July 15, 2018 — Digital Rights Foundation and Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights condemn the social media attacks against Asma Shirazi, a seasoned journalist with years of service to the electronic media, and extends its unfettered support to her.
Ms. Shirazi is made victim of online harassment based on a video where she is heard informing former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif of reasons why his previously recorded interview will not be aired, during a telephonic conversation while he is in-flight from Abu Dhabi to Lahore.
Asma Shirazi, a celebrated journalist who doesn’t need any introduction, has contributed far more than expected of any journalist, was performing her journalistic duty being paid for by her media house – Aaj News. She soon found herself receiving unrestricted, unreasonable and uncalled-for hatred directed at her.
This is not the first time a woman journalist has been attacked for doing her job. Previously, Irum Abbasi, Saba Aitzaz and Marvi Sirmed have been attacked viciously, and in all of these instances, the nature of the attacks are personal which often go from body-shaming, character assassination to rape and death threats really quick.
Women have always been a victim of torture and abuse in every setting; and with little to no freedom to express their opinions at their disposal, their right to occupy online spaces has also been affected in attempts to silence them through endless online violence.
We believe that it’s also important to highlight the increase in the gendered nature of online abuse against women journalists as we approach the General Elections 2018 in less than two weeks. These attacks not only affect the unbiased journalism but also promote self-censorship among women journalists who are forced to remain silent in order to avoid cyber harassment. DRF strongly condemns such abuse and harassment aimed at Asma Shirazi in this instance in particular, and other women journalists at large, and reiterates that under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), online violence is a punishable offence and concerned authorities should treat it as such under the rule of law
DRF strongly opines that journalism is a profession and it’s rather essential that the journalists should be guaranteed a safe environment to work in, and their freedom of expression and freedom of press should be protected at all cost – the fundamental right that is protected under the Constitution of Pakistan.
This statement is drafted by DRF’s Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights.