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Bilawal, IFJ condemn harassment of Asma Shirazi

October 24, 2021
Bilawal, IFJ condemn harassment of Asma Shirazi

ISLAMABAD: The Chairman Pakistan People’s Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, has condemned the PTI-government's campaign of harassment against prominent journalist and anchorperson Asma Shirazi and said the truth-fearing government wants to stifle the voice of the people through bullying, intimidation and coercion.

“It was unfortunate that while the nation is suffering from worst inflation, the government is campaigning to tarnish the image of a woman journalist,” he said while condemning the government’s harassment campaign against the prominent journalist and anchorperson Asma Shirazi. Chairman PPP Bilawal said that the selected-rulers must know that Pakistan's entire journalist fraternity is united and standing firmly with Shirazi. He said that Shirazi's matter is not the issue of an individual as gagging dissent voices has become the selected-government's way of life. Bilawal said that instead of solving people's problems, the attacks on journalists are a sign that the incumbent regime has no solution to the crisis the country is faced with.

Meanwhile, Secretary General PPP Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari said media censorship by the present government is the worst in country's history as the “selected government” also wants to selected journalists for itself. “It is the democratic and constitutional right of every person to criticize and disagree with government policies,” he said while condemning the government's media policy with a special reference vilification campaign against senior journalist and Anchorperson Asma Shirazi.

Nayyar Hussain Bokhari said Shirazi's phone tapping is an attempt to intimidate a journalist. “The PPP strongly condemns the government's continued attacks on Shirazi and restrictions on press freedom,” he said. He said that PPP believes in independent journalism and any government ban on independent journalism is not acceptable.

Meanwhile, according a IFJ press release, 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 article that said the current PTI-led government was responsible for the downfall of the economy. Organised 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.

PFUJ secretary general, Rana Azeem, said: “The PFUJ has always been supporting freedom of speech and expression but at the same time understands that journalists should be impartial and follow the journalistic norms when filing comments against someone. There is a law for everyone to follow but undue trolling should not be appreciable.”

The IFJ said: “The IFJ strongly condemns the series of online harassment against Asma Shirazi by cadres of the ruling political party. The IFJ is against any threat or violence against journalists and media – offline or online.”