Shocking!!!The threats and abuse outspoken Pakistani women receive

The threats and abuse outspoken Pakistani women receive

The apparent “honour killing” of Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch has led to renewed debate over women’s rights in the country, including the freedom to speak out online.

Ms Baloch, 26, was frequently abused in cyberspace and had received death threats for her outspoken and controversial posts.

But Pakistani women, including journalists, often face vitriol and denigration for speaking their minds.

Here, four BBC Urdu journalists describe their experiences.

WARNING: Some readers may find the language used below disturbing.
Amber Shamsi – ‘I fear digital hate could quickly become very real’

Some months ago, I published a story on Qandeel Baloch for BBC Urdu in which I identified her as a cultural landmark of sorts, a provocateur. Inevitably, the abuse followed. BBC Urdu and I were accused of having “nothing better to cover” for giving space to a “slut” who was disgracing the country.

The problem was not the story or even Qandeel Baloch – who had to deal with her own share of online nastiness. In the larger scheme of things, it represented the kind of abuse women have to face online.

As a female journalist, harassment becomes personal and well beyond questioning the credibility of the work. Popular insults include “slut”, “prostitutes”, or worse. I was sent pictures of daggers when I did a story on the sectarian violence in Pakistan. And aside from the journalism, being a woman in the public eye can have another downside – sexually explicit messages. These can range from invitations for sex, to descriptions of rape fantasies to graphic images.

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