Journalism awards draw mixed response -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Journalism awards draw mixed response

Ayesha Shahid

ISLAMABAD: As the dust settles after the Agahi Journalism awards, the reactions have been mixed to the whole affair.

First of their kind as having been organised by a private entity with multiple international partnerships and without the agenda of promoting a specific cause as has been true of most journalism awards that have been held till today.

“We wanted to create a mechanism where quality content can be appreciated regardless of language or medium,” explained Amir Jahangir, the CEO of Mishal Pakistan, the NGO behind the awards.

The Agahi Journalism Awards asked for submissions from journalists all over Pakistan from which winners were selected by a panel of international and local experts, journalists, intellectual figures and professors. The evaluation criteria were set up in collaboration with Centre for International Media Ethics.

However, some criticised the awards for not reaching a sufficient number of media personnel for submissions and the criticism might not be all wrong. Agahi received over 800 submissions when there are over 13,000 journalists registered with Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

But, come Wednesday, the day after the awards, a big happy buzz of recognition surrounded newsrooms as they competed over who had bagged the most awards. Jang group (Geo and The News combined) collected five awards, Express Tribune four while Dawn won two.

The winners for 2012 were: Haroon Baloch of Rohi TV, Idrees Bakhtiar and Mohammad Ali Khan of Herald magazine, Sadia Khalid of The News, Mubarak Zeb Khan of daily Dawn, Ibrahim Sohail of Pakistan Today, Ali Usman of Express Tribune, Usman Ghafoor of The News, Naveed Nasim of DawnNews, Asad Kharal of The News, Arif Rana of Express Tribune, Geo News (for favorite news channel), Hamid Mir of Geo (people’s choice award) and Arshad Sharif of Duniya TV.

“There is a huge hunger for appreciation among media members but there is simply no mechanism for recognising quality content,” said Mr Jahangir. And one of the strong points of Agahi was its success in providing a platform for all the press clubs of Pakistan to come together.

At the ceremony of the awards, all the presidents of Pakistan’s press clubs gave speeches highlighting the difficulties faced by journalists in the currently dangerous and trying times.

And the message touched hearts. One Zainab Imam tweeted, “The @AgahiAwards had a signing board placed to commemorate journalists who have died on duty in #Pakistan. Great, great idea.”

But the aims of the awards went beyond simple recognition. As Mishaal envisioned it, the awards have been organised with specific aims. Mr Jahangir explained that investigative journalism has been promoted in these awards as well as diverse content.

“Our media content has become increasingly politicised. At the same time, extremism has penetrated all sorts of beats from health to education. Through these awards, we hope to build the capacity of our media to report on all sorts of issues through the various categories awards were given in,” he said.

The response to the first year of Agahi awards shows a promising trend for the coming years. And the awards plan on going bigger from next year. Mr Jahangir added: “For next year we are hoping to engage more countries including the US, UK, OIC countries, Afghanistan and others where content creating nations will be competing against each other.”

He added: “We are also trying to introduce an interfaith beat. We have a beat on religion and on crime but our media does not know how to report on crimes against other religions.”

But the question remains, can such a tradition of annual awards really be effective in improving quality of reporting as was the motivation behind the event? Mr Jahangir’s answer is yes. And indeed, for the people’s choice award on best anchor, Twitter and other social media saw various anchors asking people to vote for them ahead of the final decisions.

This shows that at least for the people’s choice awards, the awards managed to win people’s attention. “The idea is to create competition for quality content. And by the next awards, the right content will be recognised and this way we are setting bench marks for ethical journalism,” said Mr Jahangir.