FORMER Dawn staffer Zubeida Mustafa has been awarded the International Women’s Media Foundation’s annual Lifetime Achievement Award. The IWMF’s announcement of this year’s winner came on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, which was observed recently.
The Lifetime Achievement Award “recognises a woman journalist who has a pioneering spirit and whose determination has paved the way for women in the news media”.
Theodore Boutrous, the IWMF’s co-chair, said: “Zubeida blazed a trail for women journalists in Pakistan, changing hiring policies and mentoring young women. She showed that women journalists can cover serious topics such as healthcare and economic inequality.”
Ms Mustafa worked in Dawn for over three decades. She joined in 1975 and retired in Jan 2009. Among the first women in mainstream journalism in Pakistan, she held positions of responsibility throughout her years in Dawn, and within a few months of being hired rose to become a leader writer, a role which allowed her to mould the newspaper’s policy on subjects as diverse as international relations and education.
She also held charge, at different times, of various sections of the paper, among them the career and education pages. She was responsible for bringing out the Books and Authors section, the first of its kind in Pakistani newspapers.
According to former editor Abbas Nasir, “Zubeida’s career is a story of commitment, excellence and tenacity as she started out as a journalist at a time when it was by and large a man’s world. She was a trailblazer who blunted all biases with her single-minded professionalism and carved a niche for herself in Pakistan’s premier paper.”
Acknowledging the IWMF’s role in promoting healthy journalism, especially among women journalists, Ms Mustafa said she saw the award as recognition of the Pakistani media and Pakistani women. “We have had many great journalists who have played a role in winning whatever measure of press freedom we have in this country. I also think of my friend and former colleague the late Razia Bhatti who won the IWMF award for courage in journalism in 1994,” she said.
On this occasion she paid tributes to the late Ahmad Ali Khan Sahib, the editor of Dawn (1973-2000) to whom, she said she owed "everything I have learnt in the profession. He taught me integrity and the importance of fairness in one’s writing".
Ms Mustafa said she also wished to acknowledge the support and cooperation she has received from hundreds of people - family, friends and colleagues. "Actually I regard them all as the co-winners."
The 2012 awards are to be presented in New York on Oct 24 and in Los Angeles on Oct 29.
The IWMF also conferred its Courage in Journalism award on three other women. They are Reeyot Alemu, 31, from Ethiopia; Asmaa Al Ghoul, 30, a Palestinian; and Khadija Ismayilova, 35, from Azerbaijan.