Thursday, 13 October 2016

Journalism 101: Was Cyril’s Story in Dawn Technically Correct?

While we don’t deal with political stuff, as such, but this past week’s story by Cyril Almeida in Dawn newspaper has gained a lot of traction. As a blogger, I have been asked about my stance on how correct the report was, academically, technically and journalistically as well.

Is it safe to report on sensitive matters without naming anyone? What will happen if all the parties — mentioned in Cyril’s report — deny the news, what could be the legal outcome if any action is taken against Cyril or Dawn News, are some of the questions that many are asking me.

At a time when blogging and digital reporting in Pakistan have been on the rise — with literally no training on how to prepare news items — we believe that a dissection of Cyril’s report will serve as a lesson for many of us.

After consulting with top editors and reporters of the country, below is what they had to say about what a “News Report” is, “how it’s prepared” and “Where does Cyril’s News Report Stand Academically”.

So let’s see what’s a News Item, how it’s different from opinion items and what ingredients are necessary for a proper news report.

What’s a News Report?
While this is very basic stuff, let’s write it down for the sake of completeness: A news item has to be an exact recollection of facts — spoken or written — with figures, facts and incidents in exactly the form they took place.

In a news item, unlike in opinion pieces, reporters can’t opine their thoughts about the incident. They just state facts, figures and report the incident exactly as it had happened, without including their feelings, thoughts and commentary about the event.

So technically speaking, if you are reporting a cricket match, you can’t say “Pakistan played very well”, or “Pooray Pakistan ko mubarak ho”, instead you should just state that Pakistan won the match by this much wickets or runs etc.

So basically, you just need to state facts and this is why news items are supposed to be brief, to the point and very valid in what they are saying.

How Is a News Item Prepared?

  • Tell a story, with or without naming your sources
  • Present facts, in a very straightforward manner
  • Here’s the must: You must speak with parties involved in the story, get their viewpoint and include it in your story.

You need to ask for info from people who are aware of any developments. You can either include the names — who gave you the info — or don’t, depending on how comfortable your sources are at being named in the story.

Then you must speak with the parties involved in the news story. Sources — mentioned above — could be different from parties involved, and hence viewpoint of those whom you are reporting about must be included.

A Possible Scenario:

I get a call from a friend, telling me that Telenor’s 4G network is available in Islamabad. I will at once verify the info to make sure that whatever I am writing is correct or not.

Once I am certain — after verifying with at least two more sources — that the initial information I had received was correct, I will call up Telenor Pakistan to see what they have to say about the availability of 4G network in Pakistan.

Not to mention, Telenor Pakistan will have the right to comment, or simply avoid commenting on the matter.

Once I have the response from Telenor (concerned party), or otherwise a denial to respond, here’s how I will prepare a story:

  • Telenor’s 4G Network is available in Islamabad, Mr. X confirmed us
  • or Telenor’s 4G Network is available in Islamabad we have checked with sources who confirmed us but decided to remain unnamed
  • Then we also include Telenor’s viewpoint by saying that “We asked Telenor Pakistan about this and they confirmed that company is working on its 4G network testing”
  • Or otherwise by saying “We asked Telenor Pakistan about the matter and they decided not to comment on it”

So we either name the source, or we don’t but we must speak with the parties concerned and get their viewpoint.

While some news reports are time sensitive and while concerned parties take time in responding, reporters can always clearly communicate a deadline to the parties and tell them that they can’t wait after a certain deadline.

In such cases, reporters mention something like this in their reports:

  • We asked Telenor Pakistan about this but a response is still awaited.

What Happens if Telenor isn’t Happy About the Report

If I had asked Telenor about their viewpoint and if it’s included in my report then chances are that Telenor won’t have any issues with the report.

But let’s assume that Telenor objects over my report and maintains that no 4G network is available (considering I didn’t ask for their viewpoint in the first place).

Telenor will contact me — asking me to correct the info with “There’s no 4G network available in Islamabad”.

