Women journalists in Pakistan denounce online harassment by government

Islamabad, Aug 12 (efe-epa).- A group of women journalists in Pakistan denounced Wednesday a campaign to harass, intimidate and discredit them on social media by officials for their criticism of the country’s government.

“Women in the media are not only targeted for their work, but also their gender. Our social media timelines are then barraged with gender-based slurs, threats of sexual and physical violence,” read a statement signed by 27 journalists.

“The online attacks are instigated by government officials and then amplified by a large number of Twitter accounts, which declare their affiliation to the ruling party,” it added.

According to the statement, journalists are attacked for their criticism of the Pakistani government, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan of the Tehreek-i-Insaf party, especially concerning their coverage of the management of the Covid-19 crisis.

In what they termed as “coordinated campaigns,” personal details of the journalists were allegedly made public, and they were also referred to as peddlers of “fake news”, “enemy of the people” and accused of taking bribes.

The media workers claimed this campaign was aimed to “discredit, frighten and intimidate” them for being critical of the government.

Moreover, there have been attempts to hack their social media accounts and limit their access to information.

“Many (journalists) now self-censor, refrain from sharing information, giving their opinion or actively engaging online,” said the statement, which was also singed by the country’s Coalition for Women in Journalism.

The signatories included Farhat Javed and Sarah Atiq of BBC Urdu; Reema Omer, South Asia Legal Advisor for the International Commission of Jurists and presenter on Geo TV; and Mehreen Zahra-Malik at Arab News, among others.

In the statement urged the Government to stop attacking women media professionals and to ask for accountability from those doing so.

They also called upon the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the two houses of the Parliament to take appropriate measures in this regard.

Organizations of reporters in Pakistan have denounced that the government led by Khan has restricted press freedom in the country since coming to power two years ago.

Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has described the situation of media in the country as “obscene”, citing examples like disruptions in the transmission of certain news channels across the country.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party has accused critical journalists of being “anti-Pakistan” on Twitter, while Khan has repeatedly lashed out against his portrayal in the media.

The RSF has put Pakistan at the 145th rank – three places lower than in 2019 – in its 2020 press freedom index. EFE-EPA


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