Human Rights

Online trolls risking safety of women journalists due to inaction of concerned officials

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Wing has received 135,954 complaints from citizens since its establishment to January 2021; however, the ratio of the resolved cases is only 616, which amounts to only 0.45 percent of the total complaints.

According to the documents availed through the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017, the Cyber Crime Wing disposed off 124,691 complaints and 1465 complaints were converted into First Information Report (FIR) while only 616 cases were resolved.

The cybercrime wing officials had arrested 1,578 suspects whereas, 572 cases against suspected persons were prosecuted in different courts. However, only 286 cases were resolved through courts.

Saddia Mazhar – Broadcast Journalist – said, she had filed a complaint with the FIA Cyber Crime Wing two months ago for using my photos by a Facebook user without my permission. She added that after a few days of lodging the complaint she received a call from FIA to visit their office if she wants to proceed with her complaint because online complaints are not considered for action.

She added that even after submitting a complaint with the FIA head office, she again received a call from FIA to confirm whether the Facebook ID using my photos is still active. “This shows how serious is FIA Cyber Crime Wing to deal with the complaint that they even do not bother to check the link by themselves and instead ask the complainant to check this as well”, she maintained.

Last month, senior journalist Asma Sherazi was hit with a deeply gendered harassment campaign against her on social media after her opinion piece was published on an international news website.

The workers of the ruling party criticized the journalist and tweets were posted from the official account of Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf, stating: Are we allowed to question why Asma Shirazi said: “Khuda Nakhwasta Maulana Fail Ho Jatay Wazeer e Azam ka Isteefa lenay mein”? How is that neutral journalism?

Earlier, In June 2021, Asma Sherazi was trolled on social media for writing a column for a website whose DNS server was allegedly hosted in India.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Shahbaz Gill had addressed a press conference on October 21, this year in which he accused senior journalist Shirazi of writing the article on the directions of Maryam Nawaz Sharif. He also said that Shirazi has made more than 50 calls in a day to Maryam Nawaz Sharif. He accused Shirazi of maligning First Lady Bushra in an article about the country’s current political and economic situation.

Gill’s press conference was held on an article penned by Shirazi for BBC Urdu in which she criticised the government over its policies. However, the writer did not name any individual, including Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wife.

Press clubs and journalist unions across the country have condemned Dr Shahbaz Gill’s comments regarding journalist Asma Shirazi. Gill has been banned from entry by all press clubs until he apologises to Shirazi.

The Lahore Press Club released a statement condemning the comments by the PM’s aide and said, “All Press Clubs of Pakistan will ban the entry of Shahbaz Gill, and the media will boycott him.”

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) also warned of ‘serious consequences for the use of abusive and intimidating language against Asma Shirazi by Shahbaz Gill.

Since 2019, The Collation For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ) documented at least 60 cases of threats and violence against women journalists in Pakistan, as of September 30, 2021. 25 of them were organized troll campaigns while 5 were of legal harassment.

When contacted, Ahmed Shehzad Farooq – Secretary, Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan – said, the sitting government has always positioned itself as the so-called custodian and protector of independence and autonomy of free media, but their own spokespersons are constantly revealing the dirty side of this regime.

He added SCBAP extends its full support with Asma Sherazi and demands from the government to take strong measures to ensure the safety and well being of journalists and media personnel.

Senior Journalist Zebunnisa Burki in solidarity with Shirazi stated, Women journalists/analysts shouldn’t have to face abuse each time they write/speak/tweet. They shouldn’t have to censor themselves just because those in office or power have frail egos & vicious trolls.

Nadeem Chaudhery – Joint Secretary, National Press Club – Statement of PM’s spokesperson Shehbaz Gill regarding the Asma Sherazi’s alleged phone calls to PMLN leader Marrayam Nawaz tracked by the Government is confession by the government which is an illegal and unethical act, and we demand a fair investigation by the judicial commission.

Senior Journalist and Anchor Munizae Jahangir said Shirazi must not be targeted for her opinion. In democracy differences of opinion are tolerated not condemned

Collation of Female Journalists demanded the Government to Immediately restrain its members from repeatedly targeting women in the media, send out a clear message to all party members, supporters and followers, to desist from launching these attacks, whether directly or indirectly and to hold all such individuals within the government accountable and take action against them.

Despite the repeated attempts, Asma Sherazi could not be reached for her comments.

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