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Female Journalists In Pakistan Lash Out Against The Systematic Harassment Women In Media Are Forced To Face. We Are Glad Someone Is Taking Steps Against This

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When I first decided I wanted to study journalism and practice it, my family was a tad dicey about the choice. But of course, I was as stubborn and headstrong as ever. After joining the field, I knew immediately that I had made the right choice for myself but like every other profession, in this one too women are persecuted for well, being women. Unfortunately, it’s become the way of the world now. Women are harassed for doing their jobs and then silenced and threatened if they try and complain about it. 

A few months ago, Hauterfly had done a detailed story on how women journalists on and off camera were being targeted and harassed. Men groping them while on the air, celebrities passing pervy comments at them during interviews, people objectifying them based on what they wear while on camera, passerby’s forcefully kissing the female journalist while she is on screen etc etc. The list is too long and this is just what happens while they are on the field. Cyber trolling and harassment of female journalists is a massive problem in itself. 

If this was a few years ago, these women who are being unnecessarily targeted would’ve just endured it. Too afraid to make a move. But now, women are bolder, more headstrong and unwilling to compromise on their independence. Which is how it’s supposed to be. 

Having said that, recently 30 Pakistani female journalists have issued a strongly worded statement condemning the terrible conditions under which they are forced to work. 

The statement titled Joint Statement: Attacks on women in media in Pakistan said, “vicious attacks through social media are being directed at women journalists and commentators in Pakistan, making it incredibly difficult for us to carry out our professional duties”. 

The statement goes on to outline the systematic harassment that the female journalists of Pakistan have been facing. According to the statement, the cyber-bullying of these journalists are instigated by government officials and then further amplified by the Twitterati who claim their allegiance to the ruling party of Pakistan. 

In the statement, they have alleged that this is a well-planned and coordinated attack. Personal details of women journalists and analysts have been made public. Thus, compromising their safety. Also, in an attempt to further discredit and intimidate them, they are often referred to as peddlers of “ fake news”, “enemy of the people” online. They are have also been accused of taking bribes by the people harassing them. 

They go on to mention how female journalists are targeted because of their work and their gender. Critical posts against the government are drowned under sexual slurs and baseless allegations. The statement mentions how personal details of these journalists like their photographs have been widely spread online, putting them in harm’s way. 

The torment doesn’t end here. In the statement, the group of journalists also talk about how they are being prevented from exercising their right to free speech and participate in public discourse. They say that when they are forced to self-censor their stories, the viewers and readers are unable to get information from their point of view and that is a violation of their rights under article 19 A of the Pakistani constitution. 

To rectify these horrible circumstances of the female journalists in Pakistan, the group demanded that the government immediately restrain its members from targeting women in the media. Secondly, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan must send out a message to all his party members, supporters and followers, to refrain from launching these attacks, whether directly or indirectly. The statement also demanded the people, within the government, found guilty of instigating online trolling of these journalists must be held accountable. 

Lastly, the statement demanded the Standing Committees on Human Rights of the upper and lower house of parliament to take notice and to hold the government accountable by ensuring they acknowledge, apologise, and list the actions that they will take to put an end to these horrible conditions under which the female journalists in Pakistan are being forced to work. 

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists also put out an official statement to lend their support to the women in media. They raised their voice against these attacks and called for an end to this harassment. 

Although, soon after the statement was issued, there were multiple attempts made to try and hack the social media profiles of these women journalists. Specifically, those who were signatories of the statement. 

For instance, Aima Khosh, one of the signatories of the statement took to Twitter to reveal that someone was trying extremely hard to break into her twitter account. Sharing a screenshot that showed someone was continuously trying to change her password, she wrote, “The statement by women journalists is trending, human rights defenders are speaking up and the HR minister has expressed concern. At the same time, someone is trying hard to break into my account. To whoever this is, I have only one thing to say: #AttacksWontSilenceUs” 

Benazir Shah, another signatory of the statement also took to Twitter to say that her account was also under fire. Someone was trying to hack into it as well. 

Nafisa Shah, another female journalist, accused the Pakistani government of being behind these hacking attempts that are being made on their accounts. She also added that not only journalists but also the accounts of female politicians have had hacking attempts. 

Soon, the hashtag #AttacksWontSilenceUs started trending in Pakistan as people from all around started showing their support and standing in solidarity with the claims made in the joint statement. 

Also Read: A Female Reporter Was On The Receiving End Of Jim Carrey’s Sleaziness. Women Journalists Have Been Getting Harassed For Years And Nobody Is Talking About It.

Senior Pakistani Journalist, Zahid Gishkori took to Twitter to say, “Pakistan needs more independent, strong, determined & successful women in journalism. #AttacksWontSilenceUs seems a very powerful slogan to start with. Let grow such men & women doing exceptionally good work & sitting on the fence while performing their duty in this profession.” 

#AttacksWontSilenceUs is actually a great slogan for the campaign. Like I mentioned earlier, for a long time women journalists all around the world, have been harassed and abused both on the field and online. I always wonder what it is about strong, independent women that are just trying to make a way for themselves in the world that irks people and forces them to misbehave in such a manner? 

Which is why we are so glad these Pakistani journalists took this strong step to put an end to this trolling and harassment once and for all. It was high time someone addressed this issue. We can only hope the government and the Pakistani PM takes this into consideration and takes the steps required to make the lives of women journalist a tad easier.

More power to them!

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