PPF’s Media Safety Fellowship workshop addresses alarming safety concerns for journalists in Pakistan
Reflective of the challenges faced by journalists in Pakistan, journalists, and media professionals shared their experiences and discussed the risks to the safety of the media in the country at a workshop for Pakistan Press Foundation’s (PPF) Media Safety Fellowship’s fifth cycle. The workshop held in Islamabad from July 16-19 brought together journalists and media professionals from across the country to address the growing safety challenges faced by media workers in Pakistan.
Journalists from across the country shared the challenges they faced, including criticism and censorship from state and non-state actors, which resulted in self-censorship, the challenge of unannounced censorship, and the “haunting influence” of militant organizations that cast a shadow over reporting from certain areas.
During the workshop, renowned journalist and trainer Mubasher Bukhari provided crucial guidance to the fellows on how to navigate and work safely in volatile regions. Participants were given training on first aid, identifying and mitigating potential risks, and employing digital security measures.
The workshop addressed the pressing issue of encountering landmines in conflict zones and provided comprehensive guidelines to the participants on how to identify and avoid them. Journalists were also trained in responding to threats and violence, whether from hostile crowds during demonstrations or potential bomb attacks or booby traps.
The threat to journalists’ lives in Pakistan has been a longstanding concern, with PPF documenting at least 76 killings of journalists and media professionals since 2002. The figures paint a grim picture, revealing 18 killings in Sindh province, 21 in Balochistan province, 29 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 5 in Punjab province, and 3 in the capital city, Islamabad.
What is more troubling is the lack of accountability for these attacks, allowing the perpetrators to evade justice. The prevailing culture of impunity in crimes against the media has perpetuated an atmosphere of fear and danger for journalists across the country.
The workshop specifically focussed on the safety concerns of women journalists and presented recommendations on how they can stay secure while reporting from dangerous areas, such as tips on how to dress, who to travel with, and what safety equipment they can carry with them.
Women journalists, who have been increasingly breaking barriers in the field, face a unique and heightened threat of sexual harassment and violence while reporting.
Participating in the workshop, women journalists shared the challenges they face as media professionals, Including name-calling and harassment, which has resulted in many women journalists exiting the reporting field and others contemplating about leaving.
The event also offered an opportunity for the fellows to present their published stories on media safety under the fellowship program, receiving valuable feedback from their peers and the trainer.