‘So, where is the news?’

Panellists call for objectivity, gender sensitivity in reporting; object to moral policing, sensationalism

Sameer Mandhro July 29, 2021


Speakers at a press conference titled, 'Violence against Women: Justice demands objectivity but media gives sad music and asks insensitive questions. So, where is the news?' stressed on the need for sensitivity training for media professionals. Addressing their audience at the Karachi Press Club, they observed that the media often does not play a positive, responsible or objective role when reporting on violence against women and children. Instead, it frequently resorts to sensationalism, even in very serious cases, for ratings.

Citing the recent example of Noor Mukadam's brutal murder Panellist Tasneem Ahmar, Uks Research Centre remarked that responsible reporting is often absent in such cases, both on the media and on social media.

"It seems that [reporters] are in a hurry. We see biased and gender-based reports in the media."

Character assasination of Noor began on social media soon after the news broke, she said. But no one has the right to kill any person for any reason and "we need to bring objectivity in reporting," she noted.

The Uks Research Centre has been engaged with the media on how to report on cases of violence against women and on other stories, which require gender sensitivity, for the past decade, she mentioned.

Read More: Noor murder case: parents of suspect remanded

Similarly, writer and director B Gul observed that Noor's murder was being linked with slogans shouted at the Aurat March. "Both genders - women and men - have to live together.

It is not the right approach to suppress one of them. It will certainly provoke anger among women," she said. "This kind of reporting will not help stop killings of women in our society." Perspectives in the current media landscape need to shift, remarked Gul.

Concurring with her, Centre for Excellence in Journalism Director and senior journalist Kamal Siddiqi noted that a certain laziness can be witnessed in reporting now. Stories are filed through phone conversations and WhatsApp groups, he said.

As the conversation went on, he noted that the choice of words and images used when telling a story - whether on television or in print - matter. And yet, such cases of violence against women are often not given the importance they deserve, he said, adding that several cases go unreported.

In response to a question, Siddiqi said that social media is not a substitute for good journalism. But people turn to it because of poor reporting in mainstream media, he added.

With regards to biases skewing news reports, Ahmar noted, "Moral policing is not the job of a journalist. Our work is to report what we see in the field."

Journalists are observers, agreed Siddiqi. Let the desk decide on the story, a reporter's job is to report the happening of an event, he said.

Responding to another question, he said that only five to seven per cent of journalists in Pakistan are women. Journalists who can easily interact with and report on women's issues are few.

The speakers stressed on the need for training for media professionals when reporting on violence against women and children. Not just reporters but editors and owners of media organisations also need such training, they concluded.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2021.


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