Let us break the silence!

As we stood at “Do Talwar” with our banners and placards raising our voices against irresponsible statements from politicians, insensitive and unethical reporting by media and increased unchecked incidents of violence against women in the city, it was strange to see people passing by in their cars or on foot, turning around to look at us as if we were the weird ones. There was a bevy of media people gathered around us, most of them trying to understand what the fuss was all about, many of them probably on the lookout for a politician or two. They spotted a couple of celebrities amongst the protesters and headed for them and when one of the policemen decided to make a statement, the focus of the media switched to him instead of to the protest itself.

One of the television guys actually tried to get all the women in one place so that he could film just us. I asked him why he wanted just the women. There were a lot of men there too. He said “because this is a woman’s issue.” How is violence a women’s issue? How is crime a women’s issue? How is a protest against irresponsible reporting a women’s issue? How is totally senseless statements that are aimed at the survivor as opposed to the perpetrator a women’s issue? How is revealing the name, car registration number and other details of the survivor a women’s issue?

When will people begin to understand that any issue that affects any citizen of this country, actually affects us all and all of us need to raise our voice against injustice, against violence, against corruption, against inadequate health and social services, against insufficient funds spent on education, against unethical and irresponsible behaviour. If we don’t, then we have only ourselves to blame.

With the increased number of media channels, magazines, newspapers, FM stations and social media networks out there, it is extremely important that we become more responsible in whatever we say and write. I am not suggesting unnecessary legislation or censorship. However, we need to understand that with Freedom of expression comes great responsibility. We must ensure that whatever we say is accurate, is corroborated, does not infringe on someone’s privacy and is not insensitive or unethical or likely to cause harm. We also need to do some research on the subject we decide to write or talk about.

Many of the tv channels had only sent cameramen to the protest and even those reporters who were there, were unaware of the issues so how could they possibly create a credible report. A few of the Print media had sent people who asked some sensible questions. However, I was very disappointed to see that when WAR’s (War Against Rape) Khadija started to talk about all the pending cases that needed attention, no-one from the press actually listened. It was very sad.

We look to the media to be watchdogs, to report the news responsibly, ethically and intelligently so that there is accountability. But with Breaking News being the order of the day, who checks facts, who bothers to be sensitive to the victims needs, who cares if the survivor’s privacy is protected. Sensationalism and sound bytes is what it’s all about.

This was the first time that the “Take Back the Tech” team participated in a street protest. We were proud to be there with our placards asking for an end to violence. Other protesters were curious but happy to see us there. They asked us what the Take Back the Tech campaign was all about and, once they knew, many of them held up the extra placards we had taken with us. If nothing else, we were able to create an awareness, speak up against injustice and show our support for the cause. I was also happy to see some colleagues from Microsoft at the protest. It was actually quite a diverse group. Amongst them were artists, writers, finance people, housewives, teachers, business executives, NGO representatives, students and activists.

Maybe people are finally realizing that it is time to wake up. We are citizens of this country and if we want things to change, we need to speak up for ourselves and for others. Let’s break the silence now. Let us hold people accountable. Let’s join hands and offer solutions, not just criticism.

About The Author

Jehan Ara

Jehan Ara is the President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES (P@SHA)..She is a motivator, an entrepreneur, a social activist and a strong propagator of extending the power and use of Information and communication technologies beyond pure traditional business, to empower and enable communities. Her blog can be viewed here: In the line of Wire. She can be found on Twitter: @jehan_ara and contacted via email: jehanbolobhiorg

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