Women journalists speak up against digital abuse with one voice — Enough is enough!
After facing slur and abuse for years, both online and in-person, women journalists have started speaking up, pointing fingers to trolls those in government quarters, political activists, and social media cells of political parties.
These attacks often in the form of coordinated campaigns are “increasingly impacting our work, mental wellbeing and security”, reads an open letter, signed by dozens of women journalists of Pakistan. The letters explain the nature of attacks, which include “gender-based and sexualized abuse, discrediting, targeting and persecution … The kind of trolling and unfettered vulgarity being experienced subverts every norm of decency with no law enforcement agency, government, or any political party taking notice or action of what is clearly transgressing all limits of decency and subverting every ethical standard”.
The letter details the reasons behind these attacks on women in media, which often stem from their reporting on critical issues that may offend a political party. They come under attack for differing from the government or a political party’s position on any given issue. On a few occasions, women journalists’ pictures and videos are made viral following with gender-based slurs, threats of sexual and physical violence. In the attacks, these journalists’ family members and colleagues’ families are not spared. In the age of photoshop and software which can doctor and distort videos, it is easy to make a simple video or photograph dubious.
“In this context, we demand that we are told what the official mandate of the social media cells of the federal and provincial governments operating on tax-payers money is. Often, it seems like the mandate of these social media cells is to discredit journalists and analysts, without any evidence. We also demand that all other political parties and institutions ensure verifiable transparency regarding the mandate and operations of their respective social media wings. The Election Commission of Pakistan should demand all political parties to submit detailed workings of their social media cells”, reads the letter.
The women journalists demand that the government and all political parties draw up and adopt a code of conduct for social media teams of political parties, public bodies and other public/state institutions; investigate within to identify networks which have been prominently engaged in launching and running coordinated attacks, hashtag campaigns and abusive campaigns against women in the media; initiate investigation and take action against those officials for whom there is evidence available that they are directly or indirectly engaged in the discrediting and harassing women in media; Whenever a journalist lodges a complaint with Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) or the police regarding intimidation, threats and other forms of digital abuse, the case(s) should be processed fairly and efficiently, without any pressure to withdraw or an environment of victim-blaming; the Cyber Crime Wing at the FIA must set up dedicated desks to facilitate registration of cases of digital violence against women; the Journalist Protection Bill should be cognizant of the digital threats and violence against journalists and facilitate effective investigations of digital crimes against journalists.
All stakeholders and those involved (as mentioned in para 2) should be made to adhere to a culture of no tolerance to digital abuse; and finally, we urge the government not to use this statement as an excuse to introduce further regulations and curbs for social media. We believe that the PTI, as the ruling party holds primary responsibility to set the tone for progressive, positive, and inclusive political discourse and should lead by example.
The letter carries the signatures of Nasim Zehra (24 News), Quatrina Hosain (PTV), Seema Tahir (CEO News One), Asma Shirazi (Aaj News), Meher Bokhari (Dawn News), Maria Memon (ARY News), Fereeha Idress (AbbTak News), Gharidah Farooqi (News One), Tanzeela Mazhar (GTV), Yashfeen Jamal (Qalam-Camera), Javeria Siddique (TRT), Farhat Rabbani (BBC), Shiffa Yousufzai (HUM News), Madiha Naqvi (ARY News), Neelum Nawab (DIN News), Sana Bucha (Aaj tv), Nadiya Mirza (PTV News), Maria Zulfiqar (HUM News), Beenish Saleem (Neo News), Farah Sadia (ATV/Public News), Afshan Qureshi from Daily Jinan, Batul Rajput, Freelancer, Sadaf Jabbar, ARY News, Farah Iqrar, Samaa News, Sadaf Khan, Media Matters Nausheen Yousaf, Geo News, Shazia Sikandar, Fmr. PTV Urooj Raza Siami, Roze TV, Aalia Shah, DW Aniqa Nisar, Capital TV, Iffat Rizvi, Independent & DW, Rashida Sial, AbbTak, Zahra Noor Abbas, AbbTak, Huma Amir Shah, Geo News, Aneela Khan, Independent, Mehr Tarar, AbbTak ,Alia Jawad, Geo Sports, Nabeela Hafiz, VoP, Nargis Janjua, Daily Jinan, Sadia Kamal, APP, Shazia Nayyar, Aap News Maleeha Hashmi, freelance , Aneela Mehmood, Shamim Ashraf Daily Kashmir, Shazia Tahir, Freelancer ,Sabahat Khan, DW Pernia Khan, BBC Irfana Yasser, BBC Urdu, Nadia Suleman, BBC Urdu Shumaila Jaffery, BBC Nazish Zafar, BBC Munazza Anwar, BBC Sana Asif Dar, BBC Nadia Murtaza, Dawn News, Ambreen Fatima, Nawa e Waqt, Sophiya Anjam PTV/FM 91, Beenish Jawed, Online Journalist Ayesha Shoaib, Neo News, Mona Khan, Independent, Ghazala Naureen, AbbTak, Zaryab Arif, Hum News Maria Shirazi, The News Int’l Afshan Qureshi, Daily Jinan Rameeza Ahmad, Freelancer Fatima Nazish, Hum News Sumeera Ali, GNN News Shazia, Express TV Wajiha, Dawn News Rabia Shahab, Dawn News Asiya Ansar, BBC Urdu Huda Ikram, BBC Urdu Sarah Hasan, VOA Ayesha Ehtisham, Neo News Fatima Ali, Independent Urdu Noreen Zahra, Geo News
Sumaira Latif, Geo News Saima Sajjad, Geo News Zeynep Gürcan, CFWIJ Kiran Nazish, CFWIJ Lubna Jerar Naqvi, KUJ Samreen Hameed, Geo News Sumeira Khan, Indus News Sanovia Chaudhry, Geo News Uneeba Zamir Shah, Geo News, Fatima Saleem, Geo News, Dilrukshi Handunnetti (Sri Lanka) Hamna Malik, Voice of Balochistan, Laiba Zainab, Sujag Naheed Jahangir, Tribal News, Asma Ali Zain, Arab News, Sana Jamal, Gulf News Sehrish Khokar, ARY News Madiha Abid Ali, Dunya News, Mona Khan, Independent Urdu, Sehrish Lodhi, PTV, Diya Rehman, Radio Pakistan, Shafaq Iqbal, Nawa-e-Waqt, Irum Zaeem, Samaa TV Sitara Jabeen, TRT World, Moneeba Iftekhar, APP, Riffat Shah, Aap News Tanzeela Rania, Aaj News.
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