For journalists, tackling sources and safety are key

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: A source should not set the agenda of a story, a journalist should. This was observed at a talk held on ‘The Realities of Reporting in Pakistan’ at The Second Floor on Saturday.

The panelists comprised veteran print and broadcast journalists, including The News business reporter Hina Mahgul Rind, Dawn newspaper crime reporter Imtiaz Ali, Daily Times newspaper’s Peshawar bureau chief Iqbal Khattak and Aaj News bureau chief Rafat Saeed. The director of Media Development at Civic Action Resources, Adnan Rehmat, moderated the session.

As a media analyst, Rehmat briefed the session about the tension between the ethics of guarding of public interest while balancing commercialism. “In the pursuit of getting more ratings and creating sensationalism, the role of media practitioners has become more commercial than responsible,” he said, adding that since the media moulds public opinion it should take some responsibility.

“Two important aspects revolve around a journalist’s endeavour – salary and safety.” For him, the safety of journalist in Pakistan was in doldrums. He informed the audience that 93 journalists have been killed in the country over the past 13 years since January 2000, while 2,000 journalists have been subjected to harassment, assault and kidnapping.

To go or not to go

Out of the 93 journalists killed over the past 13 years, 26 belonged to Sindh and most of them were from Karachi, said Rehmat.

A journalist puts himself in danger while covering stories on the field, said the moderator. Ali said that a reporter’s self-censorship was very important, adding that one cannot just step into no-go areas.

Khattak was of the view that in a conflict situation, the public runs but journalists have to stay, adding that it was what made the job of the journalists different. “If you are ethically correct and if you do your job with all honesty then you will always be safe.”

He informed the audience that he had a very good story on the police on hold because the police was working on a case against him. “If I filed the story now it would be unethical and would look as if I am trying to pressurise the police.”

Another speaker added that the supervisor can only tell one to be safe, the call is eventually their own. “With sources you should make sure that you never develop a personal relationship. If you are not biased, your sources will never go away.”

Sensationalism for ratings?

As there was no relationship between the viewer and the producer, the broadcast media entirely depended on the middle agent [distributor], pointed out Rehmat. Saeed said that ratings were a very big issue , adding that there was a lot of competition among broadcasters for better reporting.

“I always ask my reporters to first be safe and then do a story,” he said, adding that due to lack of resources some channels lagged behind.

“Agey barhney meh jaan jaati hai [Moving ahead takes your life away],” he addressed in Urdu.

Rehmat pointed out that business media has moved from the inside pages to the front pages. Rind said that there was a lot of pressure from the marketing department as they had to carry multiple recommended stories. “Since many advertisements come from private sector companies, we can’t carry stories against them.”

Express Tribune