14.09.2012 - Communication & Information Sector

Pakistani journalists receive training

IPDC-supported project in Pakistan - © UNESCO

Nine training workshops on the basics of journalism for district correspondents have been conducted by the Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP), with the support of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

A total of 229 district correspondents, including 68 students of the Media Studies Department of the Islamia University of Bahawalpur and 45 women journalists, benefited from a series of three-day capacity-building workshops organized by the Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP), and held in remote and rural locations across three districts of South Punjab.

The training produced positive feedback from those who participated. Besides imparting basic skills to rural journalists, the workshops also provided a useful forum for the discussion of press freedom and other professional issues and their possible solutions. Participants were provided with training materials in Urdu, as well as editorial tips and information about social, environmental and development issues.

The liberalization of the broadcasting and print sectors in Pakistan over the past two decades has led to an explosion in the media. This growth has produced a parallel rise in the number of district correspondents, most of whom have had no formal training or experience in news reporting, explains RMNP President Ehsan Ahmed Sehar. While newcomers in cities can learn from senior colleagues on the job, correspondents working in rural areas often work without guidance. As a result, news coverage from these areas remains haphazard and of uneven quality, as the majority of rural journalists lack the necessary skills to cover the diverse range of complex issues affecting their communities.

Among the topics covered during the training workshops were journalistic techniques, how to cover press conferences, and disaster reporting. The training also aimed to address the issue of press freedom violations in rural Pakistan, by establishing an effective network of journalists to monitor and defend freedom of expression.

Three workshops were aimed specifically at women journalists, and focused on highlighting various forms of violence against women, such as honour killings, gang rape and domestic violence. RMNP Coordinator Najamun Nisa Kukhari said that there is a major need to give such incidents exposure in national and local media, but that the present lack of women journalists in rural areas means that human rights violations against women often go unreported. It is therefore important to encourage more women to enter the profession.

Media students of the Islamia University of Bahawalpur were also shown a UNESCO documentary film which demonstrated how the enactment of an “Access to Information” law had enabled a group of volunteers to obtain local government records in order to uncover corruption regarding the construction of public facilities. Another film screening focused on user-generated content and the various angles which can be adopted through the use of electronic media.

The workshops formed part of a project entitled ‘Basic Journalism Skills Development Programme for District Correspondents’, which was awarded US$ 33,000 by the IPDC Bureau at its 55th meeting in March 2011.

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