Speakers urge Media to promote progressive portrayal of women
The Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) organized a seminar entitled “Inclusive and Equal Portrayal of Women by the Media” on 12th March 2020. It was held in connection with Media4Women Campaign running from March 1st to March 15th in partnership with the Free Press Unlimited.
Tasneem Ahmar, Executive Director at Uks Research Centre on Women and Media discussed the issue of slogan “Mera Jism Meri Marzi” recently propagated in the media. The slogan was wrongly portrayed by the media, she said, adding that it was not only against the ethics of journalism but also diverted the focus of women campaign. People and media are misinterpreting these slogans; therefore, there is a need to understand these words positively. The male-dominant society needs to respect and protect women, she urged.
Ahmar, describing her work, told the audience that her NGO is engaged with print media monitoring since 1998. It has revised its regulations by adding electronic media in 2013. She added that the state of media ethics specially portraying women is getting worse with each passing day. Ahmar pointed out that their website registers complaints against negative portrayal of women.
Media professional and former member of Sindh Assembly, Mahtab Akbar Rashidi said that electronic media needed to adopt ethics. “It is a matter of great concern that these days, people are being disgraced in talk shows while assemblies had also become a bad place for disgracing each other. There are no ethics at all at both places.”
Rashidi went on to say that women are not weak as they are perceived. In fact they are strong and can work in every field. In Pakistan; women work at coal mines as dumper drivers. Therefore, there is a need to highlight their achievements. “It is a matter of great concern that minor girls are being raped and killed while many women perish in the name of killing in the name of honour,” she said.
Addressing the seminar, Rehman, Resident Director Aurat Foundation said that Pakistani journalists, including women have been strongly raising women and human rights issues along with their struggle for freedom of expression. She narrated how Pakistani media and women activists fought through the Martial Law regime led by General Ziaul Haq.
She said that as compared to the past that print media followed the code of ethics but electronic media is violating it. She pointed that media highlights rape issues in a way that disgrace victims. Electronic media needs to train its anchors and reporters so that they highlight women’s issues positively and respectfully, she advised.
PPF Secretary General Owais Aslam Ali explained that the program was organized to highlight the importance of gender equality in the media. Introducing the speakers, Owais Ali hailed the contribution of Pakistani women for the human rights and freedom of expression.
Stressing upon the need to promote women in media and portray them positively, Ali said that the ratio of women in journalism and also in talk shows is low. These days, countries are monitoring how many women are sources of news. He emphasized the need for media monitoring in Pakistan for gender balance.
Speaking on the occasion, Amin Yousuf, Resident Editor Daily Nawa-i-Waqt said that women organizations should work jointly for women rights instead of working separately. We should not divide women in groups and men and women should work together to achieve the desired goals,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that no training is imparted to the journalists and anchorpersons in electronic media with no gender policy in the organizations,” he said. Amin urged media organizations to train their staff and devise a gender policy so that women come forward and play their roles exclusively.
Imtiaz Khan Faran, President Karachi Press Club, said Pakistani media is still not independent. “It is not only nationally but also internationally controlled in a systematic way. Journalists are being forced to stop writing on certain topics in the name of policy and security issues,” he said.
He added that in many instances, media is directed to cover human and women rights issues with proposed angles. Women rights are exploited in the name of Islam, he lamented. He said that there is a need to portray women in media equally.
The seminar concluded with the vote of thanks from PPF Secretary General Owais Aslam Ali.