I will have two options in such a case:

  • I submit to Telenor’s information, and make a correction
  • I stand firm on my stance and tell Telenor that we had fact-checked and that 4G was indeed available. So we aren’t taking back the story.

In such a case, Telenor can pursue legal action against me in a court of law, where I will have to prove my news report.

  •  I can either name my sources before court, and tell the court that this info was shared by Mr. this and this.
  • Sources will have to confirm that the information they had shared was based on certain evidence (documentary, video, voice or whatever)
  • Or I can hold the names — since court can’t force me to reveal my sources — and I will try myself to prove that the info I had provided in report was correct — obviously through solid proofs, either in form of video, voice or documents.
  • If I am able to prove, I will walk free or otherwise I will lose the case and possibly few million in damages to Telenor.

Things to Learn

  • It’s the reporter who has to prove things when asked
  • Reporter can hold the names of sources
  • Report must be able to prove a fact that he’s writing about

This is exactly why reporters drop tons of reports that pop up everyday. Since they are unverifiable, or don’t come with solid proofs, reporters simply discard such reports.

When a reporter is tipped with certain information, he’s at once put on test to judge if that news is verifiable or not. He speaks with people, visits places to get all possible evidences. If findings are solid, and verifiable, he goes ahead and files the report.

Then there are reliable sources, sources whom you can trust with your life. Any thing they say is as good as you seeing the documentary evidence yourself (even when you haven’t), then you judge the possible outcomes.

If story is sensitive and is potentially going to result a legal outcome, then it is advised to not to run the story without documentary proofs. But if it’s not a sensitive matter, or is not going to negatively impact anyone, then you can go ahead and trust your (reliable) sources, hoping that you won’t be asked for evidence in a court to prove your report.

What’s More Important in a News Report than Sources or Even the Viewpoint of Parties?

Even if your news report has all the ingredients, i.e. sources (named or otherwise), viewpoint of all concerned parties, you must be sure about what you are writing about.

A news report has to be factually valid, because you are ultimately going to be the responsible if it’s not.

Even if you include all the sources, or even the responses from parties, your news story won’t be of any good if its not based on facts or if it’s just half truths.

Case in Point: Cyril’s Story in
What’s missing in the report:

  • Named sources, but as we mentioned above, it’s okay to not to have named sources
  • Responses from PM House and ISPR are missing, which were vital. Since meeting took place at PM house and it involved military, official responses from at least two offices were must which were never obtained.
  • It is unclear if reporter asked ISPR or PM House for comment, but since it’s never mentioned in the piece we assume that he didn’t ask for any comment from the parties concerned.

So technically, this report has a lot of missing ingredients in it. And since everyone involved in the story — both civilians and Military — have rejected the story, Dawn’s report doesn’t stand a chance.

Dawn, on the other hand, claims that the information it published was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked.

We hope they did and obtained documentary proofs (such as a signed copy of meeting minutes) because if there’s litigation involved, Dawn will have to provide evidence that the information provided in the report was correct.

And since everyone is rejecting it — at least on the record — there’s no way for Cyril or Dawn’s editor to prove the facts and hence they may face legal action, if the aggrieved parties pursue it.

Case of National Security
Cyril’s story involved top government officials and there’s precedent for a reporter being asked to reveal their sources because sensitive information risking national security was revealed.

While we aren’t judging for now if Cyril’s report carries such important information that it can be termed as a risk to national security or not, let’s recall this case of Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter, who was sent to jail after a judge declared that she was “defying the law” by not revealing the name of a source who had disclosed the info on a covert operative of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In such case, if the government/court terms the information provided in Cyril’s report a threat to national security then it may also term the leakage of information provided in the report a criminal activity.

In such a scenario, the source will become criminal and Cyril will have to reveal the source or go to jail for protecting a criminal.

This is why, there’s serious caution advised when reporting topics are related to national interest, national security, blasphemy and other sensitive matters.

Is it Okay to Write Against Armed Forces?

