Tag Archives: journalism

Powerful Women – Powerful Nation: Changing the Way Women are Portrayed in Pakistan

Watch a welcome video recorded for the contest winners by CIPE Deputy Director Jean Rogers. Also available on Dailymotion.

In Pakistan, the contemporary image of women in the media is one that is filtered through a number of prisms. Women are rarely portrayed as strong political or economic actors, and mainstream media tends to promote negative stereotypes of women. But some Pakistani women are emerging to challenge the way they are covered in the media, believing that this directly impacts how they are treated in society.

Uks Research Centre, an organization dedicated to gender equality and women’s development in the country, recently marked the occasion of International Women’s Day by partnering with APNS to host the first annual “Women in Media” awards. These awards recognize women journalists in Pakistan whose work has generated better awareness and understanding of the fact that positive media content can and does bring about positive social change, especially in the realm of women’s development and gender equality.

In addition to the “Women in Media” awards, Uks also used the occasion of International Women’s Day to launch their new guidebook, Powerful Women – Powerful Nation, which will serve as a training tool and guide for journalists to conduct gender-sensitive reporting and journalism in Pakistan.

The award winners for this year are:

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Women Journalists and the Era of Social Media in Pakistan

“Online media is becoming the most popular, and for sharp career growth, one would have to embed technology in practice” – Daily Dawn, the largest circulated English Daily in Pakistan quoting Hammad Sddiqui, Deputy Country Director CIPE-Pakistan.

This certainly is the Social Era, where more and more people are getting connected via Facebook, Twitter and other similar platforms. Social media is now also considered an essential tool for journalists. In Pakistan there is a growing number of young journalists, working both in print and electronic media. Some of these journalists are familiar with social media – however, most journalists are not using these tools as effectively.

Recently, CIPE support a project by a Pakistani media development NGO Uks Research Center train female journalists on reporting on gender issues. Under the project “Powerful Women, Powerful Nation,” Uks arranged to conduct four workshops in the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Multan, and Peshawar. I was invited to conduct a session of effective use of social media.

These sessions were attended by 100 working journalists. Some senior journalists did not even have email addresses, but I was astonished to see the enthusiasm among younger journalists in learning about Twitter and blogging.

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Fact and Fiction

On Monday of this week, I was surprised and pleased to read in one of Pakistan’s English language newspapers, Dawn, that the mayor of Karachi had been ranked the world’s second-best mayor by Foreign Policy magazine. I was also a little puzzled.

Karachi has made some great strides as a city in the last few years, with the mayor leading some innovative approaches to solving the problems of slums, food shortages, massive electricity outages, and unclean water that often disable Pakistan’s financial capital, in addition to efforts to green-ify the city. But second-best in the world…?

When I went to find the FP article in question, I ran across this blog post:

Yesterday, we started receiving e-mails from readers and journalists in Pakistan asking for comment on reports that we had named Karachi’s mayor, Mustafa Kamal, “the second best mayor in the world.” This would be an understandable query if we had actually said anything of the sort.

Turns out that Dawn, the Associated Press of Pakistan, and other news agencies in the country didn’t read the story completely – it highlighted some of the good works done by the mayors of Berlin, Karachi, and Chongqing, *without* ranking them – and jumped on the report without fact checking.

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Same Language – Different Story

Although Mr. Friedman may claim that the world is flat, we may not be quite there yet.  Take a recent BBC article that cites one of Pakistan’s most prominent pro-democracy leaders claiming a senior British diplomat cut a deal with President Musharraf that guaranteed his immunity if he resigned.  It is a fairly straight forward story with a claim and counter-claim while the journalist maintains a neutral position on the topic.

One of Pakistan’s most prominent pro-democracy leaders, Aitzaz Ahsan, has accused a senior British diplomat of undermining his country’s rule of law. Sir Mark Lyall Grant was in Pakistan recently and reportedly urged the government to give President Musharraf immunity if he resigned…

The British foreign office has responded to Mr Ahsan’s statement by issuing a statement saying it had not prescribed a specific solution to Pakistan’s political crisis.

Then compare it to an article written for “Dawn”, an on-line Pakistani English language paper which uses extensive quotes from the BBC article but leads with the title “Britain Admits Having Played a Role in Resignation”.  Although the author uses material from the BBC and cites his sources he fails to present a balanced picture of the situation and mistakely makes allegations into facts.

Shaw once quipped that, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”  The same now might be said of England and the rest of the world.

