With political discourse dominating the media landscape, the media ends up sidelining many urgent issues. Sexual reproductive health of women is one such issue, which is considered taboo to talk about.
The topic was the focal point of a panel discussion organised by the South Asian Free Media Association (Safma) in association with Rutgers WPF Pakistan here on Tuesday.
First up was Myra Imran, a journalist who highlighted society’s attitude towards these issues as she talked about the negative feedback she receives to this day, even from her own colleagues, on writing on women’s reproductive health.
“These issues are locked inside a box that people refuse to open since its considered taboo. Yet we have such an incredibly high maternal mortality rate simply because people are not educated about family planning and sexually transmitted diseases,” she said.
She concluded that journalists need to be trained to highlight “real issues”.
“We need to start owning up to these issues.”
Dr Yasmeen Qazi, a reproductive health expert, said, “We’re quick to commit but weak in implementing goals.” She was referring to the Millennium Development Goals.
She stressed on the fact that politics has become so glamorised that everything else takes a back seat when it comes to breaking news and talk shows.
Then there’s the little issue of ratings, which seem to elude television stations unless they organise shouting matches.
“A popular TV channel asked my colleague to talk about reproductive health and then invited religious clerics who strongly opposed family planning. The talk show was hijacked and it ended up doing more harm than good,” she said.
Last to speak on the panel was The Express Tribune’s Executive Editor Muhammad Ziauddin who stressed on the fact that language framing and terminologies are very important when it comes to highlighting such issues. He was of the opinion that mostly people rely on the electronic media for information and that is what needs to change.
The discussion was followed by the launch of Media Handbook. The book aims to provide journalists with “comprehensive” information regarding the sexual and reproductive health and rights situation in Pakistan.
Rutgers WPF is a non-profit organisation working for the improvement of reproductive and sexual health in developing countries.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2012.