Pakistan: award-winner media worker targeted with online smear, hate campaignEvent
- Initial Date
- Oct 19, 2021
- Event Description
Famous Pakistani female journalist Asma Shirazi was harassed by a slew of online followers and supporters of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) party following a column published on BBC Urdu. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns online harassment against media and urges authorities and social media companies to act accordingly relating to any threat, intimidation and abuse by online users in breach of protocols and calls for due police investigation.
BBC’s journalist Asma Shirazi, known for critical remarks against censorship of journalists, was allegedly harassed and trolled on social media in response to a recent articlethat said the current PTI-led government was responsible the downfall of the economy. Organized troll campaigners channeled the attack online, accusing Asma of insulting Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi in the article.
Dr Shahbaz Gill, a spokesperson and special assistant to Prime Minister on political communication, tweeted in response to her article while another senior leader and minister of PTI, Hammad Azhar, expressed his disappointment with the article. “Sad to see @BBCUrdu allowing their platform for such pathetic insinuations”, his tweet said. Another high journalist accused her of being associated with anti-government political party PML-N while many other journalists threw their support behind her.
The PTI official Twitter account posted a video conversation between Asma and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif accusing her of “obedience” to a “certified chor [thief] and absconder”.
Asma has faced online harassment in the past. She was the target of harsh online abuse after interviewing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2018. In July 2019, she and other journalists critical of the PTI were targeted online.
According to the IFJ’s South Asia Press Freedom Report 2020-2021, several well-known Pakistani female journalists and commentators have been routinely trolled for their opinion, which makes it “incredibly difficult” for them to carry out their professional duties.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is accusing Pakistani government officials of inciting a “violent smear and hate campaign” on social media against a columnist with the Urdu-language services of the British broadcaster BBC.
The week-old campaign against Asma Shirazi “is being conducted by supporters of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI)…who have evolved into a formidable government weapon for intimidating critical journalists,” the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said in statement on October 26.
RSF said the campaign was triggered by comments made by government officials about Shirazi’s latest weekly column, dated October 19, in which she expressed concerns about Pakistan’s deteriorating economic situation and the lack of a response from the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In a tweet posted the same day, Commerce Minister Hammad Azhar accused Shirazi of making “pathetic insinuations.”
“Asma, sister, you should directly join the PML-N,” he wrote, referring to the main opposition party.
At a press conference two days later, Shahbaz Gill, the prime minister’s special assistant for political communication, accused the journalist of crossing “ethical limits” and of bias, alleging that she has “good ties” with PML-N deputy leader Maryam Nawaz, according to the Dawn newspaper.
“By publicly smearing Asma Shirazi’s work in this way, without any grounds, the government’s representatives clearly orchestrated the hate campaign that followed their statements,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“This type of harassment is unworthy of a democratic government and must stop,” he added.
Shirazi was a recipient of the prestigious international Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism in 2014.
In January, she was one of 10 journalists working for BBC Urdu and the Urdu-language service of the London-based Independent newspaper who were subjected to online hate campaigns and death threats.
In August 2020, a group of Pakistani women journalists issued a statement denouncing a coordinated campaign of online attacks against them.
Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries on RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Online Attack and Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to protect reputation
- Media Worker
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 19 October 2021, Asma Shirazi, award-winner media worker critical of the government, was targeted by online smear and hate campaign led by government personalities and other social media users after criticising the ruling party for the country economic downfall in Islamabad, Pakistan.