Code of conduct must for social media teams demands 160 Pakistani women journalists

Political parties and state institutions must have code of conduct for social media teams

More than 160 women journalists have called on the government and all political parties in Pakistan to draw up and adopt a code of conduct for  the social media teams of political parties, public bodies, and other state institutions.

In a move aimed at highlighting the abuse women journalists in Pakistan face on digital media, journalists, in a joint statement, also called on the Election Commission of Pakistan to direct all political parties to have declared and transparent social media setups under the Right to Access to Information Act, 2017.

The statement held all political parties, including the ruling party, responsible for hurling abuses at women journalists when they report on "issues that are critical of any political party".

"The target of these attacks are women in media, who are often targeted for reporting on issues that are critical of any political party.  A journalist's criticism of any given policy of PTI or political parties including PML-N, PPP, religious parties, and accounts affiliating themselves with state institutions, may also unleash a barrage of abuse," read the statement.

They demanded the government and all political parties to investigate within and identify networks that have been prominently engaged in launching and carrying out coordinated attacks, hashtag and abusive campaigns against women in media.

"Whenever a journalist lodges a complaint with Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) or the police regarding intimidation, threats and other forms of digital abuse, the case(s) should be processed fairly and efficiently, without any pressure to withdraw or an environment of victim-blaming," read the statement. 

The joint statement said that the FIA's Cyber Crime Wing must set up dedicated desks to facilitate registration of cases of digital violence against women.

The journalists called upon the Senate and National Assembly's standing committees on human rights to take notice and ensure compliance by all political parties. 

The joint statement came after a group of prominent Pakistani women journalists, in an open letter, alleged that vicious online attacks through social media are instigated by "government supporters".

Underscoring that women in the media are not only targeted for their work but also their gender, the statement notes that there have been attempts to hack into the social media accounts of women reporters and analysts.

"In some cases, journalists have been locked out of their social media accounts as a result of hacking attempts," reads the statement.

                                                        Rukhsana Manzoor Deputy Editor 

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