KARACHI: A roundtable discussion was held under the banner of Uks — Dialogue for Change in Karachi recently where journalists, politicians and women from different walks of life discussed ways to ‘Understanding sexism and misogyny’ in our society.

The session not only featured prominent women journalists and social workers but also senior journalist Mazhar Abbas, PTI politician Samar Ali Khan and Farieha Aziz, the co-founder and director of Bolo Bhi.

Helmed by the executive director of Uks Research Centre, the discussion touched the many ways in which our media uses the two terms — sexism and misogyny — without realising that they are not one and the same.

She added that although her organisation had been guiding mainstream media for over two decades regarding sexism and misogyny, the struggle seemed to go down the drain when one watched talk shows on TV.

Senior journalist Afia Salam was quick to point out that in Pakistan, women were not given the respect they deserved because men considered themselves superior for no reason, and portraying that on mainstream media was not helping the issue.

Farieha Aziz added that the recent statements of two of the top leaders of Pakistan showed that we might have entered 2019 physically, but the mindset remains in the past, where making fun of a woman was considered “manly” by many.

Former member of Sindh Assembly Samar Ali Khan also spoke about the ways in which complaints could be passed to the relevant authorities regarding sexist and misogynist remarks, be it on TV, print or commercials. He went on to add that the talk shows that aired on TV daily between 7pm and 11pm were as responsible for confusing the audience since they made people believe that whatever the leaders were doing was correct and must be practiced in real life, when in fact they should be condemning it.

Senior journalist Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam did commend TV anchor Shahzeb Khanzada for interrupting his guests when they went “overboard” but sadly, that was just one incident in millions, where models are termed haseenayen, and walking on a ramp is considered jalway bakheray and being of the fairer sex is considered being weak.

Broadcast journalist Uzma Al-Karim also highlighted the fact that until and unless all segments of society — including men — stood up against sexist or misogynistic comments, things would not change especially in the media industry.

Mazhar Abbas also blamed the media for steering the youngsters away from real news, claiming that showing interest in model Ayyan Ali was not the way to present the news when presenting her case should have been the priority.

He rightfully added that between 2002 and 2006, media in Pakistan was doing a good job and it was only after the “infamous lawyers’ movement” that things changed for the worst.

Every news became breaking news and TV channels went for rating rather than quality content.

He concluded his remark by saying that there should be an independent media complaints commission where people from all walks of life can register their complaints. That “independent” commission should be headed by a Supreme Court judge and should have all powers to deal with issues regarding the content of media.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2019