PAK MEDIA .. Women journalists in Pakistan allege “gender-based and sexualised abuse”

Shaheena Shaheen … shot dead in Balochistan


ISLAMABAD: More than 150 Pakistani women journalists have come up with a public statement 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) said in a statement on Wednesday that it stands with the female media workers of Pakistan and urged the government to take the lead on initiating meaningful change.

Female journalists said they are regularly subjected to gender-based threats and attacks that stifle their ability to commit to truthful and accurate reporting. These attacks, which were “vile and   vicious”, ranged from “gender based and sexualized abuse, discrediting, targeting and persecution”. These attacks often emerged in full force when a female journalist reported on an issue that was critical of any political party and, every time, this is followed up with abusive and defaming campaigns against the female journalist.

The women journalists’ statement came immediately after the murder of a female journalist Shaheena Shaheen, who was the second victim of gender-based killings of female journalists in Pakistan in the past 10 months. 

Shaheena Shaheen, 25, was shot dead at her home in Turbat area of Balochistan’s Kech district on last Saturday evening. She was the local anchorperson at the state-owned broadcaster, PTV, and editor of a local magazine.

Another female scribe, Urooj Iqbal, was murdered by her husband earlier this year. So severe and prevalent is the abuse that women in the media generally “refrain from sharing information”, and “giving opinion or actively engaging online,” the statement said.

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.” –IHN-NN


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