ISLAMABAD: Khawateen Mahaz-e-Amal (Women’s Action Forum – WAF) Islamabad stands in solidarity with renowned senior journalist, Ms Asma Shirazi.
According to the statement, WAF condemn the malicious, targeted campaign the PTI Government has launched against her since the publication of her BBC Urdu op-ed article.
We strongly protest the vicious personal slander by Federal Ministers and PM’s Advisers/Spokespersons, who are intimidating, harassing and threatening her, alleging that she has “attacked” (sic) the First Lady.
However, her op-ed piece neither names nor references the First Lady’s position. Hence, the question arises: why is the PTI Government displaying such a disproportionately hostile reaction towards a journalist who has exercised her Constitutional right to freedom of expression, stating her opinion on issues in the public domain?
WAF particularly condemns the concerted disinformation campaign that the PM’s Special Adviser, Mr Shahbaz Gill, has launched against Ms Shirazi, from the official PID platform. WAF deplores the misuse of government resources to attack, insult and discredit a highly respected woman journalist. This abuse is clearly in violation of Pakistan’s Constitutional and international human rights legal obligations.
Under PTI/PM Imran Khan’s government, Pakistan ranks 145 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index (2020). Moreover, Reporters Without Borders has named the PM himself as a “press freedom predator”.
WAF condemns Mr Gill’s (i) urging the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to target Ms Shirazi, thereby implicitly admitting the ruling PTI’s control over an independent government entity; (ii) alarming revelation that the PTI Government is surveilling and monitoring journalists and opposition leaders’ phones. WAF believes this cannot be done without the PM’s approval.
WAF Islamabad recalls that this is not the first time Ms Shirazi has been targeted (professionally, personally, online, offline) – by both military and civilian autocrats – for her brave journalism and courageous stand for media independence.
WAF reminds the PTI Government that it is bound, under the 1973 Constitution, to uphold the fundamental rights of all citizens, including journalists.
Accordingly, WAF demands: (1) an independent inquiry on the PTI Government’s misuse of official resources, and violations of Constitutional safeguards of citizens’ right to privacy and inherent human dignity; (2) Mr Gill’s immediate termination from his post.