There were half a dozen FM radio channels spreading information from one corner of the Swat valley to the other and Mullah Fazalullah and his stooges exploited the medium.
The timings of his broadcasts were such that every woman would be inside her house and bound to listen to him. Being illiterate, the women were impressed by Fazalullah’s speeches, portrayed maliciously under the veil of Allah’s name and verses of the Holy Quran.
A local journalist Niaz Ahamd Khan shared these views during a focal group discussion to highlight the impact of media on women population of Swat during pre-conflict and post-conflict era held at Swat Press Club on Wednesday. The event was organised by Regional Institute of Policy Research and Training Peshawar (RIPORT) and attended by media persons from across Swat valley.
Shahzad Allam, another local journalist said that during the conflict, local newspapers were sold as “hot cakes” and remained a permanent source of spreading information. “People would flock together to read newspaper to update themselves about the situations,” he said.
Moina Baig, a lead researcher of RIPORT told the Express Tribune that there must be proper guidelines for every media. Special content should be developed through proper research in which social norms, cultural and traditional context should be considered in highlight women issues, while local interests of women should also be focused. The main aspect, however, remains proper research that considers the eccentricities of the society, he said.
Media needs to play its role in cleaning the stigmas and cure the psychological diseases caused during the militancy, said Baig. “It will be a slow process but with the help of media, all the issues and evils will be gradually washed out.” She urged that instead of representing women as singers or dancers, media should portray them as doctors, teachers and of other humble professions.
Women were given a “proper place and value” by Taliban in their radio broadcasts, said journalist Nasar Allam. “The Taliban were praised when they [locals] gave up education, appreciated when they donated their jewellery and stopped their children from inoculation of polio drops.”
The main failure in highlighting women issues is the non-availability of women reporters as there is no single female reporter in Malakand Division. Only female reporters can properly highlight women’s issues because of social barriers in our society, all reporters concluded.
Women issues were not properly highlighted even after the conflict by any media organization, said journalist Mahboob Ali. “If the think-tanks and policy makers of our news channels chalk out plans for addressing female issues, we will surely focus them,” he added. Although after the conflict the Taliban’s radio broadcasts were stopped but no such activity was initiated to “clean the mess that they [Taliban] had spread”. Mahboob added, “There must be a moderate way to streamline our society. It seems that we are entangled in two extremes.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