Zainab Abbas, a Pakistani presenter, part of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) digital team covering the Cricket World Cup in India, left the country due to a social media controversy.
Abbas left on Monday. Some local media organizations suggest she was forced to leave, but the ICC spokesperson told the BBC that she departed for personal reasons.
No Public Statement
Abbas has not issued a public statement regarding her departure, and the BBC has reached out to her for comment.
Tensions between India and Pakistan, two neighboring countries that have engaged in three wars since gaining independence in 1947, are high. This comes as the two countries are scheduled to play a one-day match in Ahmedabad on Saturday.
Zainab Abbas’s Background
Abbas has been a sports journalist and commentator since 2015. In 2019, she made history as the first woman sports reporter and commentator to cover the cricket World Cup from Pakistan. Last week, she arrived in India and reported on Pakistan’s World Cup opener against the Netherlands on October 6 in Hyderabad. Her itinerary included travel to Bengaluru, Chennai, and Ahmedabad for Pakistan’s other matches.
Social Media Backlash
However, a lawyer in Delhi lodged a police complaint against her last week, citing alleged old tweets. This led to a significant backlash on social media. The complaint alleged that Abbas had an unofficial account on a social media platform (formerly Twitter), where she had posted “derogatory and provocative posts” ridiculing India and the Hindu religion. While these posts dated back several years, they are no longer available on the social media platform.
Jindal’s complaint also referenced a tweet from Abbas’s official social media account in which she discussed Kashmir’s right to self-determination, a contentious issue involving both India and Pakistan.
Social Media Trending
In response to the controversy, several users in both India and Pakistan shared screenshots of posts attributed to her unverified account, leading to her name trending on social media. While many criticized Abbas in India, some defended her in Pakistan and questioned the authenticity of the posts shared in her name.
Pakistani journalist Rizwan Ghilzai noted Abbas’s “safe exit” from India. He mentioned that she had faced threats over her social media posts while in the country. Ghilzai expressed disappointment in the ICC’s inability to protect its presenter.