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Increasing the Capacity of Pakistani Women Journalists

 

What are you left with when journalists are vilified? 

 

Amongst a rampant anti-press rhetoric, 2018 concluded as one of the deadliest years for journalists around the world. A report released by advocacy group Reporters without Boarders outlined statistics showing that last year 348 journalists were detained, 60 held hostage, 3 went missing and 80 were killed.

The unrest is believed to have been amplified by an increasing hostility towards journalists, as well as an unbridled proliferation of fake news. Both of which have been exasperated by evolving digital channels such as social media. People have been handed the possibility of anonymously opposing or intimidating those that express opinions or report certain stories. And another concern is the increase of journalists injured or killed within the warzones they report.

 

Why is it an issue that journalists are being exposed to such risks?

 

News reporting remains an essential element in holding people or entities accountable and informing the public. It is an institution that needs indefinite protection and support. Something recognized by the Department of State that funded the recent International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) forIncreasing the capacity of women journalist in Pakistan.

Ina3-weekvisit16 women journalists and members of the media from Pakistan came to the US to “examine the operational practices, standards, and institutions of the media in the United States and gain insight into American social, economic, and political structures.” During their stay in Denver, we shadowed the group’s meetings for an insight into how the IVLP impacts individuals and the type of professional meetings participants can expect to attend.

 

Women Journalists in Pakistan

 

As mentioned, broadcasting has recently suffered a shroud of demonization, and in the context of Pakistan journalism also suffers from misrepresentation. Rabia Nusratwrote in The Diplomatthat women represent just 5% of journalists in Pakistan. An alarming percentage, which means the country’s reporting media lacks representation of the population they serve. One direct result is the exclusion of coverage of issues directly relating to women.

 

Furthermore, Nusrat highlighted that only 24% of the women journalists surveyed had notreported some form of sexual harassment. And it was this topic that repeatedly emerged between the women and their professional exchanges, during the time WorldDenver spent with the Pakistani visitors.

 

 

The Denver Program:

 

On their first day in Denver the group were met at the Metropolitan University of Colorado. They discussed an article that highlighted that “women comprise more than two-thirds of graduates with degrees in journalism or mass communications, and yet the media industry is just one-third women, a number that only decreases for women

of color, reports show.”

 

Moving on the women had a private tour of the Colorado State Capitol with Marianne Goodland, Chief Statehouse Reporter for Colorado Politics. The Pakistani participants of the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) engaged in discussions about issues facing women legislators and challenges for women journalists (in Colorado, the U.S., and worldwide) who cover public policy issues. As discussed earlier at the university Marianne Goodland informed us that there are currently only 3 women reporters in the government building.

 

 

On the second day the women were welcomed by Open Media Foundation, a non-profit organization in Denver that aims at giving the people a voice by providing cost beneficial professional media services. The complex has editing software, recording equipment and studios, as well as access for members of the community to broadcast their productions on the open media channels. The group had the chance to film their own short documentary, where they chose to talk about sexual harassment in the workplace.

 

Finally, they were hosted by Denver Woman’s Press Club. This group is celebrating its 120thanniversary and hopes to remain a place for professional women writers to collaborate. The group crowded into the headquarters holding an open discussion to share their experiences. Among the topics was the fact that some Pakistani women are faced by opposition from within the family for following such a career path. Also, they discussed issues relating to conflicts in Pakistan’s tribal areas and threats from Taliban and affiliated groups. The US writers spoke on the battle for equal pay in journalism and they agreed on the difficulties of balancing family life with the demanding schedule of a journalism career.  

 

 

 

Concluding Remarks from IVLP participant Rabia Nor

 

Rabia Nor, producer for ARY News and PhD student commented that “The IVLP program impacted her life wonderfully. It changed my life in a positive way. I feel like a changed person inside, more empowered and confident about who I am. I feel like embracing more challenges now. Though I was already a Doctoral scholar and a well-established broadcast journalist in Pakistan, after this program and my visit to the US, now I feel that I am ready to step up.”

 

Adding that, “I have brought with me the wisdom, exposure and a more neutral and open vision towards life and most of all the love of the people and everyone I met there. This visit is a turning point in my life and I am really grateful for that.”

 

You can read one of Rabia’s articles she wrote on her home city Lahore here Lahore is Love.

 

Information is power, and education is progress. Educating and supporting those journalists who inform us is a step to a more developed, educated and less prejudiced world.

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