Pakistan: Women unite against digital abuse

More than 150 Pakistani women journalists released a statement on September 7 detailing the gender-based attacks that are increasingly impacting their safety and ability to work. Titled ‘Together Against Digital Abuse’, the statement also puts forward a list of demands to Pakistan’s ruling political party (PTI) to set the region on a path of justice for female journalists. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) stands with the female media workers of Pakistan and urges its government to take the lead on initiating meaningful change.

Journalist Shaheena Shaheen was allegedly killed by her husband. Credit: Twitter / Nighat Dad

Female journalists in Pakistan are regularly subjected to gender-based threats and attacks that stifle their ability to commit to truthful and accurate reporting. These attacks, which the statement terms as “vile and vicious”, range from “gender based and sexualized abuse, discrediting, targeting and persecution”. These attacks often emerge in full force when a female journalist reports on an issue that is critical of any political party and have resulted in abusive and defaming campaigns.
 
The statement has come immediately off the back of the murder of female journalist Shaheena Shaheen, who was the second victim of gender-based killings of female journalists in Pakistan in 10 months with Urooj Iqbal also being murdered by her husband earlier this year. So severe and prevalent is the abuse that women in the media “refrain from sharing information”, and “giving opinion or actively engaging online,” the statement says.
 
This is a culture of self-censorship that is rife amongst Pakistan’s female journalists, which the statement makes clear is an obstruction of the public’s right to information and the journalists’ right to free speech. The statement makes clear a list of demands to the government and all political parties for concrete codes of conduct for the social media teams of political parties, investigations into authorities and officials for whom there is evidence of abuse, and a new commitment against digital violence from Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency
 
The PFUJ Secretary General Rana Muhammad Azeem said: “The PFUJ strongly believes in gender equality and freedom of speech and expression. Therefore, the PFUJ urges the government and media organizations to create an environment that is conducive to female journalists working without fear of possible backlash just because of their gender.”
 
The IFJ said: “No journalist should have to fear a backlash for truthful reporting solely because they are female. Pakistan is gravely limiting its press freedom and ability to provide accurate information by not acting in the protection of its women journalists. The IFJ stands with these women and echoes the need for clear codes of conduct for public institutions that act in the best interest of women in the media industry.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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