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Female Journalist Assaulted By Members Of Religious Outfit In Lahore Demands Justice

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On Tuesday, a group of men allegedly belonging to a religious outfit, Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith, assaulted Samaa reporter Sidra Ghayas, her brother, and two other crew members of the TV channel over a minor altercation in Lahore.

The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ) has condemned the incident and called on the authorities to ensure the journalist’s safety. CFWIJ’s statement has been published below.

Sidra Ghyas, a Lahore-based Samaa TV reporter, was verbally and physically assaulted by accomplices of a religious scholar called Allama Zubair Ahmed Zaheer. The scholar is deemed to be self-proclaimed, and was found to be instructing men to attack the journalist. She was going home after work when the incident happened. Sidra filed a First Information Report (FIR) after the incident.

Speaking to the CFWIJ Sidra expressed fear of harm by the perpetrators and their followers. We understand these situations can escalate in Pakistan quite quickly.

She spoke about intricate details of this incident and its culprits during a show on the channel she works for.

The Coalition For Women In Journalism condemns this heinous attack on Sidra and demands that her perpetrators are punished immediately. This vile act of verbal harassment followed by physical assault reflects the constant violence women journalists are subjected to in the country.

When asked about the progress on the FIR and whether the authorities are cooperating with her, Sidra said that there is zero development.

“Nobody has contacted me from the government. and there is no development on the case. In fact, there was immense delay when I was trying to file an FIR. So far, none of the men who attacked me have been arrested nor the car in which they were riding has been seized. Allama Zubair Ahmed Zaheer has already sought pre-arrest bail,” she responded.

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Sidra added that the perpetrators initially tried to reach out to her for a settlement by calling her colleagues at work. She said that this was their way to clear their names from the FIR. However, they have now denied any involvement in the incident.

“I was summoned at the police station to give a statement on July 29, but I could not go because I was not feeling well due to the physical assault I was subjected to,” Sidra informed CFWIJ.

Sidra also shared that the incident has affected her mental health and her fears intensified since she had to go back to work after two days.

“I have been really worried about my safety. On the day of the incident, the men who attacked me threatened to have me picked. These people are very powerful and capable of inflicting harm, while I do not have anyone to support me.  Given the way our law enforcement works, I cannot say if there will be any progress in the case.,” she said.

Allama Zubair Ahmed Zaheer with his group of followers resorted to inappropriate comments towards Sidra, while she was in a car with her brother. The vehicle was on a busy road that is under partial construction, which caused a traffic jam.

In the show on Samaa TV, Sidra mentioned that while her brother gave way for their car to move, they turned violent. Sidra said that her brother resisted when the men attacked her with abusive slurs. They dragged him out of the car and beat him up. They then pushed Sidra inside the car after she tried to save her brother and continued to physically attack her.

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Sidra’s colleagues, who came to her rescue, and passersby making videos of the incident were also beaten up by them. They also resorted to moral policing, kept commenting how women like Sidra are the root of evil in the society and deserved to be beaten.

CFWIJ stands with Sidra and demands that her culprits are brought to justice. Looking down upon women, attacking them physically and using abusive slurs to demean them only shows the vile behavior of men who are blinded by religious fanaticism. We reject this act of violence that has left Sidra traumatized. We urge Punjab Police and other relevant authorities in Pakistan to take strict actions to curb this monstrosity against women journalists.

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Naya Daur