Islamabad, 12 August 2020: Chairperson Standing Committee on Human Rights, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has taken notice of the issue of online violence against women journalists and invited them to brief the committee about the issue. The invitation to brief the committee was issued mere hours after a group of women journalists released a joint statement about online violence and the hashtag #AttacksWontSilenceUs trended on Twitter in Pakistan.
Have taken notice of threats to women journalists as chair of human rights committee. Would like to invite you all to come brief our committee on the issue. https://t.co/Yu8aF3nuEe
— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) August 12, 2020
Human Rights Minister, Shireen Mazari also tweeted, calling the attacks on women journalists ‘unacceptable and disgusting’ and expressed her intent to help fast track the journalist protection bill.
Disturbing to learn of women journalists being targeted and abused. Abusing women bec they are critical is never acceptable. Journalists do their job & to target them, especially gender-based abusive attacks on women journos, is absolutely unacceptable and disgusting.— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) August 12, 2020
The hashtag has also curated support from the larger journalistic community and other allies.
As the statement says, #women journalists are targeted on two fronts: their work and their gender, the latter to the point that their physical security is compromised #AttacksWontSilenceUs https://t.co/wWuVOCriKd
— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (@HRCP87) August 12, 2020
Can all major political parties agree on a ‘zero hate’ policy on the Internet & send out a loud & clear message to their supporters & workers to abstain from hateful & inciteful speech? #ZeroHate #AttacksWontSilenceUs @BBhuttoZardari @ImranKhanPTI @MaryamNSharif https://t.co/g8aMDybLJj
— Media Matters for Democracy (@mmfd_Pak) August 12, 2020
Women journalists tweeting under the trend recounted instances of hate speech, sexualised abuse, trolling and calls for violence that they routinely face online.
Women journalists/analysts shouldn’t have to face abuse each time they write/speak/tweet. We shouldn’t have to censor ourselves just bec those in office or w/power have frail egos & vicious trolls. Here’s a statement by us — because #AttacksWontSilenceUshttps://t.co/THWCq21tpv pic.twitter.com/a1IQzLETIv
— Zebunnisa Burki (@zburki) August 12, 2020
Tweets by various journalists also raise concerns about possible involvement of government officials and abuse by supporters of the ruling political party.
The Govt. must restrain its representatives from targeting women journalists/commentators and send a clear message to all party members, supporters and followers to desist from launching these attacks, directly or indirectly
— Reema Omer (@reema_omer) August 12, 2020
Journalists also tweeted about the impact these hate campaigns have on their journalism.
— Amber Rahim Shamsi (@AmberRShamsi) August 12, 2020
Women in media are being prevented from exercising our right to free speech and participate in public discourse. When we self-censor, others are prevented from receiving information to form their views, which is a violation of their rights under Article 19-A#AttacksWontSilenceUs pic.twitter.com/VQcaET7Atl
— Mehmal Sarfraz (@Mehmal) August 12, 2020
Following the release of the statement, leaders from different political parties tweeted in support.
#RedSalute to #Pakistan’s brave women journalists. Women journalists have issued a joint statement against the vicious attacks directed at them through social media. The statement says the attacks are instigated by government officials. #Sharamnak #AttacksWontSilenceUs pic.twitter.com/Z1AWcHqXtb
— Bushra Gohar (@BushraGohar) August 12, 2020