pakistan.