October 22, 2021
ISLAMABAD—The News has urged the government to ensure press freedom throughout the country, emphasizing that "from social media trends against journalists asking questions about the power or gas sector, or the rising inflation, or the sugar crisis to blatant misogyny and barely veiled attacks on women journalists to laws such as the PMDA: it seems the government is just not interested in a free press at all."
In its editorial Target: the journalist published on Friday, the paper regretted that: "The most disturbing [fact] is when state and government representatives and political parties take to outright public attacks against a journalist—leading to even more bullying and trolling of the journalist online."
"...And things become much worse when the journalist happens to be a woman," the paper noted in the context of ongoing harassment against female anchor Asma Shirazi on social media. "We have over the past few days seen some of the most vile social media trends against senior journalist Asma Shirazi. We have seen the official social media accounts of the ruling party attack one respected journalist for an opinion piece. We have seen, on top of it all, a dangerous press conference by Special Adviser to the PM, Shahbaz Gill—all 10 minutes of it containing direct attacks on Ms Shirazi."
According to the paper, the kind of vicious attacks and character assassination Ms. Shirazi has been subjected to for the past few days, especially in the recently-held press conference by Mr. Gill, should be unacceptable in any civilized society. "Absolutely nothing justifies the way Ms. Shirazi has been singled out and attacked with dangerous rhetoric employing misogyny, religion, 'patriotism' and allegations of corruption," it urged. It added that "Evidently, going beyond critiques of journalists' work and instead subjecting them to harassment and targeting their person—often using their gender as a weapon against them—has become the ruling party's reaction of choice."
"The PTI has to recognise that free expression is essential to any country, and this is a true test of any democracy."
"There is a clear difference between critique and harassment. Those that can't see it never really wanted to see it in the first place."
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