The Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWDJR) expresses profound concern and outrage over the recent surge of online attacks targeting prominent journalist Meher Bokhari and other female journalists.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the NWDJR highlights disturbing findings from its investigation across various platforms. The organization has uncovered instances of non-consensual use of images (NCUI), non-consensual use of intimate images (NCII), and the dissemination of doctored images created through generative artificial intelligence (AI) and other AI tools. These images of Meher Bokhari have been circulated online alongside sexist, misogynistic, and sexually explicit attacks.
It is not the first time women journalists have been targeted by political party supporters online. There has been pervasive and persistent online harassment, sexualized and otherwise gendered disinformation faced by women journalists in Pakistan, with many being threatened with physical assault and offline violence.
We’ve witnessed multiple incidents of female journalists’ private information being leaked online with what we can say are well-planned and directed efforts to silence them & resulted in stalking and offline harassment. In Meher’s case, the attempt to malign, scare and threaten her with morphed images of her on objectionable content through generative AI tools points towards a remarkably alarming trend of a new form of technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV) against journalists.
Before the elections, NWJDR released the 6-point agenda on media freedom and journalist safety for political parties’ electoral manifestos, which was signed by more than 100 journalists and civil society members on journalist safety. It has been quite alarming and disappointing that despite the efforts to raise our concerns with political parties around journalist safety, we witnessed, in a matter of days, attacks on journalists like Meher Bokhari, Maria Memon, Hamid Mir, Saadia Mazhar and Benazir Shah, to name a few along with family members of journalists for simply reporting during Pakistan’s general elections 2024.
The action angers NWJDR, and we’d like to reiterate that online violence and abuse constitute as an offense and complaint-based action should be taken by relevant authorities.