'ArrestAntiPakjournalists' tops Twitter trends in Pakistan

Published July 4, 2019
Many users accompany the trend with a composite photograph of prominent journalists and TV anchors. — AFP/File
Many users accompany the trend with a composite photograph of prominent journalists and TV anchors. — AFP/File

A hashtag calling for the arrest of journalists briefly became the top Twitter trend in Pakistan on Thursday, deepening concern over a shrinking space for dissent in the country.

The hashtag #ArrestAntiPakjournalists had dropped to second place by evening, but not before it had been used or forwarded more than 28,000 times.

Read more: 11 things that wouldn't have happened without press freedom

Many users accompanied it with a composite photograph of prominent journalists and TV anchors, some of whom regularly criticise the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the powerful military establishment.

“These are the people who are responsible for chaos, anarchy, manipulation. They are the real enemy of the states,” said one tweet.

“Hang them all #ArrestAntiPakJournalists,” said another.

Criticism of the country's powerful security establishment has long been seen as a red line for the media, with journalists and bloggers complaining of intimidation tactics including kidnappings, beatings, and even killings if they cross that line.

Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a report that the military has “quietly, but effectively, set restrictions on reporting”, although it denies doing so.

Shahzad Ahmed, of digital rights group Bytes for All, said the hashtag appeared to have been “planted” by pro-PTI accounts and was not “genuine public opinion”.

“There are organised groups who start such trends... which is a very dangerous phenomenon in our country, regarding freedom of expression and personal freedom,” he told AFP.

“Responsible use of social media is now becoming impossible in our country. Now we use social media, only to abuse others and to promote fake news and to disrespect each other, which is completely wrong.”

An image of Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan's most high-profile TV anchors, was prominent among the photographs of journalists being shared.

Mir made international headlines in 2014 after surviving multiple gunshot wounds in an attack he blamed on Pakistan's top spy organisation.

Two days ago he launched a Twitter tirade against increasing censorship after his interview with former president Asif Ali Zardari, now an opposition leader, was abruptly taken off the air shortly after it began.

“We are not living in a free country,” he wrote.

Opinion

Editorial

Pipeline progress
25 Feb, 2024

Pipeline progress

THE outgoing caretaker government has decided to move forward with the much-delayed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline...
Engaging the Taliban
25 Feb, 2024

Engaging the Taliban

DEALING with the Taliban — Afghanistan’s de facto rulers — continues to present a diplomatic dilemma for the...
Burden or opportunity?
Updated 25 Feb, 2024

Burden or opportunity?

Maryam Nawaz is embarking on a journey of challenges and opportunities.
Course correction
Updated 24 Feb, 2024

Course correction

PTI should not abandon its power and responsibility while expecting an external stakeholder to set things right.
The plot thickens
Updated 24 Feb, 2024

The plot thickens

THE recent explosive allegations by Liaquat Ali Chattha, the former commissioner of Rawalpindi, have thrust the...
Trigger-happy police
24 Feb, 2024

Trigger-happy police

ARE the citizens of Karachi becoming fair game again? There were some grisly signs of a rapid return to living...