October 2, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Senior anchorperson Gharidah Farooqi on Saturday said the recent trolling against her was part of a coordinated, organised and malicious online campaign to silence and intimidate journalists critical of the government.
Asked about the reason behind the malicious trends against her on social media, Farooq said journalists who are critical of the government’s governance are immediately targeted by trolls on social media in order to intimidate them. “A coordinated, organised and malicious online campaign is orchestrated against journalists critical of the government’s policies and wrongdoings,” Farooqi told Voicepk.net.
The anchor person said this was not the first online trolling she faced rather it had been ongoing since 2014. “Whenever I was critical of the ruling Pakistan Tehrik Insaaf government and raised questions about the government’s handling of issues such attacks would begin,” she added.
Farooqi said she had to face several problems including her job over criticism of the ruling government on broadcast media. She said the online space has seen a growth over recent years but this space too has become unsafe for women journalists. “The main reason being that journalists who raise questions are silenced through trolling and presently journalism has been turned into a crime,” she said.
The anchor said women journalists are facing the brunt of these online hate attacks. “They think it is easier to attack reputation, honour and professional standing of female journalists on social media in order to cow them down,” Farooq said.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Farooqi said the government has a huge responsibility towards protecting women journalists in the country but the government has done nothing to check the increasingly trolling and harassment of women journalists on social media in the country.
“Women journalists in Pakistan continue to live in fear of horror of harassment and abuses of all kinds of worst attacks on social media,” she said.
Farooqi said majority of associated accounts targeting her on social were associated with the ruling Pakistan Tehrik Insaaf but government and party leaders had taken no action to stop them. “The government has failed to provide safety to women journalists,” she added.
The National Assembly standing committee on human rights has passed the Journalists Protection bill but the women journalists will remain unsafe, Farooqi said. She requested the committee chairperson’s Bilawal Bhutto and Human Rights Minister ShireenMazari to take up the joint petition of women journalists over cyberstalking, trolling and harassment on social media and ensure their safety as envisioned in the Constitution.
Farooqi said she was undeterred by the recent trolling and harassment on social media. “Make as many dirty trends; Attack as much as you like. Will never deter me from my ideology, what I believe is right & from exposing minions & stooges of you-know-who,” she tweeted to her trolls.
Journalists, media organisations, rights activists overwhelming showed their support to the news anchor and condemned the malicious attacks.
Condemning the malicious campaign against Gharidah Farooqi, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists called it an unacceptable and uncalled for behaviour. The state institutions such as Federal Investigation Agency should take immediate notice and arrest culprits involved in defaming and harassing the anchor on social media under the cybercrime law, the PFUJ said.
Reiterating the PFUJ call for FIA action against the trolls, Freedom Network Pakistan condemned online hate speeches against Farooqi. “The FIA should let the law take its course against the perpetrators of the online attacks, it said.
The International Federation of Journalists deplored the repetitive online abuse against journalist Gharidah Farooqi. “There must be no impunity for online trolling,” the federation said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemned the vicious online attacks against the news anchor. “No journalist should have to suffer this kind of abuse for doing their job,” the committee said.
Senior anchor person Munizae Jahangir strongly condemned the filthy nasty trend against Farooqi. “Attacking women journalists is the work of those who are scared of the truth and hide behind baseless allegations to cover up their own incompetence and cruelty,” she said.
Jahangir said the FIA should act against the trolls under the harassment and defemation clauses under the cybercrime law. “The Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act was enacted to protect women from online harassment and defamation but it seems the law is being used to lodge sedition cases against journalists and not to protect women from online harassment and hate speech,” she added.
Jahangir said the journalist community stands with Gharidah Farooqi against the online hate campaign. “The journalists demand that the government probe the online campaign against Farooqi and act against the perpetrators under the cybercrime law,” she said.
Appaled by the another troll campaign against Gharidah Farooqi, the Coalition for Women in Journalism urged the cybercrime authorities to take action against anonymous keyboard warriors involved in the organized campaign against her.
“This is not the first instance that such a malicious campaign was launched against Gharidah, or other women journalists, by supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which leads the incumbent government of Pakistan,” the CWIJ said. The toxic pattern of organized troll campaigns, especially against women journalists, has become a norm in the Pakistani digital space, the CWIJ pointed out.
The coalition said the massive troll campaigns have been launched against Gharidah in the recent past. “Her work and principled stance on matters of policy and public interest have been met with vitriol and malicious hate campaigns,” it said. The CFWIJ has followed the politically backed attacks on her and formulated a detailed timeline to address the pattern.
In its monthly report, the CFWIJ said September was a particularly challenging month for women journalists globally, especially on the digital front. The CFWIJ documented 61 cases of violations against women journalists.