ISLAMABAD: The Dig­ital Rights Foundation (DRF) received 75 compla­ints from journalists and media practitioners rega­r­ding online harassment, threats and hacking attempts.

While unveiling its ‘Po­­licy Brief’ on Monday, DRF highlighted 34 fema­les, 40 males and one trans person registered comp­l­a­i­nts using its Cyber Har­a­s­sment Helpline and other services like email and so­­cial media platforms in 2022.

The helpline received the highest number of complaints, around 25 per cent, from Punjab, follo­wed by 17pc from journalists outside Pakistan, predominantly in Afghanistan.

Around 51 — or 68pc — complaints were of cyber harassment. These inclu­d­­ed 15 complaints of online threats and 13 were of hacking attempts — either the journalist’s social me­­dia accounts or mass repo­rting of their accounts — which disrupts their work and leads to a breach of their personal information.

Around 18pc of the cyber-harassment complaints were about organised and targeted campaigns against journalists on multiple online platforms instigating hatred.

“These campaigns often employed tactics of disinformation to harass their targets,” the Policy Brief said. Some campaigns were successful as social media platforms suspended journalists’ accounts.

Women journalists were particularly susceptible to online harassment due to their gender, often being subjected to misogynistic and sexually explicit comments.

Nighat Dad, the DRF executive director, said fewer complaints were received from female journalists than male journalists but it must be noted that female journalists in Pakistan are less than five per cent of the total journalists as per PFUJ.

The policy brief also contains recommendations for policymakers, law enforcement agencies and social media companies to handle cases related to journalists.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2023

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