Parliamentary body hears complaints of women journalists

Updated 19 Aug 2020

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The meeting was informed that the government was addressing the issue. — Photo courtesy Twitter
The meeting was informed that the government was addressing the issue. — Photo courtesy Twitter

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary body on Tuesday was perturbed to hear about women journalists being harassed on social media.

Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari chaired the National Assembly meeting of the Standing Committee on Human Rights, where he was informed about the harassment of women journalists through video link.

“Women journalists are being harassed for dissent,” said Asma Shirazi, talk show host of a private television channel.

“Twice, people broke into my house to harass me. Attempts are being made to socially isolate Pakistani women journalists. Many women journalists have stopped tweeting for fear of harassment on social media. We will not allow our daughters to stay at home for fear of abuse,” she said.

Women journalists speak out against harassment on social media to protect the future generation, said another host Amber Shamsi.

“I have brought my daughter with me so that she has the courage to fight against harassment. Our families are suffering because of harassment against us on social media,” Ms Shamsi said, adding a controversy was triggered after a tweet.

While the meeting was informed that the government was addressing the issue, PTI MNA Attaullah, who is also a new member of the committee said that harassment was nothing new.

“There is no justification for rape or death threats,” the PPP chairman said, adding it was everyone’s responsibility to stand with women journalists who were facing harassment. He said the committee will send the harassment case against Gharida Farooqi back to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

“Women’s rights in Pakistan are strongly linked to democracy,” said Munizae Jahangir, who hosts a current affairs programme on a private TV channel.

“Don’t let restrictions be imposed on us in our harassment case. We will not accept restrictions on social media under the pretext of harassment,” she said.

“I was tortured in terms of expression, I fought this war alone,” Tanzeela Mazhar said. “When I fought against harassment, I was accused of blasphemy,” Ms Mazhar said, adding that no one hired her for three years after her struggle against harassment.

“If there is disagreement with male journalists, they are ignored, while female journalists are labeled miscreants when there is a disagreement with them,” she said.

“Now before we tweet, we have to think about the abuses that follow in response,” Ms Mazhar added.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2020