Its not. As a law, you can’t say things that go against the integrity of Armed Forces. Here’s the section 19 of Constitution of Pakistan:
Freedom of speech
Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.
So what Cyril did, if it is proved in court that it was against Armed Forces, may go against the gentleman and against the rule book.
Technically speaking, there could be three potential problems with the story:

  • No viewpoint included from ISPR and PM House
  • If documentary evidences aren’t available, it will become hard for Dawn to prove the facts stated in story as everyone’s denying it
  • Reporter will have to reveal sources, if they are termed criminal for leaking information that possibly posed threat to national security
  • If proved (in the court), the story could be termed anti armed forces, and hence against Pakistani constitution.

Trump’s Islamophobia Forced This Pakistani Data Scientist to Leave USA

US Presidential candidate Donald Trump, in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the country, mocked and toyed with Islam in his campaign and debates. Now, the same hatred-laden speeches are taking their toll in American society.

Though hate crimes have been going on in America for a while now, every now or then a story shocks us to the core with its cruelty and vileness.

Here is the story of a 7-year old Muslim boy who has been bruised and injured in Cary, the largest municipality in North Carolina, USA and that too outside his very own apartment building.

Why? Because he wouldn’t eat haraam food which his class fellow was forcing down his throat.

Abdul Aziz, a fifth grader, refused and paid the price. The classmates ganged up on him and kicked him while calling him “Muslim” as an insult, over and over while twisting his arm.

Abdul Aziz is the son of Zeeshan-ul-Hassan Usmani, the data scientist and IT pioneer who developed PredictifyMe, a system that predicts where the next terrorist attack is likely to happen. Talk about a cruel twist of irony.

The family of Zeeshan-ul-Hassan Usmani has since then left U.S. and moved back to Pakistan to avoid future drama. The parents, Usmani and Binish Bhagwanee, of three innocent boys, told a media outlet that they couldn’t risk the life of their children by staying in the U.S.

Upon their return to Pakistan, a U.S. based newspaper took notice of the incident and conducted an interview via Skype. Usmani said of his son,

“He was born and raised [in the United States]. He was born in Florida. As American as you can think of. He likes Captain America. He wants to be president of the United States of America.”

“It’s very heartbreaking and sad,” said Usmani. “It’s not the America we know about, care about and want to live in.”

Usmani is a two times Fullbright Scholar who analyzed big data to prevent terror attacks. He is just like any other computer scientist, who has also won several awards in his field.

Their youngest son was not the only one was exposed to the hideous racial slurs. Their middle son, 8-years old, experienced something similar. He informed his parents that his classmates called his father, Usmani, a terrorist because he was a Pakistani with a beard.

“He asked me if I was a terrorist,” Usmani recalled. After that, Bhagwanee asked him not to go to the school anymore, “just so my children would not face any discrimination because of my face.”

Usmani’s oldest son, 14, once brought a knife into the school premises because of which he was suspended for six months from the school. Following the trend, he was the only one punished because he was Muslim. Slurs such as ISIS and terrorist were thrown towards him, scarring him for life. The school went on lockdown, Usmani added.

Things weren’t just awful at school for his children but also where the family resided. Usmani informed that one of his neighbors kept harassing with expletives. His wife was also threatened.

“He came to our apartment twice at midnight and at 2:00 AM, passing racial slurs, teaching us how to ‘behave’ and “’live in this country,’ mentioning Donald Trump and his desire to vote for him to kick us out of this country,” Usmani’s words in an email to the local police of Cary.

The neighbor did move away and the Cary Police Department proved to be of much help, he added.

Another incident Usmani mentioned was of the Iraq War veteran Russell Thomas Langford. He, Russell, came outside the mosque where Usmani and his sons go to pray and threatened to kill all of the Muslims inside and bury them behind the mosque. Usmani said that although he and his sons were not at the mosque that particular day, it was still a traumatizing incident which shook things in the community.

There have been countless incidents, according to Usmani which has made their living in the States near impossible. A man, whose life was dedicated to saving American lives, was mistreated and saw his family suffer all because a America is becoming intolerant towards immigrants who just want to serve their country as best as they could.

