Indian news broadcasts claimed that the Pakistani airforce attacked the Panjshir valley in Afghanistan to assist the Taliban in fighting the Resistance Front.
Indian media did so by sharing footage of alleged Pakistani airstrikes. The only issue?
It’s not real, as it was footage from the video game Arma 3.
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) September 6, 2021
The footage first appeared on Indian news channels including Republic TV, Times Now Navbharat, Zee Hindustan, and TV9 Bharatvarsh. The original video was credited to a source called “Hasti TV” on Facebook, which has since been deleted.
In fact, the footage came from the above video, originally posted on the YouTube channel Compared Comparison, which has now been viewed 23 million times. The gameplay shows players engaging in a ground-to-air battle between a jet and a vehicle-mounted anti-air turret with tracer rounds seen firing through the sky at the jet.
A representative for Arma 3 developer Bohemia Interactive confirmed that the original footage does indeed come from the game.
“Strangely, we’ve seen this particular game footage be used several times by certain media outlets in support of their real-life news coverage,” the Bohemia Interactive rep said. “We know this because we’ve been previously approached regarding similar occurrences by fact-checkers from organizations such as Agence France-Presse, Check Your Fact, PolitiFact, and if I remember correctly, also Reuters.”
“The clip in the [original viral tweet] is so cropped and low-res that I find it hard to compare and say for sure which it is, but I’m confident it is Arma 3 footage,” Bohemia Interactive’s rep said.
During Republic TV’s broadcast, the anchor can be heard repeating the claim that the Pakistani airforce performed an airstrike in Panjshir. The claim was originally recognized as fraudulent by Boom, a group that calls itself India’s “first and leading fact checking website and initiative,” and is a member of the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network initiative.
While Arma 3 is a somewhat realistic battle simulator, one has to question why mainstream news outlets began airing video content without verifying its authenticity, and in fact, called it “exclusive footage” to prove that Pakistan is helping out Taliban in Afghanistan. One media outlet, Republic, has now posted a clarification on its Facebook page, stating that:
“The video in question of ‘Pak Army striking Panjshir’ was taken and credited to Hasti TV – which as per their bio claims to be ‘the only Afghan TV channel in the UK catering to the needs of the Afghan/Persian Diasporas in the UK and rest of the World’. Hasti TV aired the video on their channel and also shared it on social media with the caption which when translated reads, ‘A video that we just received from Panjshir shows that a Pakistani military airplane is flying over Panjshir. Until now, the official sources have not approved this video.’ Multiple media outlets have carried and reported the said video. Since it has been brought to our notice that the video may not be accurate, the erroneous video sourced to Hasti TV has since been deleted from our official handles.”
The misleading content has now been taken off-air and has been removed from social media platforms, online coverage, and YouTube.
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