Petition filed against social media attacks on women journalists

Published September 9, 2020
The petition has been signed by around 140 media persons. — Creative Commons/File
The petition has been signed by around 140 media persons. — Creative Commons/File

ISLAMABAD: A public petition has been filed by a large number of mediapersons against social media attacks on women journalists by those affiliated with the government, political parties, their supporters and social media wings, impacting their work, mental well being and security.

The petition said these attacks included gender-based and sexualised abuse, discrediting, targeting and persecution.

The petition demanded an inquiry into the mandate of the social media cells of the federal and provincial governments operating on taxpayers’ money. Often it seems like the mandate of these social media cells is to discredit journalists and analysts without any evidence.

It has been demanded that all political parties and institutions ensure transparency regarding the mandate and operations of their respective social media wings while the Election Commission of Pakistan should ask all political parties to submit detailed workings of their social media cells.

The petition added: “We endorse what our fellow colleagues have put on record on 12/08/2020, and widen the scope to reflect the magnitude and degree of trauma being experienced by women in media.”

It said women in media were often targeted for reporting on issues that are critical of any political party and those differing from the government or a political party’s position on any given issue.

The petition has been signed by around 140 media persons, including Nasim Zehra, Asma Shirazi, Fareeha Idrees, Batul Rajput, Mehar Bokhari, Gharidah Farooqui, Maria Memon and Tanzila Mazhar.

“A journalist’s criticism of any given policy of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) or of political parties including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), religious parties and accounts affiliating themselves with state institutions may also unleash a barrage of abuse,” the petition said.

It said the aggressive attitude against the women journalists on social media seemed to be met with indifference and in some cases even encouragement from party leadership which further emboldens trolls and abusers.

Such accusations then trigger abusive campaigns targeting journalists.

“So vicious is the campaign against women that even female members of our male colleagues’ families are not spared, their photographs and videos are doctored, distorted and leaked on social media.”

The petition demanded that the government and all political parties immediately draw up and adopt a code of conduct for social media teams of political parties, public bodies and other public/state institutions.

The parties should investigate and identify networks engaged in launching and running coordinated attacks, hashtag and abusive campaigns against women in the media and take action against those involved.

The complaints lodged by journalists with the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) or the police regarding intimidation, threats and other forms of digital abuse should be processed fairly and efficiently without any pressure to withdraw or an environment of victim-blaming, it added.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2020

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