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Doctored video sparks fears for Pakistan women marchers

Viral video of Aurat Marches containing blasphemous chants leads to death threats

Doctored video sparks fears for Pakistan women marchers

The aftermath of the Aurat March in Islamabad on March 8. (Photo courtesy of march organizers)

Feminist journalists and allies in Pakistan have strongly condemned a doctored video targeting Women’s Day March organizers and participants and called for an apology from those spreading disinformation.

“We strongly condemn the deliberate, irresponsible and malicious circulation of falsely captioned videos and media from the Aurat Marches,” the organizers said in a March 11 statement. 

The doctored video containing blasphemous chants has gone viral on social media, leading to calls for a complete ban on women’s marches and registration of blasphemy cases against the organizers and their supporters.

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In the video, chants criticizing hardline clerics and media persons were replaced with “Allah”, “Rasool” (Prophet Muhammad) and “Saints”.

Among those who shared the edited video were social media activists and news anchors with millions of followers.

“Their irresponsible actions have unleashed dangerous threats, including death threats, against organizers and participants,” march organizers said.

“Journalists need to fact-check and verify any fact, media or source they use in their journalism, and journalists and anchors on social media need to fact-check and verify any information they share on social media. However, instead of attempting to verify the false information, doctored videos and misleading media, certain media practitioners chose to share them without verification and by doing so gave misinformation and deliberate disinformation credibility.

“Their actions have led to threats and incitement against the organizers. Their irresponsible actions and lack of journalistic acumen have put Aurat March organizers, participants and supporters at great risk.”

It was falsely alleged that the French flag was hoisted at the March 8 event, whereas the Women's Democratic Front has clarified that it was its flag and distinguished between the two.

Deliberate and false accusations of blasphemy were leveled based on the text of a banner which was actually a personal account of a survivor who was 9 years of age when she was subjected to sexual abuse.

A falsely captioned video of slogans has been released to incite and fan flames of hatred against the organizers and participants, wrongly accusing them of insulting religion, the group said.

These tweets with false information were shared by high-profile journalists Ovais Mangalwala, Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan, among others, organizers added.

“It is clear that this is all deliberate and malicious. Using religion and accusing people of blasphemy has serious consequences. Partaking in the spread of false information, which confirms these false accusations in the public perception, is equally damaging, particularly when it comes from leading journalists and anchors,” the group said.

“This is not just irresponsible conduct but dangerous and unlawful. Death and rape threats are already the norm with no action taken even when reported to the authorities. Women, trans persons and non-binary persons — including journalists — are harassed and driven off platforms due to the abuse and threats hurled at them.

“Sexual violence is rampant in Pakistan and no threat — whether online or offline — can or should be taken lightly. Who will bear the responsibility and take accountability for the coercive environment that has been created or any actions that flow as a result?”

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