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Editorial | Naya Daur Media Will Not Be Silenced By Troll Attacks

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During the last twenty four hours, Naya Daur Media has been viciously attacked on social media by the ruling party and its followers. The reason for these attacks are two live videos concerning former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s interview given to BBC News. Criticism or disagreeing with we post is the fundamental right of every Pakistani citizen. We welcome that. However, the current campaign has violated even the (low) standards set by PTI followers on social media.

First a Vlog by our Managing Editor: In a short live video, it was pointed out that Stephen Sackur’s understanding of the Elections 2018 was poor because Pakistani journalists had witnessed first hand the coercive attempts to silence alternative views in the lead up to the polls. The muzzling of dissenting voices on media that began ahead of the general elections in 2018 has since become more blatant in nature. The video further noted that Sackur had misquoted the European Union report, which had observed several irregularities in the electoral process before and after the Election Day.

We therefore felt it was important to remind our audience that the report had not termed the elections ‘credible’ as was being claimed by Sackur and the supporters of the ruling party online. Given our commitment to democracy and the democratic process in Pakistan, we will continue to counter such disinformation campaigns and attempts to twist facts about the transparency (or lack thereof) of the electoral process.

Not only was our female editor harassed, abused and threatened on social media but it was done with full support of the party’s official handle and that is the worrying part of the story. It is difficult to separate the regime and its trolls now.

Second, a longish interview of Ishaq Dar broadcast live on Naya Daur on Wednesday night resuled in further attacks.

Dar’s interviews have been forbidden by PEMRA but many TV channels aired clips from the BBC interview reinforcing the narrative that he had been taken to the cleaners by the BBC and that he was guilty of all the charges of corruption. Dar may as well be guilty of the said charges, but that is yet to be decided by courts of law. Executive controlled bodies such as NAB and its prosecutors cannot be the jury and the executioners. In that context, we invited him to explain his point of view about the interview. And why not? It was the the news of the day and covering all aspects of such stories is what this portal does. But of course we did not assume that he was guilty and that was taken as some kind of damage control. In any case, we believe that counter narratives are important in a democracy. But this interview was also turned into a mega scandal of sorts.

We see this latest spell of attacks on Naya Daur in the context of the broader issue of the PTI government’s intolerance for difference of opinion. This platform has been at the receiving end of not just online abuse and threats, but on-ground intimidation as well — all for its refusal to be browbeaten into silence. The ruling party has repeatedly expressed its desire to teach dissenting journalists a lesson and a number of federal ministers have been found initiating attacks against individual journalists in a bid to silence them.

As noted above, the latest attack by PTI’s official account against a female editor of Naya Daur was yet another act of intimidation. As noted by the recent petition of women journalists against coordinated online abuse by pro-government accounts, government officials tend to encourage this vile behaviour of their supporters. The ruling party’s complicity in this culture of abuse has made the environment increasingly hostile for journalists. These attempts to coerce journalists into submission also jeopardise the future of democracy in the country.

We urge the PTI government and in particular the prime minister to put an end to this harassment of journalists because such hateful campaigns bring a bad name to the party. And PM Khan should remember that he is the prime minister of the entire country and not just his ‘overzealous’ supporters.

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