ISLAMABAD, Nov 3 (APP):Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Wendy Gilmour on Tuesday emphasized that the role of independent media in a democracy was crucial and it must be protected at all costs.

She noted there was growing recognition by the international community of the need to take into account the specific risks women journalists faced both offline and online.

She was addressing at ‘International Day to End Impunity for All Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI) 2020’ which was commemorated on November 2 under UNESCO’s Multi-Donor Program on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, said a press release issued here on Tuesday.
The event was held in collaboration with the European Union Delegation in Pakistan, the Embassies of Sweden, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the High Commission of Canada.

Country Representative and Director, UNESCO, Patricia McPhillips welcomed the participants and stressed that it was necessary to recognize that if women’s voices were silenced, half of Pakistan was silenced.

“Therefore, increasing gender-based violence on online platforms is not a women’s issue alone, or an issue for transgender persons or digital activists, journalists and bloggers alone, but an issue central to protecting democratic values,” she added.

Tanzeela Mazhar, a journalist argued that in order to ensure media freedom, women media workers should be protected from coordinated campaigns of abuse and harassment.

Nighat Dad,a digital rights expert, who runs the only cyber harassment helpline in Pakistan, shared her experiences of supporting individuals that reach out via the helpline.
She further highlighted the gaps in available avenues for legal aid, psychosocial support and capacity building of ordinary citizens in safely experiencing the internet.

At the 68th Session in 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution marking November 2, as the International Day to End Impunity for All Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI).

Across the globe more than 1,000 journalists have been killed from 2006 – 2017 while reporting the news and bringing information to the public. This day recognizes the far reaching consequences of impunity, especially of crimes against journalists.

In the context of increasing gender based violence online, this year’s IDEI in Pakistan focused on the challenges faced by the women journalists and media workers.

Earlier this year, women journalists, bloggers, media workers and human rights activists issued a statement highlighting the abuse/harassment faced by them on different online platforms.

This statement has brought attention to the growing concerns of women journalists and media workers while performing their duties.

According to reports the number of women journalists is already less than five percent, and those in the profession face substantial risks and hurdles.

The nature of risks are exacerbated by a rapidly evolving spree of hateful speech, incitement, cyber harassment and violence now occurring online.