A large group of Pakistani women in media have released a joint statement about organised trolling, abuse and harassment they face online. The statement says, “Vicious attacks through social media are being directed at women journalists and commentators in Pakistan, making it incredibly difficult for them to hold out their professional duties.”
The statement further says that online attacks are instigated by officialdom then amplified by an outsized number of Twitter accounts, which declare their affiliation to the ruling party.
They asked the govt to restrain its members from repeatedly targeting women within the media, send a transparent message to all or any party members, supporters and followers, to desist from launching these attacks, whether directly or indirectly and, hold all such individuals within the govt accountable and take action against them. #AttacksWontSilenceUs, the hashtag employed by the ladies who released the statement, trended at No 1 on Twitter.
Targeting women in media is straightforward as there are only about five percent of girls who are journalists in Pakistan. They not only face vile abuse associated with their gender, but they also face a barrage of allegations that they take ‘lifafa’ or are paid by Opposition parties. These bullying tactics are wont to either silence them and/or discredit them. Last year, a report titled ‘Hostile Bytes – a study of online violence against women journalists’ by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) said that 95 percent of girls journalists feel online violence has an impression on their professional choices, while 77 percent self-censor as how to counter online violence. within the recent statement by women media practitioners, self-censorship was identified as a drag also as hacking attempts of their social media accounts. The mental toll it must combat those that are at the receiving end of this constant abuse is another factor that results in self-censorship.
Targeting women may be a worldwide phenomenon. In neighbouring India, the trend is sort of similar. Amnesty International published a report earlier this year, which said that ladies politicians in India face a shocking scale of abuse on Twitter. “Women are targeted with abuse online not only for their opinions – but also for various identities, like gender, religion, caste, and legal status .” it’s also been seen how women journalists who don’t toe the official government line in India are viciously trolled by the ‘Modi Bhakts’ on social media platforms, especially Twitter.
The National Assembly’s Human Rights Committee has invited women media practitioners who released the statement to return and highlight their issues during a meeting on Tuesday. Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari also lent her support to the ladies media practitioners in her tweets. it’s important that these issues are raised at the proper platforms in order that Pakistani online spaces are often safe for ladies from all spheres of life. A civil discourse is that the need of the hour rather than online abuse. We hope that those that are behind such campaigns can actually get past their political differences and make sure that online spaces are used for meaningful discourse rather than bullying.