#FakeNews and #AuratMarch – ‘Patriotic Trolling’ to ‘Astro-Turfing’: Lessons from Maria Ressa on dealing with online hate

Last Thursday, I attended a talk by journalist Maria Ressa at Harvard. She talked about the “pounding” journalists get on social media and “trends” set by fake accounts. Women are attacked online at least 10 times more than men, and research shows online violence leads to actual violence on the ground. It reminded me not only of the challenges journalists face in Pakistan but also what organisers of the forthcoming Aurat March commemorating International Women’s Day are up against. Here’s what I wrote, published in The News International, Pakistan and The Wire, India.

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#AuratMarch: The polarity of narratives

The News on Sunday last week asked me to write a piece on the narratives surrounding gender in mainstream and social media, the space to take up the debate on the subject and whether that has increased or shrunk over the years, and what sort of narratives are emerging from movements like the Aurat March (the impact and social deconstruction of certain slogans deemed ‘controversial’ and ‘immoral’ by right wing quarters within the society). I began writing this just before the controversy over ‘Mera jism meri marzi’ (my body, my choice) kicked off that I mention, in the piece below, part of the TNS Special Report on the issue published 8 March 2020, which includes several related pieces worth reading.

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World Press Freedom Day: India/Pakistan media and prospects of peace

Screenshot from Bushra Ansari-Asma Abbas video, 3 May 2019. Over 4 million views on one YouTube channel alone.

My comment about the polarized media in India and Pakistan and the prospects of peace, incorporated in the International Federation of Journalists Truth vs Misinformation: South Asia Press Freedom Report 2018-19 released on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2019. Also published in Naya Daur

Beena Sarwar

Polarization and Prospects of Peace

There have never been as many media outlets and forms of media in India or Pakistan as there are today — or as much push for freedom of expression and information, and its counterpoint, various forms of censorship.

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Shutting down online #fakenews factories

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Got this email and image from Avaaz, subject line, “We’ve been hijacked”, that feels too important not to share.  Here’s my biggest takeaway from it:

During Brazil’s election, Avaaz ran an experiment — just six people were given basic training to investigate the propaganda networks, and they shut down online fake news factories that reached *16 million* people. Imagine what ten times as many could do!

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Two conferences and a paper

covering an event with a video camera

File photo, courtesy European Broadcasting Union, alliance of alliance of public service media 

Two conferences this past weekend reminded me of a media conference in Warsaw, Poland, that I attended earlier this year. The Nieman 80th Reunion at Harvard featured intense and thought-provoking discussions on journalism, democracy, human rights, and peace — topics that the Asma Jahangir Conference in Lahore took forward as well while honouring the work and legacy of a great human rights defender. More on both later. Below, the paper I presented at the Warsaw conference. My take on the topic they gave me, Digital and traditional media – conflict or complementarity?, ties in with the conferences this weekend.  I’m also sharing my report about the Poland conference, Journalists at Media Conference vow to uphold journalistic values, ethics, which references the Conference declaration about journalistic ethics and values and challenges arising from violence, threats, commercial pressures and false information.  Continue reading

Targeting of Marvi Sirmed latest in attacks on human rights activists, journalists, in Pakistan

Marvi Sirmed ransack-2018

Journalist couple Marvi and Sirmed Manzoor’s house ransacked: Humiliating violation of privacy besides theft of laptops, cell phone, passport. Online photo

Journalists in Pakistan are under increasing pressure, besides severe, ongoing censorship. The break in to columnist and activist Marvi Sirmed’s house and its ransacking is the latest in the series of intimidation, threats and violence to those who uphold democratic values and are critical of the security establishment.

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Pakistani journalists protest growing censorship

 

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Over 100 Pakistani journalists, editors, columnists, media persons from across the media landscape in the country have endorsed this statement since it was initiated on 19 April, protesting against the ongoing curbs on freedom of expression in the country. It follows on the heels of a statement signed by prominent academics including Noam Chomsky. Besides the stifling of debate at university campuses, articles are being pulled off media websites in Pakistan like Babar Sattar’s oped (published in this blog) as well as three other pieces in The News on Sunday this past weekend. Others were not published to begin with, like Mobashir Zaidi’s oped in The News, and Gul Bukhari’s article on 16 April that The Nation didn’t run (published in Naya Daur). Statement and list below.

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