Media reporting needs to be unbiased
By Shabbir Sarwar
LAHORE: Since its emergence mass media has been called the mirror of society, because it reflects or shows what comes before it, just like an actual mirror. But now this perception is considered stereotype and limited because of the fact that the social role of the media has been modified and enhanced.
Media now is considered as an agent of change, particularly in traditional developing societies where social change is highly required, with special reference to social development. Mass media as a force and source of behavioural change has been playing a vital role for bringing the required social change and bring a society up to speed.
One of the major barriers for social development is the terrible degree of gender bias in developing societies.
Research studies show an obvious gender bias against women in male-dominated societies such as the Pakistani society. From food distribution by parents to education and employment opportunities, gender bias appears as a big hurdle in the development process. Although, the new role of media had been helping to remove this barrier a lot, but media itself is badly affected by taboos of a severely sick social system. The changing agent needs to be changed first.
If the overall agenda of mass media in Pakistan is examined, gender bias is reflected in many ways. Issues covered by women are very low profile as compared to the men. The contents of the print media consist of two parts, textual and pictorial. Women have been getting an increased space in the pictorial part. But the question remains, what is the objective. The answer is very disappointing. The increased share is obviously in reference to commercial interest and to please the male section of the society.
Stereotyping of women in media coverage and presenting them as showpieces has been an established practice, which is dominated by male professionals.
The male journalists, including photographers, reporters, sub editors, news desk in-charges, news editors and even editors prefer publishing glamorous pictures of women to beautify the pages of their respective newspapers.
In case of any fashion show in the city, the city pages of almost all newspapers are filled with pictures of women. Furthermore, in their coverage of daily routine events, photographers, while focusing on the audience or speakers zoom in on women participants especially and the very next day their pictures are published in newspapers. Publishing pictures of domestic and foreign showbiz and sportswomen at the top of the front page above the masthead has also become a norm in newspapers.
Some newspapers have a policy to publish seductive pictures, showcasing them with scandalous stories of the showbiz world. The owners of such newspapers consider this necessary to boost circulation.
The poor status of women in all walks of life, their real issues, psychological problems and miseries are seldom highlighted in media reports. The media never highlights the insecurities women have while working or their poor working conditions.
The majority of our population lives in villages, where village women are altogether ignored.
Another cause of low profile coverage of women is because of the fact that the agenda of media is mainly focused on politics, judiciary, sports and other such issues.
However, male dominance is gradually changing as more and more women are coming into the media.
It is a big professional challenge for media to know how to give coverage to women and how to report about them. Creating awareness on women’s issues among all types of media personnel is badly needed. Later, they need to be trained to report and present women in such a way, which could help in their development.
Who will fulfil this professional need of the mass media. Of course, this is the responsibility of the media academicians, as well as agenda setters and media organisations. The next question is who will draw their attention to do it. This is the job of educated women, who are well aware of the conditions and real issues of women, or such sections of the civil society and women media professionals who have the intellectual capacity to identify real issues of the society, and come up with solutions for them.
In order to control gender bias, educated women must avail maximum time and space in media contents and advocate cases of all ignored issues. At this time the realisation towards women empowerment is high and it’s the right time to cash in on it.
Secondly, journalists need to be sensitised on the issue of coverage of sexual abuse reports. Many reporters believe that in an Islamic society like Pakistan, reporting sexual abuse stories is not appropriate because of the fact that newspapers are read by all family members including children. Others believe that publishing such stories may stick as a stigma to the victims and their families and a single story could spoil the whole life of an individual.
The above notions are totally acceptable in a society like ours, where it is very tough for a victim to rehabilitate and start a normal life after publication of a media report regarding their victimisation. But on the other hand, taking cover of this social weakness the culprits and criminals remain unpunished mostly because families avoid registering police cases.
On the other hand, if a case is reported in the media, the chances of registration of a police case are high and certain social groups also start supporting the victim.
Source: Daily Times