Newsweek Pakistan publisher faces backlash over tweets “mocking” abuse

January 24, 2018

NEWS DESK: Fasih Ahmed, the editor of Newsweek Pakistan, has landed himself as well as the publication in hot water after a series of tweets that people viewed as making a mockery out of abuse.

He began on January 23 with a retweet about the man caught in the Zainab rape and murder case, saying “On the bright side, at least he’s straight”.

Then, he wrote: “The sexual abuse of children will always exist. You can never eliminate it. Sometimes it leads to great art. So there’s also that.”

Next, he said that child sexual abuse “has always happened, is happening, and will always continue. Two days of outrage on Twitter and participating in a 10-person vigil may make you feel so noble but that’s all just about you, not those who’ve been victimized”.

Then he talked about uncles, servants, teachers, cousins, random shopkeepers who hurt boys and girls and we know them. “Did you report them? Did you have the balls to step out of your denial? This is the cause du jour. Default mode denial is just around the corner. Zainab is not a watershed moment,” he wrote.

Next, he retweeted someone who suggested that the Newsweek Pakistan editor was messed up due to a system that doesn’t support justice and was drunk when he wrote all of this:

For others who suggested that his account had been hacked, he clarified:

Fasih was trying his hand at dark humour. Now whether it was Fasih whose delivery was bad or it’s our people who, deprived of a culture of healthy debates and exchange of ideas for long, did not receive it well due to their lack of understanding, is something that is difficult to conclude objectively.

But what followed was a severe backlash. People called him out for making a mockery out of child abuse. Meanwhile, some people who apparently understood the sarcasm took to his defence.

The most severe form of reaction came from Newsweek.

Alyssa Milano, the American actress who initiated the #MeToo campaign, had tweeted to Newsweek about Fasih.

Here’s how most people reacted:

Finally, Fasih had to put it out there.

Others also took to his defence then:

All this not-very-well-received sarcasm and the following reaction leads to questions. Is dark humour lost upon Pakistani audiences? Was the dark humour not very well-executed? Has Fasih at least managed to initiate a debate? Was it the wrong way to go about it? Do we need to shoot down all debates that don’t suit our temperaments? Do we need to bear in mind our audience’s sensibilities and level of understanding when it comes to executing sarcasm? Is it true that most Pakistanis are not even familiar with the concept of dark humour? These are questions that need to be asked and civil debates need to take place to help open our minds.