Minimising risk: Freedom Network, UNESCO give journalists safety training
PESHAWAR: Journalists from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas received a training session on how to remain safe while reporting for their respective national and international news organisations in the region. The two-day training—one day each for journalists of K-P and Fata—that culminated on Sunday, was held in the city by Pakistani media development organisation Freedom Network in collaboration with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Islamabad Office.
According to the press release issued on Monday, the UN Plan of Action, announced in 2012 and endorsed by the Pakistan government in October 2013, seeks to bring together key national stakeholders on the issue of journalist safety. Stakeholders including national and international media groups; civil society; Parliament; national and local governments; and the UN were to come together according to the plan of action to establish a safer working environment and minimise harm to Pakistani journalists.
“UNESCO is training journalists to have a better understanding of the risks involved in the field and ensuring they adopt the best safety measures under all circumstances,” stated the document.
The training sessions conducted in Peshawar included basic preparations for covering different types of stories when anticipating intimidation, harassment or violence during the course of reporting. The press release stated sessions were designed to include exercises ranging from coping for potential field-based problems to being prepared with appropriate pre-emptive responsive measures to minimise harm.
“According to research by Freedom Network, at least 113 journalists and media workers have been killed in Pakistan since 2000, including 22 in K-P and 13 in Fata,” read the press release.
At least 10 journalists each from K-P and Fata attended the sessions. The participants included seven women and a few students. The press release quoted UNESCO Pakistan Representative Vibeke Jensen as saying, “The safety of journalists in Pakistan is a key concern for UNESCO and we are working closely with all the stakeholders to improve the situation.”
Noor Behram, a journalist from North Waziristan, said, “Journalists in tribal areas face grave risks to their lives and training sessions like these can help minimise that.”
Shafat Saba Bangash, another participant and a student of mass communication at the University of Peshawar, said she had come from a tribal area where the security situation is tense. Bangash said she found the session helpful and beneficial.
The press release quoted Shah Nawaz, a journalist from Swat, as saying he believed such training was essential when reporting from a former stronghold of Taliban. While taking his training certificate at the end of the session, he said, “I could relate to the part of the training which was devoted to kidnapping since that’s always on my mind when I’m reporting.”
According to the document, two senior journalists—Azizullah Marwat and Syed Bukhar Shah—attended the sessions as resource persons, sharing their experience of reporting from conflict areas.
Pakistan has been one of the five pilot countries selected for the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The press release listed Iraq, Mexico, Sudan and Nepal as the other four countries.