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September 14, 2020 - Comments Off on Women Journalists and Allies Express Outrage at the Murder of Shaheena Shaheen and Demand Concrete Measures of Ensure Safety of Journalists

Women Journalists and Allies Express Outrage at the Murder of Shaheena Shaheen and Demand Concrete Measures of Ensure Safety of Journalists

The news of Shaheena Shaheen’s brutal murder has greatly disturbed the community of media practitioners across the country and lays bare the structural insecurity women face in this country. Shaheena was an accomplished journalist based in Balochistan and was shot dead inside her home on September 5, 2020 in Turbat.[1] Shaheena was a host on PTV and the editor of a local magazine. She was outspoken for issues facing women, in her profession and community. Her murder is a grim reminder that women journalists face innumerable barriers and threats on the basis of their gender.

Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist in, ranking 145 out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.[2] The challenges that women journalists face cannot be neatly captured by the discourse of journalist security and media freedoms. Women journalists are subjected to a ‘double threat’ that is both professional and personal in nature. The overall lack of media freedoms and violence against journalists impacts women journalists, however because of their gender, women journalists face a personal threat to their bodies and well-being as well. Shaheena’s murder, reportedly by her husband, is being characterised as a ‘domestic matter’. We strongly believe that the personal is political, and for women journalists the challenges they face in their personal lives--the double shift due to inequitable distribution of care and domestic work, violence within the home, harassment in work and public places, online vitriol directed at them--impacts their work and can often put their lives in danger. Women journalists do not shed their gender when entering professional engagements, rather their gender often predominantly defines their professional life.

We also remember the brutal murder of Urooj Iqbal in November 2019 who was also shot by her husband outside her workplace for allegedly not agreeing to leave her job.[3] Despite the fact that the murder was condemned by journalists across the world,[4] her family eventually settled the matter outside of court and did not pursue a case against her husband.[5] This case shows that when the perpetrator of violence is a family member, the likelihood of settling the matter outside of court, often due to the pressure exerted on the family, is high. Since the passage of the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences in the name or pretext of Honour) Act, 2016, cases of honour killings can be pursued by the state under section 299 of the Pakistan Penal Code regardless of whether the family forgives the perpetrator or not, but the implementation of the law is inconsistent. The

cold-blooded murders of Urooj and Shaheena are crimes against society as a whole, they should be pursued by the state, particularly in a country where crimes against women are vastly underreported. Pakistan is ranked 151 out of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2020.[1]

On September 8th, the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, has noted that the Pakistani Government take “immediate, concrete steps to ensure the protection of journalists and human rights defenders who have been subjected to threats, [...] the need for prompt, effective, thorough and impartial investigations with a view to ensuring accountability in cases of violence and killings.”[2]

These crimes take place in the backdrop of daily challenges that women journalists face. Recently, 150 women journalists issued a letter calling out the online harassment that they are subjected to and the ways in which political parties weaponise digital spaces and gender attacks to silence critical women journalists.[3] The concerns that women journalists face should be taken seriously and acted upon, by the media outlets as well as by the government.  State inaction sends a message to women in the journalist community that they are on their own and in the long term discourages young women from joining the profession.

We, the undersigned, demand that:

  1. While we are encouraged that the Ministry of Human Rights has taken notice of Shaheena’s case, we demand that there should be adequate follow-up by the state to ensure that the accused is prosecuted and a possible settlement does not impact the prosecution;
  2. The state prosecution challenges the pardon by the family in Urooj Iqbal’s case in the respective court and pursues the case with the state as a party; and
  3. The government takes immediate and urgent steps to pass the Journalist Protection Bill, with added provisions which recognise the gendered threats that women journalists face and institute accountability mechanisms to mitigate and address them.


  1. Xari Jalil, Dawn
  2. Umaima Ahmed - The News on Sunday, Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights,
  3. Ghareeda Farooqi - News One
  4. Afia Salam - Freelancer
  5. Reema Omer - Lawyer
  6. Maryam Saeed - e Feminist Magazine 50-50
  7. Reem Khurshid - Dawn
  8. Amina Usman - Urdupoint
  9. Fahmidah Yousfi  -
  10. Rabia Noor - ARY News
  11. Najia Ashar - GNMI
  12. Nighat Dad - Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights
  13. Shmyla Khan - Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights
  14. Sahar Habib Ghazi, Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors
  15. Ailia Zehra - Naya Daur
  16. Alia Chughtai -
  17. Rabbia Arshad , freelance documentary and filmmaker
  18. Lubna Jerar Naqvi Journalist
  19. Sabah Malik, Arab News
  20. Nida Mujahid Hussain, Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights,
  21. Sabahat Khan - Freelancer - DW
  22. Maleeha Mengal - Social Media Strategist (Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre)
  23. Moniba iftikhar  - Associated Press of Pakistan
  24. Naheed Akhtar - APP
  25. Tooba Masood - Freelance journalist
  26. Laiba Zainab - Sujag
  27. Sadaf Khan, Media Matters for Democracy
  28. Kiran Nazish, journalist and founder CFWIJ
  29. Katarzyna Mierzejewska, The Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ)
  30. Rabia Bugti - Dialogue Pakistan
  31. Jalila haider -  Independent Urdu
  32. Tanzila Mazhar - GTV
  33. Tehreem Azeem - Freelance journalist
  34. Marian Sharaf Joseph - Freelance Journalist
  35. Luavut Zahid - Freelance journalist
  36. Mahim Maher - SAMAA TV
  37. Maham Javaid
  38. Neelum Nawab - DIN News
  39. Zeenat Bibi - Freelance Journalist from KP
  40. Ambreen Khan - content editor Khabarwalay news
  41. Annam Lodhi, Freelancer
  42. Maryam Nawaz- Geo news
  43. Ayesha Saghir - Producer Express News
  44. Asma Sherazi - TV show Aaj News
  45. Afifa Nasar Ullah - Reporter, City News
  46. Haya Fatima Iqbal - Documentary Filmmaker
  47. Wajiha Naz Soharwardi - CPNE
  48. Sahar Saeed - Neo TV Network
  49. Kiran Rubab khan -  Reporter, 7 news
  50. Imrana Komal - Senior Multimedia Journalist, Free lines
  51. Manal Khan - Independent Writer
  52. Zoya Anwer - Independent Multimedia Journalist
  53. Shaista Hakim - Reporter khyber News Swat
  54. Hina durrani, APP
  55. Sabrina Toppa, Freelance
  56. Shafaq Saba - Freelance Journalist from KP
  57. Mehak Mudasir -  Freelance Journalist from KP
  58. Zivile Diminskyte - Engagement coordinator at CFWIJ

Supporting Bodies:

  1. Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWJDR)
  2. Women In Media Alliance Pakistan (WIMA)
  3. The Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ)
[1] Mohammad Zafar, ‘Journalist Shaheena Shaheen shot dead in Turbat’, The Express Tribune, September 5, 2020,


[1] ‘Woman journalist shot dead’, Dawn, November 26, 2019,

[1] ‘Pakistan: Woman journalist killed for not quitting job’, November 26, 2019, The Coalition for Women in Journalism,

[1] ‘عروج اقبال کا قتل: ’اپنے کام کی وجہ سے پاکستان میں قتل ہونے والی پہلی خاتون صحافی' کا مقدمہ اختتام پذیر’, BBC Urdu, August 12, 2020,

[1] “Mind the 100 Year Gap’, 2019, World Economic Forum,

[1] “Press priefing notes on Pakistan”, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 8 September 2020,


Published by: Digital Rights Foundation in Press Releases

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