Taking polio to the headlines -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Taking polio to the headlines

Islamabad – Journalists who have proved instrumental in taking polio to the headlines in an environment where the value of news is predominantly evaluated on the basis of its political, rather than social relevance, were befittingly recognised at the First National Health Media Awards 2009 held at Serena Hotel here late Tuesday night.

The ceremony was organised by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with Unicef — one of its key partners in the Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI). Minister for Health Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani, who instituted the awards on the occasion of World Health Day 2009, was the chief guest on the occasion. He shared the head table with Federal Secretary Health Khushnood Lashari and Parliamentary Secretary for Health Mehreen Razzak Bhutto. The event marked a sea change in government-media relations, which have been flourishing through the efforts of Lashari.

The air was filled with suspense as not a single journalist – regardless of the number of ‘credible sources’ that they may have cultivated over time to extract information – had any clue about what was about to unfold. In fact, the high level of confidentiality maintained to block the results from leaking out ahead of the ceremony, coupled with upholding of merit as the sole criteria for selection of nominees, is what gave an extra-special touch to the event.

Fifteen categories of awards were instituted for evaluation by a three-member jury comprising senior journalist and analyst Amir Mateen; Director News, Samaa TV, Ihtesham-ul-Haq; and Global Head of BBC Urdu Service, Aamir Ahmed Khan. A total of 2,560 stories and reports in the print media and 3,000 news items, reports, analyses, live hits and panel discussions in the electronic media were recorded over the last one year, the gathering was informed. One entry by each press, television and radio journalist nominated for the awards was evaluated by the jury.

Journalists working for the Jang Group grabbed three gold and three silver medals. Mushtaq Yousafzai of ‘The News,’ Peshawar, was awarded a gold medal in the category of ‘Best Investigative Report Print,’ Shahina Maqbool of ‘The News,’ Islamabad, was awarded a gold medal in the category of ‘Best Reporter Print Media English’ and Naveed Siddiqui of ‘Geo News’ got a gold medal in the category of ‘Best Reporter Electronic Urdu.’

Meanwhile, Jamila Achakzai of ‘The News,’ Islamabad, got a silver medal in the ‘Best Investigative Report Print’ category. Akhtar Shaheen Rind of Geo News walked away with two silver medals in the categories of ‘Best Reporter Electronic Urdu’ and ‘Best Analytical Report Electronic Media.’

Addressing the ceremony, ‘The News’ Resident Editor Mohammad Malick expressed pleasure over being part of a ceremony arranged to acknowledge the foresight and vision of fellow journalists who have influenced policy-making in the health sector at all levels. “Health should be front-page news in a country where a woman dies every twenty minutes,” Malick stated in a bid to emphasise that reporters who write on subjects other than politics should not be treated as lesser beings. He advised editors and channel owners to treat health as a permanent beat and to shed their political orientation in favour of issues that have a social welfare and development-related focus.

Malick also called upon the government and international agencies to give international exposure to journalists so that they can broaden their learning horizons. “Our organisations do not have the entrepreneurial inclinations to take such initiatives,” he frankly conceded, hoping that the vacuum thus created would be filled by the government and international partners. He also advised journalists to use social issues as a benchmark to evaluate the performance of politicians.

Responding to Malick’s suggestions, Jakhrani promised to take journalists along on various foreign trips as a learning experience. Health, he said, is an investment, not expenditure. “You are the backbone of the nation. You have the power of the pen to bring about change,” he said while addressing the journalists.

Other journalists who qualified for gold medals are Ashfaq Yousafzai (Best Report International Correspondents); Rafya Haider (Best Report News Agencies); Marium Kiyani (Rising Star Award for upcoming health reporter of the year Print Media); Ghazala Norin (Rising Star Award for upcoming health reporter of the year Urdu Electronic Media); Faisal Hakeem (Best Analytical Report Electronic Media); Mukhtar Alam (Best Analytical Report Print Media); Fatima Ali (Most Breaking Stories); Haroon Rashid (Best Report Radio Journalism); Riaz Burki (Best Report Live Events); Rubyna Amir (Best Investigative Report Electronic Media); Namood Muslim (Best Reporter Electronic Media English); Muhammad Tufail (Best Reporter Print Media Urdu). A new sub-theme will be announced for the awards each year, the media was informed.

A special award for ‘Innovations in Health Journalism’ was announced for Amir Jehangir, CEO of Samaa TV. Moreover, special mementos were presented to Ali Arshad Hakim, chairman of NADRA; Asma Sherazi of ARY News; Dr. Waseem Kausar, IG Motorways Police; Mohammadd Amin Khan, Chairman ZAFA Pharma, and Melissa Corkum, the head of polio communications in Unicef. The new face of polio communications in Pakistan started in January 2008 when Unicef engaged the British Broadcasting Corporation’s head to conduct trainings for health journalists across Pakistan. This was made possible through Melissa’s efforts.

Eminent artists including Farooq Qaiser, who took to the stage as Uncle Sargam, coupled with other characters of the popular puppet show ‘Kaliyan’ – notably ‘Maasi Museebtay’ – as well as Masood Khwaja spread cheer among the audience through skits laden with socio-political satire. The event concluded with dinner.
Source: The News