Seeks unconditional apology, removal of defamatory comment from social media
By Inayat Amir
ISLAMABAD: Prominent journalist Asma Shirazi has served a defamation notice on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf lawmaker Ali Nawaz Awan for making ‘false, malicious and defamatory comments’ about her on national television, it was learnt.
In a message on the micro-blogging website Twitter, the Peter Mackler Award-winning journalist announced that she has served a defamation notice to the PTI legislator for making ‘baseless and false comments’ intended at undermining her credibility and independence as a journalist.
The notice shared on Asma Shirazi’s Twitter account read that the ruling party MNA made a ‘defamatory statement simply to tarnish the good standing’ of Asma by ‘associating an outlandish accusation against her, which has not been established in any court of law.
Apart from seeking an unconditional apology from the legislator and removal of the defamatory comment from all social media platforms, the anchorperson’s counsel has demanded Rs10 million in damages ‘for the loss and damage caused to her reputation.
The notice said Asma has never taken money for her articles, adding that she has always ‘ethically and independently written and spoken about political and social issues without any fear, favor, and motivation from any individual, party or institution.’
The legal notice was based on a statement made by Ali Nawaz Awan on anchorperson Kamran Shahid’s talk show namely On the Front, on Dunya Tv, in which Ali Nawaz alleged that ‘I will prove it (journalists write columns after taking money) right now. Take Asma Shirazi’s column’.
The notice also read that ‘the defamatory comments have been made on national television deliberately and intentionally with the underlying mischief of harassing our client and encouraging individuals on social media to abuse her’.
The episode has once again shed light on the climate of intimidation and harassment in which journalists, especially, female journalists operate in the country.
It has been observed in the past that social media accounts associated with the ruling party have consistently been involved in maligning journalists critical of the PTI government’s policies.
Last month the current government promulgated an ordinance with an amendment to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, which has made the draconian law even more so.
The move was widely condemned in and outside of Pakistan for paving the way to muzzle dissenting voices. Journalist unions, legal fraternity, and civil society members have urged the government to review the ordinance.