Welcome to the United States of America of Donald Trump. Meet my son Abdul Aziz. He is in grade 1, bullied and beaten by his own classmates in school bus for being a Muslim :-(

Samsung Makes A Mini Windows PC That Looks Like A Speaker

Fans of PCs which look like mini-trashcans rejoice. Mac Pro gets its biggest rival from the ever-present Samsung, in the form of the new ArtPC Pulse Premium.

The PC capitalizes on its circular looks by offering a 360-degree speaker courtesy of Harmon Kardon. Standing 10.7-inch tall, the PC does inspire comparisons with Amazon’s Echo visually.

The specs for the base model include a 6th generation Core i5 processor with 8 GB worth RAM and a 256 GB SSD. Graphics are handled by AMD’s new budget RX 460, which may alienate some people after the sizeable price-tag.
A slightly better option will also be outed with Core i7 processor, same SSD and graphics card, but twice the RAM and a 1 TB SATA HDD to ease things a bit. Connectivity is handled by USB Type-A, Type-C, HDMI, Ethernet and an SD card slot.

There are rumors that users can add and replace 1 TB storage models at their will, but we are yet to hear more from Samsung about it, which is understandably quite occupied by the situation concerning its smartphone division. The speaker itself is said to require 3 AA batteries which could hint at a separate existence altogether.

Pricing for the base model starts at $1200. The slightly better Core i7 model will retail for $1600. Not bad for someone looking to replace that aging Mac Pro. The PC will be available by the end of this month though, unless you adore its looks, it is not hard to go for its extremely-alluring rivals. Or get an MSI Vortex G65 to trump either of those.

Renew Your Driving License in Pakistan in 90 Minutes (Guide)

Nizar Diamond Ali

If the thought of getting your driving license renewed at expiry sends chills down your spine, read on. This is a recent real-life account on how to get through the process in 90 minutes (or less). This personal experience is of North Nazimabad license office and concludes with some after thoughts on how the process can be improved.

Steps in brief
Documents required:

  • CNIC original (for entrance)
  • CNIC copy
  • Original driving license
  • 2 photographs in blue background.

Driving License Fee structure (with approximate amounts)

  • Parking fee – optional – Rs. 20/-
  • Instant photo fee – optional – Rs. 100/-
  • Medical form fee – Rs. 100/-
  • License renewal fee – Rs. 1160/-
  • License lamination fee – Rs. 250/-
  • Total: PKR 1,630/-
  • Tip: Keep change, it will come in handy!

Counters and Their Expected Times

No trip to the driving license office is complete without its fair share of queues. We take a look at the queues you will have to visit, and the estimated time you may end up spending there.

  1. Information counter and filling up of application form – 15 min
  2. Application form photo booth (optional) – 20 min (Rs. 100/-)
  3. Medical fee submission counter – 5 min Rs. 100/-
  4. Data entry counter – 15 min
  5. Medical assessment counter – 15 min
  6. Stamp counter for renewal fee submission – 5 min (Rs. 1160/-)
  7. Lamination counter to receive photo slip – 5 min (Rs. 250/-)
  8. Driving license photo booth – 5 min
  9. Lamination counter to receive the license – 5 min

Total time: 90 mins

Steps in Detail
The best time to get the license renewed is early in the morning on a weekday.

At the entrance, there’s charged parking (Rs. 20/-) and at the main gate, original CNIC is expected to be checked so keep it with you.

Once in, the three-manned information counter greets you. Expect a queue here which gets quickly dissolved if all three windows are operational simultaneously, as the traffic police staff is quite quick in providing the information.

For renewal, you will be guided to get two forms from the forms-counter, one is the application form, and second is the medical form.

Application form can be filled there and then along with required documents mentioned above. Attach two photographs can be tricky since this needs to be in blue background. In case you don’t have it, you can get this done  through an on-site photo booth equipped with a digital camera and printer. The booth operates in load-shedding as well through a generator.

Now proceed to the medical fee submission counter which is the first fee submission counter (and not certainly the last!) which stamps the form as fee-paid.

