“Journalists have been instrumental in creating awareness about the endemic bonded labour in Pakistan and promoting their rights,” said Dr Saifullah Chaudhry, resource person for a workshop conducted on Monday by the International Labour Organisation to sensitise media on issues pertaining to bonded labour.
The workshop aimed to create awareness among journalists regarding the international and national conventions and the legal framework on bonded labour. More than 50 journalists from south Punjab attended the workshop.
Dr Chaudhry told The Express Tribune that journalists could blow the whistle on forced labour in the country- from a micro level (in households) to the macro level.
As many as 20.9 million workers worldwide fall in the category of bonded labour, said Dr Chaudhry. This includes human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation. The media can help lead advocacy movements against bonded labour by creating awareness among the masses. Journalists, through investigative journalism, can highlight the issue and grievances of bonded labour. “Only by keeping the matter alive on media platforms can we defeat the menace,” he said.
Social media has provided journalists an avenue through which they can keep such issues relevant. “Journalists should share stories on exploitation and sexual abuse of labour,” said Dr Chaudhry, “They could also share the threats they receive due to reporting on issues of bonded labour.”
Several journalists said the ILO should also provide a platform to promote the rights of journalists in Pakistan. “Journalists have it no better than bonded labour. Their rights are exploited and their salaries are never guaranteed,” a journalist said.
Journalist Khizar Bhutta told The Express Tribune that the workshop had helped him appreciate the power of the media and their responsibility to promote the rights of oppressed communities. “This is the first time I have heard of international conventions and national policies regarding the protection of labour,” he said.
Dr Chaudhry said, “I believe it is only through empowering and educating journalists that the problem of bonded labour in south Punjab can be tackled.”
The participants at the workshop were given certificates and prizes for participation. The journalists appreciated the ILO’s efforts in creating awareness regarding bonded labour in the region.
Journalist Amjad Bukhari said that such workshops were very important in creating awareness among journalists. “This will help us highlight the issue of bonded labour in those segments of the society that have not been aware of it,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.
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