Has Freedom of Expression Become A Self-Parody? Examples from Pakistan’s Social Media

June 19, 2018
03:00 pm - 04:30 pm

About the event

Once hailed as a dynamic expression of the people’s will, social media in Pakistan, and the rise of disinformation in particular, pose a threat to democracy in the country today. A look at the quality of discourse on social networking sites suggests that online, freedom of speech may well have become an unintentional self-parody. One of the most striking examples of this came in the wake of a 2013 article in the Dawn, a leading Pakistani daily newspaper, in which celebrated journalist Nadeem F. Paracha satirized the absurd allegation that girls’ education advocate Malala Yousafzai was a western agent. Seeking to advance an agenda of their own, certain Urdu newspapers, as well as Iran’s Press TV network, reported on the satire as legitimate news.  By the time the Dawn had issued disclaimers setting the record straight, many thousands of social media users had shared the article as fact. In his presentation, Reagan-Fascell Fellow Nadeem F. Paracha showed how this case, like so many others, represents the impact that viral hoaxes, rumors, and other forms of manipulated information can have through social media.


  • Nadeem F. Paracha, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

Moderated by:

  • Zerxes Spencer, Senior Manager for Fellowship Programs, National Endowment for Democracy


About the Speakers

Nadeem F. Paracha, or “NFP” as he is known, is a prominent Pakistani journalist, cultural critic, and columnist currently associated with DAWN, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily. He is a widely read columnist who has commented on the rise of religious extremism and the importance of carrying forward Pakistan’s democratic experiment. In 2016, he published his first book, End of the Past, a social and cultural history of Pakistan, followed in 2017 by his second book, The Pakistan Anti-Hero. His third book, Points of Entry, was published internationally in June 2018. During his fellowship, Mr. Paracha is tracing the pluralistic and democratic roots of Muslim nationalism in Pakistan, a research project that will culminate in a book intended to serve as a counterpoint to the dominant extremist narrative in the country.


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