Radio Free Europe

Be sure to read Anne Applebaum’s Op-Ed in today’s Washington Post. The article reminds us of Radio Free Europe and that its mission is as important today as ever. Operating in 21 countries and 28 languages RFE provides an important, and often the only, source of independent journalism in countries around the world.

Independent sources of information are crucial to the establishment of democracy and the protection of rights. People cannot voice their opinions, stand up for their rights, and advocate for their interests if they are denied access to information about their society. RFE provides journalists their only opportunity to broadcast news in their countries. RFE journalists are primarily locals, many of whom are living and working in their native country. These journalists are often risking their lives to cover stories that would otherwise go unreported.

CIPE shares RFE mission of ensuring that people around the world have access to independent, reliable information. Several CIPE staff have participated in RFE radio programs. In addition, CIPE has conducted training programs for economic journalists in more than 25 countries. These programs increase the knowledge and skills of local journalists to more effectively report on local economic and business issues. CIPE believes strongly that democracy cannot succeed if the people are denied independent access to information.

I hope a lot of people ready Applebaum’s story and find ways to support Radio Free Europe. Programs like RFE cost very little, yet have an incredible impact on the people of the countries in which it broadcasts. It would be a shame if this program continues to lose funding.

A new generation of Tunisian journalists

In Tunisia recently for a workshop with business journalists on corporate governance issues, I witnessed a generational divide that gives me hope.  The key moment in the training came in a debate between an older journalist writing for a state-owned newspaper and younger journalists writing for web-based economic journals about the role of the media in investigative reporting on corporate behavior.   The state-owned newspaper journalist challenged why reporters should dig their noses in private businesses if there is nothing wrong.  The others protested, saying they must be active in their reporting in order to uncover failures before they become scandals.  The split in their views was clear, and I was encouraged by the younger clan who want to shape a new culture that values good governance and the rights of all stakeholders.   Now, if only the government would stop blocking YouTube and checking e-mail messages…..

Later in the day, I asked several participants about the most pressing economic issue facing Tunisia today.   One answered the rising costs of oil, then explained that the government stabilizes the price of oil so international increases don’t affect them directly.  But, he added, there is still a cost since the government has less money for other development projects that would benefit the country.  I thought the Tunisians must be very lucky not to feel the food squeeze as much as its neighbors in Egypt or Ethiopia, where bread riots have been on the rise.   Tunisia seems to be weathering this storm, but can subsidies for oil continue on an ongoing basis?   I asked if rising unemployment and the lack of good jobs was an issue, and they just replied with a shrug.   It’s hard to believe that these economic realities aren’t felt, but perhaps it reflects their desire not to air dirty laundry.

Later that night, sitting with our two trainers for this workshop—a Pakistani journalist and a Tunisian professor—one posed the question: “What are you most proud of in your country”?  The Tunisian answered women’s rights and a high level education.  The Pakistani answered the impact of protests and complaints by the public to affect change in a tangible way.   I said the drive for achievement and a spirit of ingenuity and entrepreneurship.  I thought the answer from the Tunisian was interesting indeed; the tradeoff between political freedoms and social development seems to satisfy many people here.  There are others, however, who long for the air of freedom and say as much in not-so-subtle comments whispered under their breath. 

Economic Journalism

Free media, of course, if an integral part of democracy, and it depends just as much on the climate within which it operates (laws and regulations) as it does on the people behind the scenes.  Skilled journalists, in this regard, play a very important role in making democracies work, whether its by exposing corruption and providing citizens with access to information and critical thought. 

Many organizations get involved in building the professional skills of journalists – and the importance of such efforts can’t be understated.  Still, what we often see is that it is not just the reporting skills that journalists lack – it is the understanding of issues that they are reporting on, particularly in the economic and business areas.  Take corruption for example – it is not enough to expose corrupt individuals after the fact (although it is important to do so).  Journalists must understand corruption as an issue, be able to navigate the legal climate, determine causes and consequences of corruption, and generate ideas on possible solutions. 

In a recent CIPE article, Nadezhda Dobretsova talks about economic journalism and its importance in Kyrgyzstan.  Kyrgyzstan may not seem like an important country in a global scheme of things, but many of the ideas and concepts she discusses are applicable in many other countries.  Why should media concentrate more on substance of what political economy rather than politics (infighting and gossip)? Why is it important to develop business skills among journalists? Why should journalists be able to explain the economic environment in a simple way to an average citizen? How can you get there?

If you are interested in reading more about developing business skills among journalists, you might also want to check out this Handbook from CIPE.