Workshop stresses need for accountability in journalism
Karachi: Journalist Aurangzeb Khan, began a thought-provoking discussion on Sunday with a poignant question: can journalism in Pakistan be called a profession at all?
Khan’s question sparked off an interesting debate at a workshop organised by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), titled ‘Safety in Journalism’. The journalists’ body organised the two-day workshop to equip their peers with the knowledge to deal with the risks inherent to the profession.
Comparing the prerequisites for entry into the field with those followed by doctors and lawyers, Khan said that, practically, one doesn’t need any qualification to become a journalist in Pakistan. “Young men and women are handed the pen or camera to bring in stories – which is resulting in chaos, especially in the electronic media.”
He informed the participants that Sri Lanka has an autonomous body which issues licences to reporters and editors and have the authority to revoke the license if the quality of a member does not meet a minimum standard, “just like lawyers have bars and medical practitioners have councils, which are independent of government influence but keep a check on the practices”. He implied that such a body should also be formed in Pakistan.
He said that the race for ‘breaking news’ is pushing the electronic media to disregard basic journalistic ethics. He said young, untrained journalists are often sent to dangerous places with little knowledge of the background of the conflict and are often forced by the newsroom to get “exclusive” footage, which results in dangerous consequence.
Earlier, Pervez Shaukat, president of the PFUJ, noted that though the owners of media empires insure the equipment used by reporters and cameramen, the staff in many organisations are offered no such protection. “It is a sad reality of journalism in the country. Here, 95 percent of people working in the media do not have job security and their salaries are perpetually delayed.”
The first day of the workshop was divided into two sections: ethics as protectors, and tips for personal safety in conflict zones. Detailed sessions on the ethics of journalism, safety concerns, handling first aid, and the dynamics of different types of conflict were held separately.