Alliance for Diversity and Pluralism in Media (ADPM) Statement on the August 16 Jaranwala anti-Christian mob violence and its News Coverage

August 18, 203: The Alliance for Diversity and Pluralism in Media (ADPM) strongly condemns the ruthless attacks on the Christian community of Jaranwala on August 16. The incident reflects the height of intolerance and violence against religious minorities in the country and the inability of the State to curb mob attacks.

A Muslim mob in Jaranwala, incited by unconfirmed allegations of Quran desecration against a Christian man, attacked the local Christian neighbourhoods, burnt over two dozen churches and countless copies of the Bible, ransacked houses, and terrorised members of the Christian community who had to flee from the area to save their lives.

Unfortunately, mob lynching and attacks on the residences and places of worship of religious minorities, often on spurious allegations or suspicion of blasphemy, have become common occurrences in Pakistan and, in some cases, are suspected of being enabled by law enforcement authorities especially in the Punjab province. The misuse of blasphemy allegations, often for personal motives or to settle grudges and more recently to bring down political opponents, is well-documented. Previous incidents, such as the 2021 lynching of Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara in Sialkot, attracted much outcry from activists and politicians as well the international community for protection against falsified blasphemy accusations.

However, even the swift award of death sentences and imprisonment to the attackers involved in the Kumara murder do not appear to have increased deterrence against such violent crimes and fatal attacks against religious minorities. Instead, policymakers have this year amended the anti-blasphemy sections in the criminal code to increase punishments and allow non-bailable arrests, reportedly to reduce vigilante justice but arguably ignoring the factors that lead to false accusations and the misuse of the blasphemy laws in the first place.

These societal and legal circumstances require a media intervention but the ADPM feels that despite their broad reach, the mainstream and legacy media news coverage on the issue of protection of religious minorities is often limited to post-fact performative outrage and token reactions of sympathy that are quickly overtaken by the regular news cycle.

According to a 2019 IRADA report, the coverage of religious minorities in Pakistan by mainstream media was low and often stereotypical. Even now, there is little real attempt by the legacy news media to engage with the issues of the religious minorities and voice their concerns through their community members and representatives.

The ADPM, an advisory body of journalists and rights activists that works to promote inclusive and pluralistic public interest journalism, believes that the mainstream and legacy media have a larger responsibility. They can educate the masses on social, cultural and religious sensitivities in order to discourage hatred against the marginalised groups that are further made vulnerable by threats of mob violence and fatal attacks.

The ADPM encourages media outlets to not only provide in-depth coverage of the aftermath of the Jaranwala attack to ensure the accountability of the perpetrators as well as the authorities and rehabilitation of the victims, but also to lend their platforms to discussions on the illegality of mob violence and the underlying factors that lead to intolerance, false accusations, and misuse of laws.


At the same time, the ADPM commends social media users and digital news media platforms for their contribution in the swift flow of information relating to the attacks and highlighting the human rights violations, leading to global attention and condemnations and forcing quicker action from the authorities. The ADPM also appreciates the response of National Commission for Human Rights which made visits to Jaranwala to speak to victims and collect on-ground reports. Other media should follow and emulate these practices.