As the application form is filled, documents are attached and medical fee is paid, get the application pack reviewed at the information counter to ensure there are no discrepancies. All these steps are completed in the outdoors. Rest of the steps are performed inside the building premises.

The next step is to proceed to Data Entry counter and submit your the form at the desk officer. The form is is stacked in a first-in first-out pile. So your form gets the last position in the existing workload pile. At your turn, your name is called so be seated or stand nearby. The data entry staff will confirm the details through CNIC, which includes name, address and phone numbers, and will have you double check it on computer.

You will now be handed your application and medical form over as you proceed to queue up outside the medical assessment room where applicants are called in one by one. A reading test is administered for both the eyes seperately. Then there’s a separate stamp counter where form is checked and renewal fee has to be submitted. The form is then required to be presented at the lamination counter (with lamination fee) which issues an entry-chit required to proceed the license photo-booth. This is mandatory step and not to be confused with the initial blue-background photos which is required for application form. Once this photo is clicked, proceed back to the lamination counter. The lamination counter maintains a register entering the applicants’ names and calls them out as batches of licenses are printed and received from the adjacent data center room. So again, be around as your name is called and you receive your renewed license.

The entire process completes in 90 minutes or less.


  1. Get up early and be there at 9:00 AM or before.
  2. Keep enough change, Rs. 100/- notes are a must.
  3. Go in pair, in case you have forgotten something or need something like change, you can count 4. on a friend’s help.
  4. Keep a pen with you for filling up the application form.
  5. Dress properly and appear tidy – the way you want to look for next few years on your license plastic!

What is good?

  • Traffic police officers are present on ground and manges the queue and floor.
  • The staff at each desk guides the applicants for next step.
  • Staff is quick in processing their assigned tasks.

What can be improved?

Reduce the number of counters (hand-offs) and eliminate redundant steps like photographs on application form

  • Consolidate the fee into 1 amount
  • Train the staff to be friendly (extremely important)
  • Use queue management ticketing system
  • Provide alternative authentication – e.g. use of biometric authentication in absence of CNIC
  • Improve the ambience

Learn Computer Science Online from the Best Universities Worldwide for Free

Want to do a whole Computer Science course? You can now do so with courses from some of the best universities in the world on the internet! What’s more, you don’t have to pay a single rupee.

Open Source Society University is an online hub of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) that is available for anyone to learn from.

They have compiled a Computer Science Course with links to courses from the best universities (such as MIT) and online learning services in the world. All neatly organized, it is arranged in order and also shows how much time it would take you to complete each course. The guide is also developed with a linear approach, so you can complete one course at a time before moving on to the next one.

You can find everything you would need at the course page over here. We have listed some of the essential things below.
What You’ll Need?
There are almost no prerequisites. All you need to have is some basic knowledge about Git and GitHub. You can learn about them through the resources given in the course:

Exams and Projects
There are no exams; instead, they focus on real projects. After you are done with a course, you are encouraged to think about a real world problem and solve it yourself. They just want you to put your knowledge to use. To make the process easier, there is a list of project suggestions for each course too.

How to Track your Progress

  1. Create an account in Trello.
  2. Copy this board to your personal account. See how to copy a board here.

They recommend taking all the courses, but you don’t necessarily have to do so. You can learn anything you find interesting or if you failed to grasp the concept in the class and needed to go over it again.

The internet has done for learning, what smartphones have done for sharing. Not only has it made learning much much easier, but it has also made it accessible to people everywhere. These days, resources like Coursera, KhanAcademy, Udemy, etc. can help you learn almost anything you want to.

Image Credits — Teaching Temple

32 GB iPhone 7 is Slower than the 128 GB Version: Report

You may be tempted by the higher capacity iPhone with its new Jet Black finish but that’s not the only reason to want the higher capacity variant.

In a series of tests conducted by GSM Arena, the 128 GB model of the new iPhone 7 was found to be much faster, in some instances beating the 32 GB model by three times.
In the Basemark OS II benchmark, the 128 GB iPhone 7 scored in the range of 1300-1700. The 32 GB 7 Plus meanwhile could score just 839. What’s interesting is that the year older iPhone 6s Plus also outscored it with a 1422.

