KARACHI: This is an outstanding effort and now the media will think of non-mainstream political issues as well, said Safdar Hussain Shah, a reporter who wrote a story on thalassemia, which highlighted the importance of undergoing tests before getting married.
The story earned him a runner-up award in the mainstream broadcast (TV/radio) category at the first-ever Excellence in Journalism Award 2016, which was jointly organised by the Centre for Excellence in Journalism, Institute of Business Administration (CEJ-IBA), and the Centre for Communication Programmes (CCP)-Pakistan at IBA on Monday. The awards recognised outstanding reporting in the field of health.
Shah, who works for PTV, said that he is hopeful that such activities will encourage reporters and thereby improve specialised reporting.
In the district correspondent category the runner-up award was awarded to Amjad Ali of the Daily Mashriq Peshawar. “We had been working for many years but were never acknowledged but now I have been appreciated for covering health related issues,” he said. He won an award for his story on the lack of health facilities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where there are no female doctors in state-run hospitals.
An independent journalist, Zofeen T Ebrahim, whose story ‘Bottle vs breast: If mother’s milk is best, why use formula?’ won first place in the mainstream print/online category, said such acknowledgment demonstrates that health has emerged as an issue of major interest. “I am happy to note that CEJ is playing such as important role in the development of this [field],” she added.
Speaking on the occasion, CEJ director Kamal Siddiqi said that health has remained a neglected area, either with misinformation or poor reporting. According to him, two-third of medical professionals, out of a total 20,000, have not received any formal training. However, the awards are to recognise journalists so that more health-related issues can be highlighted in the future.
Keynote speaker and head of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre Dr Seemin Jamali while addressing the challenges of health journalism said, “There is an issue with health education and medical malpractices”.
She added that we have seen in the past few years how terrorism has taken so many precious lives and at the same time the emergence of new challenges in the form of diseases and their prevention. “Health journalism needs to reported accurately and ethically and should be a priority for the media, not just at times of crisis,” said Dr Jamali.
Sharing the idea behind the awards, CCP-Pakistan director Atif Ikram Butt said that the awards focus on beat reporting and softer beats such as health, gender, nutrition and environment for the promotion of national development. According to him, independent awards encourage reporters to pursue softer beats.
Rahimullah Yousafzai, one of the judges, remarked that health reporting would have been even more limited if we had no polio, dengue virus or bomb blasts. However, health reporting with such activities would broaden the horizons of health reporters, which is as important an issue as any other in Pakistan, he said.
Team leader of Palladium Pakistan’s Empowerment, Voice and Accountability for Better Health and Nutrition Dr Fayaz Ahmed said that the voice of people on health-related issues needs to be protected and amplified. According to him, the Awards for Excellence in Journalism 2016 on health issues must be held every year till we achieve health-related Sustainable Development Goals.
Award winners at the event were Ebrahim and Muhammad Suleman in the mainstream print/online category, with Sameer Mandhro, Moniza Inam and Izharullah as runners-up. For the category of mainstream broadcast (TV and radio) Ovais Ahmed Tanveer and Danyal Hasan were winners, while Shah and Saifullah Cheema were runners-up. In the district correspondents category Adnan Khatri and Muhammad Shahid came first and second while Ali and Nisar Ahmed were runners-up.
The Excellence in Journalism Award will become an annual event offered by CEJ and expand in the future years to focus on other beat reporting genres.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2016.