Countering Disinformation Amid the Changing Dynamics of Warfare

The power of mass media as an agenda-setter and steering the public opinion cannot be denied, which in turn may have an impact on the state and society. Through persuasive agenda setting, the public opinion can be influenced in order to achieve particular objectives. This, coupled with the asymmetric, irregular form of fifth generation warfare that has an element of ambiguity, can pose serious dangers to a country. The victim may not know where is it being targeted from and at times not aware of being attacked, but if the consequences manifest themselves before being remedied, the damage may have already taken place.
In this modern form of warfare, perceptions are shaped through disinformation, propaganda and fake news that involves the elements of deniability, ambiguity and secrecy. In the same vein, our Eastern neighbor has been making a deliberate yet continuous effort to sabotage Pakistan’s stability to achieve various gains through the provocative material in the information sphere, such as create conflicts within the country and on the broader spectrum, attempt harm the state’s interests and achieve its political objectives. Ample evidence has surfaced over time that clearly proves India’s covert involvement in an attempt to weaken and destabilize Pakistan on different fronts.
Indian media’s jingoism that routinely takes over the public discourse stokes tension, which can prove exponentially dangerous, primarily because it may have serious consequences for the region. The news outlets pursue their agendas relentlessly as a premeditated goal. The talk shows routinely incite public outrage against its neighbor but these media outlets are now becoming a joke for publishing/airing fake news regarding Pakistan that have been repeatedly refuted. Recently, it came to the attention of a European TV channel that resultantly exposed India’s disinformation campaign regarding Pakistan Air Force launching an offensive in Panjshir, Afghanistan. The footage aired by Indian media is from the video game Arma-3, whereas another channel aired a clip of an American F-15 jet flying in Wales calling it the "first visuals of a fighter jet, allegedly belonging to Pakistan, hovering over Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan" and a “full-fledged invasion of Afghanistan.”
In another similar incident in 2019, photographs that were shared hundreds of times on Facebook claimed to show Balakot after Indian airstrikes, which was refuted by a global news agency as the photographs showing the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake belonged to the said news agency.
A recent report prepared by the Digital Media Wing of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting also highlighted how the hashtags generated on social media that propagate fake news are aimed at maligning the state of Pakistan through collaboration with hostile foreign powers.
Previously, EU DisinfoLab, a non-governmental organization, released reports which revealed a 15 years long disinformation campaign originating from India that was spreading false information to discredit Pakistan internationally and influence decision-making at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the European Parliament.
Pakistan is well aware of its neighbor orchestrating an anti-Pakistan rhetoric and stoking tensions through different channels, and is ready to tackle the conventional and unconventional threats whenever and wherever they may arise. Chief of the Army Staff, while addressing the Defence Day ceremony held at the General Headquarters said, "Our enemies are also using non-traditional means including propaganda and disinformation to achieve their nefarious objectives… If any enemy wants to fight us, it will find us ready at every moment and on every front."
However, it is a journey that requires the participation of everyone as the nation will be confronted with riddles at every stage in this post-truth era.

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