The site then proceeded with the Pass Mark benchmark and once again the 32 GB iPhone astonished with write speeds of just 39.6 Mbytes/s while the 64 GB and 128 GB models both scored 200.6 Mbytes/s and 308 Mbytes/s, respectively.

Lastly, a custom test which was devised where a 10-minute 4K footage was shot and trimmed in half, with the time taken noted. Once again, the 128 GB iPhone took just 17 seconds to complete the task while its sibling lagged home at 52 seconds.

It is not known whether the issue was limited to a certain faulty unit obtained by the site, but is rather astonishing nonetheless.

Now, should that avert you completely from the 32 GB version? Most probably not, as for a lot of users who don’t need the crazy storage this model would hold the most value (especially considering the outrageous price premium). Unless you use the phones side-by-side you won’t even notice the difference.

However, if you are out for max speed and plan to use the phone in the entirety of its support cycle, then the higher spec models are pretty much a no-brainer.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Official: Samsung Kills the Note 7, Will Lose $17 Billion in Sales

When twenty years from now, industry analysts, marketers and students look back at today’s industry, Galaxy Note 7’s case will be remembered as the case of how easily things can unravel no matter how high the ambitions.

On Tuesday, as Samsung took down the Note 7, the long-term repercussions are something which would worry Samsung more. How do you move on from a phone which was so special it skipped a number? And let’s not even begin to pinpoint the cause of the entire mayhem, as Samsung, just as it had rushed to its release rushed to raise fingers at its own battery-manufacturing affiliate, Samsung SDI.

Turns out, we can’t even say for sure what the problem was in the first place.

At least, the short term damages are easier to gauge but nonetheless difficult to swallow: $17 billion, which were wiped from its market value.

The move could also hurt its profits by $5 billion and sales by $17 billion. It also would result in losing hundreds of thousands of users, who are being given the chance to trade their scorned flagship in exchange for whatever phone they like, a move which would ring alarm bells in times of a saturated market and ever-growing choices.

For years, Samsung has had to face comparisons with Apple, often justifiably. With no apparent major redesigns expected for the iPhone, Samsung could sense its moment arriving.

The Note 7 was deemed to be the company’s chance to step out of its archrival’s shadows, and for once win something not just by beating Apple, but on merit. By being stellar in its own right.

But as it turns out, barely two months after its release, Samsung finds itself on the backfoot and waiting for another opportunity which may never arrive.

PEMRA Could Put You in Jail for Four Years with Rs.10 Million Fine for Owning Indian DTH

In case you haven’t heard, PEMRA, the electronic media watchdog, has banned Indian DTH services in Pakistan. It is now illegal to own an Indian DTH service and anyone found selling or using it will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The deadline for banning Indian DTH is 15th October 2016.

PEMRA has now specified how stringent the punishment for those using Indian DTH for commercial and personal purposes will be. The electronic media watchdog will:

  • Slap a Fine of upto Rs. 10 Million
  • Send the offender to jail for up to 4 years

The previous announcement by PEMRA that outlawed the sale and use of Indian DTH services in Pakistan didn’t mention the specific details about the punishment to be meted out. However, in a bid to make the public aware about the illegality of owning an Indian dish to get superior quality channels, the authority has made it clear about how it intends to prosecute lawbreakers. It has also asked federal and provincial bodies to help it curb the use of Indian DTH.

It should be mentioned that Pakistan is losing millions of dollars in revenue because of the lack of certified and authorized DTH services in Pakistan. The launch of DTH services in Pakistan is the need of the hour and it is hoped that the government and the private sector come together and make this a reality.

To find out more about PEMRA and report the use of Indian DTH services, you can dial 0800-73672 for additional queries.

Public Awareness Campaign by PEMRA against Illegal Indian DTH.
— Report PEMRA (@reportpemra) October 10, 2016

Sunday, 9 October 2016


QTab X50 Offical Flash File

  • ROM Version: 4.2 (Jelly Bean)