In another attack on press freedom, an official Twitter handle of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Lahore issued a list of ‘bad’ journalists on social media, calling them “anchors/mediamen building narratives for the corrupt”.
“Let take these name loud and clear,” read the tweet with hashtag ‘HardTalkNotCapitalTalk’.
A little context of the tweet: the said hashtag started trending on social media site after an interview of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Ishaq Dar, wherein he was grilled by Stephen Sackur in his characteristically inquisitorial style.
The trolls subsequently took to Twitter to celebrate the humiliation meted out to Dar and launched attacks on Pakistani mediapersons, especially Hamid Mir who hosts Capital Talk on Geo, for ostensibly being ‘too lenient to the corrupt’ Sharifs and other opposition politicians.
So, who are these ‘bad journalist’ accused by the ruling party of promoting ‘corrupt narratives’? According to the list, Hamid Mir, Asma Shirazi, Naseem Zahra, Najam Sethi, Talat Hussain, Mansoor Ali Khan, Gharidah Farooqi, Javed Ch, and Saleem Safi are the ‘bad journalists’.
Most of the mentioned journalists are critical of government policies and other transgressions.
But the PTI Lahore account also shared a list of journalists who they thought were “fighting the war of truth and justice” i.e. “good journalists”.
These journalists are Imran Khan, Maleeha Hashmey, Sabir Shakir, Kashif Abbasi, Ghulam Hussain, Sami Ibrahim, Shifa Yousafzai, Mooed Pirzada, Abdul Qadir, and Waqar Malik.
The official handle asked its followers to “appreciate brave and bold journalists fighting the war of truth and justice” instead of the ‘bad’ journalists who promote corruption.
The journalists and media organisations took exception to the tweets by the official handle of the PTI’s Lahore chapter. The Coalition For Women In Journalism condemned the “vicious attacks of PTI trolls against these brave women journalists”.
The list was also condemned by Mansoor Ali Khan, who said such lists put journalists in the harm’s way. Whereas Amber Rahim Shamsi commented on the list of “good journalists”, saying: “When those in power become comfortable with a journalist, it’s because the journalist isn’t asking uncomfortable questions.”
Subsequently, a member of PTI social media issued “apologies”, saying it was done by a “regional account”.
According to Human Rights Watch, “In Pakistan, arbitrary arrest, detention, and baseless criminal prosecutions are used as instruments of press censorship” among other things.
In Aug this year, women journalists released a joint statement on attacks on women in media in Pakistan, which said that vicious attacks through social media were being directed at women journalists and commentators in Pakistan, making it incredibly difficult for them to carry out their professional duties.
In the following month, daughter of late poet Fahmida Riaz, in protest against the alleged abduction and torture of journalists and writers by the state, declined the presidential award that the government had announced for her late mother.