Both the Daily Mail and DNA (which is Mumbai’s second largest English daily, and has a daily circulation of over 800,000 (including 260,000 in Mumbai) published as actual news a story that first appeared on May 22, 2015 on the website of the Khabaristan Times website under the headline “Maulana Fazlur Rahman calls for military action against jeans-wearing women” (https://khabaristantimes.com/featured/maulana-fazlur-rehman-calls-for-military-operation-against-jeans-wearing-women). It was widely shared on Facebook (over 9,600 times) and Twitter (almost 350 tweets) and some of the comments below it suggested that even some of the readers on that site took it initially as actual news.
In this spoof piece, the JUI leader is quoted as blaming just about every ill on society on women who wear jeans and concludes with the remark that a military operation should be launched against them for this very purpose.
While it did the rounds on social media, and many people believed it to be actually true (along the lines of a piece done right after Malala Yousafzai’s assassination attempt by well known columnist and writer Nadeem Farooq Paracha where he joked that she was a foreign agent, and which many people actually thought was the truth), no one would have thought that it would make its way into an authentic news source. However, this is precisely what happened, when one of Britain’s best-selling tabloids, The Daily Mail, which is a rightwing publication, ran the story as authentic with the headline “Pakistani cleric says jeans-wearing women cause earthquakes, rise in inflation” (www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3106037/Pakistani-cleric-says-women-wear-jeans-blame-earthquakes-terrorism-rising-inflation.html?ito=social-facebook).
However, some hours after it appeared on the Daily Mail, some Pakistani journalists, especially those familiar with social media and the digital world noticed the error and discussed. Here is a screengrab of the Facebook group “Digital Journalists of Pakistan” where a user pointed this out.
The post above also include the graphic that the Daily Mail used in its post, but which by June 2 was taken down.Here is the Daily Mail page accessed on the afternoon of June 2, suggesting that the piece had eventually been taken down.
However, the Internet being what it is, even though the Daily Mail had taken down the article realizing its error, several websites still had it up. A screengrab from one of these is shown below, and serves to highlight the fact that even the most widely read of newspapers and websites tend to make errors, which one would think would normally be beyond their standards and operating procedures.
That said, India’s Daily News and Analysis, still had this piece on its website on June 2, and readers would not know that it is actually satire, published earlier on a Pakistani website.