Several Indian news outlets published reports that said that Pakistani singer Meesha Shafi will “face up to three years in jail for levelling false accusations of sexual harassment” against actor-singer Ali Zafar.
Shafi, in 2018, had accused Zafar of sexual harassment amid the #MeToo movement. After Shafi went public with her accusations, more women came forward with similar allegations. Ali Zafar denied the allegations and later filed a defamation suit against the artiste and several others.
Contrary to the reports by the India news outlets, the legal battle is still going on between the two and no verdict has been passed by any Pakistani court on the matter.
A report in The Times of India read, “As per a report, post Ali Zafar’s defamation case against Meesha, a Pakistani Court has awarded 3 years of jail term to Meesha for causing ‘irreparable damages to his career, thanks to the false case’.
Hindi daily Amar Ujala published a report that was titled, “मीटू: अली जफर पर आरोप लगाने वाली गायिका मीशा शफी को तीन साल की कैद की सजा”.
[Translation: #MeToo: Singer Misha Shafi, who had accused Ali Zafar, sentenced to three years’ imprisonment ]
International Business Times India tweeted their report on the incident and said, “Pakistani singer Meesha Shafi who accused Ali Zafar of sexual misconduct has been given three years in prison”. Their report, however, said that she will have to go to prison ‘if she loses the case’.
Other news organisations that reported incorrectly on the same case were ABP News and DNA. Both these news organisations, in their headlines, said that “Shafi faces three years in jail”, but failed to report that she hadn’t been convicted yet.
British tabloid Daily Mail also published a story on the case while misinterpreting a report from The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The tabloid story was cited as a reference in many Indian news reports.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
We looked for reports on the defamation case filed by Zafar against Shafi and other accusers and didn’t find any report that said a verdict had been passed.
According to a report published by Pakistan news agency Dawn on 29 September 2020, Shafi and eight other people were booked under section 20(1) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, and R/W 109-PPC. According to the law, if convicted, they could face a jail term of maximum three years.
According to another Dawn story, published on 12 March 2021, the defamation case was pending before a session’s court. It stated that Shafi and the other accused were to appear in court, but failed to do so, following which, the case was adjourned for further hearing till 27 March and Shafi was summoned.
We read the article published in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that detailed the case and found that the report didn’t mention anything about a ‘verdict’. The report clearly mentioned that “if convicted, she could be sentenced to up to three years in prison”.
The report also talked about Shafi’s fight in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to bring her case under a law meant to protect women in the workplace. The article said that judicial authorities ruled that her case isn’t covered under the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act of 2010.
Shafi took to her Instagram page and shared a debunk published by Paksitani website, Samaa.
Her lawyer, too, posted a clarification on Twitter and said that the reports were fake and no verdict had been passed in the case. “Let there be no confusion that no such verdict has been passed by any court in Pakistan. In fact, the court has not even indicted any of the several men and women accused by Ali Zafar of spreading falsehood,” he wrote.
Clearly, Indian news outlets published misleading or false reports on Shafi getting three years in jail in a defamation case filed against her by Zafar.