womeninreporting-670
— Photo by Dawn Photo

KARACHI: Do the latest exploits of Veena Malik and Mathira and designer bags of foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar justify as newsworthy items to be given time and space in the Pakistani media?

This was discussed by a group of female journalists on Friday on the first day of a two-day training workshop titled ‘Powerful Women, Powerful Nation’.

After a heated discussion all the women agreed that Veena and Mathira — often described as the liberal face of Pakistan — did not represent them.

The event was organised by an NGO called Uks, which specialises in research on gender equality and women development. The event was aimed at highlighting the misrepresentation of women in reporting.

The journalists agreed that almost all the news websites and channels followed the mantra ‘More vampish the women, greater the hits’.

A case in point was the Gayari incident which was initially overshadowed by a wardrobe malfunction suffered by Mathira during a catwalk.

“The social media went berserk and this madness spilled over to television as well,” recalled a journalist. “It took a long time for the fact to sink in that the nation faced a big tragedy with over a 100 men dead in Siachen.”

While the lack of good role models on television was bemoaned, particularly on the entertainment side, the lack of reporting on ‘everyday female heroes’ in print was discussed in detail as well.

The women were hardly represented in the media and if they were, it was not a true depiction of an average Pakistani woman, said the director of Uks, Tasneem Ahmar.

“The media tends to place stories of women on the back burner. They are either shown as glamorous vixens or victims.”

Ms Ahmar recalled the time of strict censorship in the 80s when even words like HIV/Aids were banned on state television and radio. “However, worse than this was how cases of violence against women were represented in newspapers,” she said. Giving the example of Nina Aziz, a young woman who was decapitated by her servant, Ms Ahmar highlighted how minute details from Ms Aziz’s life were twisted out of context. “The bias was similarly reflected in the case of Mukhtaran Mai,” she said. “Many people still believe that she was never raped.”

Journalists also noted though social media was good at disseminating information it was also a tool for spreading vile rumours against Pakistani women. The blogs and entertainment sections of English news websites were also criticised for putting up content that demeaned women for getting more hits by generating controversies.

Print media journalist Lubna Jarar Naqvi said that discussions like these were needed to get an insight into the problems faced by women, the situations which hampered reporting on women and the issues women reporters dealt with.

Seema, who works at an Urdu-language daily, agreed with Ms Naqvi. “We are not exposed to these tools at work. Usually people in the print media are hesitant to use technology,” she said. “However, social media is a double-edged sword and anything you say can backfire.”

Opinion

Editorial

Warming ties
05 Jul, 2022

Warming ties

BILATERAL ties with the US are clearly on the mend after an extensive rough patch under the PTI government. While ...
LNG emergency
Updated 05 Jul, 2022

LNG emergency

The problem is that Pakistan does not have sufficient cash at the moment to buy even a single LNG cargo at present prices.
The invisible half
05 Jul, 2022

The invisible half

WHAT better illustrates the Afghan Taliban’s misogynistic and mediaeval worldview than the fact that not a single...
Wise counsel
Updated 04 Jul, 2022

Wise counsel

Fuelling the fires of communalism for petty political gains is dangerous and can have a long-lasting impact on India’s stability.
Hazardous waste
04 Jul, 2022

Hazardous waste

GIVEN we have not yet developed streamlined systems for managing locally produced hazardous waste, we are inviting...
Mob ‘justice’
04 Jul, 2022

Mob ‘justice’

OVER the past few days, a string of deadly incidents has been reported from Karachi in which enraged mobs have...