A consultative dialogue on ‘State of Journalism in FATA’
The event was arranged by the Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP), a national NGO, for Tribal Union of journalists (TUJ), with the objective: to highlight the present state of the media in the tribal areas and issues that journalists face; strengthen linkages between the national and tribal journalists; and discuss how journalism can promote democracy, human rights and development in the region. Guest speakers at the dialogue included Syed Talat Husain, Director news AAJ TV; Ejaz Haider, from News Week; Haroon Rashid from the BBC, Mazhar Abbas from ARY Digital; Afzal Butt President Islamabad Press Club; Iqbal Khattak Bureau Chief Daily Times Peshawar, and Parvaiz Shaukat President Pakistan Union of Journalists.
Speaking at the dialogue, senior journalist Talat Hussain acknowledged the hard work and sacrifices of the tribal journalists. He pointed out that the tribal journalists are real source of the news and information that is creating waves around the world. He stressed on the fact that the plight of the journalists from FATA should be given given serious consideration and highlighted on several platforms, instead of this one seminar. He reiterated that expertise on the FATA region and the issues there is in the hands of local journalists.
Ejaz Haider expressed that journalists all over Pakistan in general and from FATA in particular need to be trained for reporting in conflict zones/ situations. He emphasized that the main stream journalists from FATA had ‘reflected glory’ and the credit for reporting from the hard terrain of FATA goes solely to the tribal journalists.
Commenting on the state of journalism and journalists all over Pakistan, Mazhar Abbas mentioned that the problems of the journalists are manifold and their families are taking the brunt of it. He said that threat from non-state actors has been increased over the years, therefore there is a dire need to seriously address the difficulties faced by the FATA journalists.
Journalists from FATA openly discussed the issues faced by them and pin pointed their concerns over the further deteriorating conditions of the area. They said that they were facing threats from different groups which have made not only the reporting from FATA a hazard but also for themselves and their families.
Speaking on behalf of the journalist community from FATA, the President of the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ) Ibrahim Shinwari enumerated the problems of FATA journalists. He said that the journalists of the area are either under-paid or not paid at all and are simply given an ID card ensuring an honorary status. The government or the political administration does not ensure security to them altogether. This makes it difficult for them to carry out the duties of free, impartial and facts-based journalism. Lack of modern communication equipment such as fax, internet, telephone or mobile also hinders reporting of important issues. The recent military operation has also hindered the opportunities of reporting due to curfews and non-availability of curfew passes. As a result the reporter is completely unaware of events around him. Further, since the channels and newspapers do not train their reporters for reporting from conflict area, they are not able to take precautions while the dispensation of their duties. Unaware of the techniques of the first aid and due to lack of safety equipment such as bullet proof jacket and helmets, they are forces to face the brunt.
He also reiterated that the TUJ should be given the membership of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist, so that they could make their problems be heard at a larger forum. If the concerned authorities arranged for trainings of the journalists in different areas, it will improve their efficiency tremendously.