Meesha Shafi was not sentenced to three years in prison.
By Areeba Fatima | 16 March 2021 | 6:57 AM
Claim: Meesha Shafi who accused Ali Zafar of groping her and sparked country’s #MeToo movement faces three years in jail for ‘criminal defamation’
Fact: Meesha Shafi has not been formally charged with defamation.
On 12 March 2021, Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article with the headline “Pakistani Singer Faces Prosecution for Accusing Pop Star of Groping Her”. This article from a large international publication on a controversial issue understandably went viral on Pakistani social media. The article discusses how Ali Zafar’s defamation lawsuit against Shafi could possibly result in three years of jail time, stating “If convicted, [Shafi] could be sentenced to up to three years in prison.”
Following this article, Daily Mail UK published and article titled “Pakistani singer who accused pop star of groping her and sparked country’s #MeToo movement faces three years in jail for criminal defamation” on the same day as the WSJ article.
Screenshots from Daily Mail UK, Daily News Analysis India and Free Press Journal reporting
Meesha Shafi has not been sentenced to 3 years in prison. Following the Daily Mail UK article on 12 March 2020, prominent Indian news media outlets, such as Zee news, also reported the claim that the singer has been sentenced by a Pakistani court. This claim is false.
Basic Fact Check reached out to Meesha Shafi’s lawyers Asad Jamal and Nighat Dad, both of them went on record to say that the information is false and Asad Jamal also tweeted a statement clarifying that Shafi was not sentenced, in fact she, along with others accused by Ali Zafar of defamation, was not even indicted of these charges yet.
This court order dated for the previous day, 11 March 2021, was the most recent court order in Ali Zafar’s defamation case against Shafi and others. It clearly sets 27 March 2021 as the date of the hearing and does not mention any punishment for the defendant Shafi. On the other hand, it is clear from the court order issued one day before that the legal proceedings have not progressed to the point where a verdict would be declared.
This false information not only reached top trends on Twitter but was shared widely by social media influencers and the complainant’s fans on social media. False information of this kind leads to a perception that demotivates survivors of sexual harassment to come out and seek justice.
Several online Indian news websites claimed that Pakistani pop star Meesha Shafi has been sentenced to three years in prison. However, Basic Fact Check found this to be false. Shafi’s lawyers provided further information, clarifying that Shafi has not even been formally charged of the crime of defamation yet.
It is clear from the court order issued one day before that the legal proceedings have not progressed to the point where a verdict would be declared.