20 October 2022

By Rehan Piracha

LAHORE: News anchor Gharidah Farooqi has said Imran Khan’s remarks against her are tantamount to incitement of violence in a civilised society as women journalists expressed reservations at the former prime minister’s misogynistic views.

A news report quoted PTI Chairman Imran Khan as saying that journalist Gharidah Farooqi was asking to be trolled and harassed as she “invades male-dominated spaces” while covering political rallies.

He made these remarks during a meeting with a delegation of the National Press Club and the Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) on October 18, when he was asked a question about why women journalists were harassed at PTI’s jalsas.

The former PM was asked why he accused journalists of being on payrolls from different quarters (lifafa journalists), he said that so far he had only used the term for Saleem Safi, who is a senior journalist but has been a known critic of the PTI.

Imran Khan was instantly called out for his misogynistic remarks against Gharidah Farooqi by senior women journalists, activists as well as Freedom Network Pakistan.

Federal Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb also slammed the PTI chief for his remarks against Farooqi and Safi.


Imran behind my trolling: Gharida

Speaking to Voicepk, Farooqi said Imran Khan had exposed himself as the orchestrator of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf trolling campaign that had been happening against her for the last few years. 

“I had information for quite some time that the party’s top echelon was giving institutions to workers to bring objectionable posters in public gatherings as well as to troll me on social media,” she told Voicepk. “Now, this has come out in public when Imran Khan specifically mentioned me in his harangue against women journalists,” she added. 

Gharida Farooqi said the PTI chief went so far as to justify the harassment she was enduring before senior journalists in the meeting. She said a group of 15 senior women journalists had presented a resolution in the National Assembly about three years ago in which they pointed out that the PTI targeted female journalists in the country. 


Women’s trolling new form of censorship

She termed the targetting of women journalists as a new form of media censorship.

“In the digital space, character assassination and harassment is an attempt to silence critical voices of women journalists,” she pointed out.  

The journalist said female media professionals have no options except to raise their voices against harassment and intimidation at individual and collective levels.

On the other hand, Gharidah Farooqi condemned the fact that media rights organizations were not quick to condemn the PTI chief’s remarks.

“If a male journalist is threatened or intimidated the media rights organizations promptly issue a statement of condemnation but that is not the case when female journalists are in similar circumstances,” she lamented.

She highlighted the need for media representative organisations to be proactive in cases of harassment of female journalists. 

“Imran Khan’s statement of victim blaming is tantamount to incitement of violence in a civilised society,” she said.

However, Gharidah Farooqi was not considering launching a complaint with the police or the office of the anti-harassment ombudsperson saying any such decision would be made after consulting her family, colleagues and legal team, if it all.  

The senior anchorperson said all political parties had the responsibility to protect women journalists, facing threats and harassment for a long period.

However, the PTI in its three and half years of tenure justified gender-based violence and even trivialized it that ultimately impacted the State’s responsibility to provide security to women journalists in the country. 


We stand with Gharidah, says women journalists

Munizae Jahangir, senior journalist and the host of Aaj TV’s spotlight show, strongly condemned Imran Khan’s sexist statement about women journalists who were doing their job. 

“It is a disgusting statement from a leader who is supported by so many women voters who stand side by side with men in jalsas to cheer him on. This is truly incitement to violence. I stand with Gharidah Farooqi,” she said. 

Zebunnisa Burki, the editor of The News Op-Ed, lamented that the PTI would most likely defend their leader’s shameful statement against a senior female journalist. She praised women journalists for their perseverance against threats, harssment and intimidation.

“I truly salute women journalists in this country for continuing to work amidst such misogyny,” she added. 

Benazir Shah, editor of FactFocus Geo News, said the former prime minister’s statement should concern all of women journalists in the country.

“A former prime minister of Pakistan, whose previous tenure saw unprecedented attacks against women journalists on social media, strongly believes that women journalists should not report and that women should not be in public spaces,” she said. 

Federal Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said the vile talk against Gharidah Farooqi and Saleem Safi is a reflection of the mentality, training, and nature of Imran Khan’s foreign-funded sedition. She said the PTI chief has erased the distinction between right and wrong from society and how could he respect women and journalists.


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