KARACHI: The Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ) hosted a discussion at the Institute of Business Management (IBA), focused on overcoming the many challenges women journalists face in Pakistan.
The session included CFWIJ member and senior journalist Afia Salam, who discussed the different issues that women journalists face in the industry, and how they could be overcome. She detailed how investing in new digital media initiatives was the best way for people to adapt to the changing industry.
Afia also spoke about the growing job insecurity within the industry at the event and said, “The media is used as a tool and manipulated by different forces in Pakistan. A missing business model has led to a shrinked space for journalists. However, this is the knowledge economy, and there is still a lot of space to work.”
She talked about her own experiences and compared them with the challenges women journalists face. “We had to work twice as hard as men to find our space in the media. Now when there are more women in the field, the threats they face have also grown,” she said, adding that women often face hardships when they try to reclaim space for themselves in the industry.
Sharing her sharp insight about the state of journalism in Pakistan and how women journalists in the future can pave their own path Afia said despite the widespread notion that there are more women than ever before joining the media industry, the reality is much different. “There are barely 11 per cent women in the industry,” she said, adding that women only manage to take up roles as the face of a network and are missing from key leadership and decision making roles in most organisations.
“The lack of representation in decision-making results in sexism in the workplace and sexism in the news being reported,” she said while discussing the slanted narrative present in media. “News is reported as though it is something that only happens to women. For instance, you hear about a woman running away from home, the headline rarely references the man that must have taken her,” she said.
Discussing the importance of male allies, she said, “We cannot get stuck in the them and us narrative. The men here need to be allies to make the industry stronger. Men and women must work together.”
The talk also included senior journalist Lubna Jerar Naqvi, known for her years-long experience working as a print, electronic and digital journalist. She also spoke about the need for men in the industry as allies for women journalists. “Men need to understand the issues women face, it is not enough for us to talk about them,” she said.
When talking about the need to focus on ethics and training in journalism, Lubna said, “Ethics and training is extremely needed for stronger journalism. Our industry needs an overhaul and women can lead the change.”
With respect to online safety and security amidst the growing threats for women journalists Lubna said, “As media people you need to be a little paranoid but it will keep you safe. Be mindful of your digital security as you work.”
Her insight for the future journalists, especially women journalists, sitting in the room was indeed valuable. Both the guest speakers gave on-point advice to the young aspiring journalists asking them never push themselves into a dangerous place for a story and live to tell the tale.
Dr Erum Hafeez, an Associate Professor of the Media Studies Department at IOBM, also appreciated the event and said, “It was a wonderful, interactive session that went really well. Students really enjoyed the informal and friendly manner in which both Afia and Lubna connected with them. Their experience and tips for young media students to equip themselves with the required skill set to survive in media industry was really valuable.”
Talking about the event’s success, writer and researcher at CFWIJ, Rabia Mushtaq said, “The session at IOBM was a testament to our commitment towards the work we do. In a room full of aspiring women journalists, the coalition’s efforts to connect them with experts and learn about the challenges of the industry served as a useful reminder that the knowledge and intellect of women journalists is indispensable. Their space in the profession is as crucial as that of their male colleagues and the work they do holds immense value. We were thrilled to have made this session possible along with our esteemed guests and Dr Erum Hafeez of IOBM.”
The CFWIJ global coordinator said that the event was geared towards starting a much-needed conversation about the changes that are needed in the industry to make it a safer and more inclusive space for women journalists. “We keep hearing statistics about what happens to women journalists around the world but we rarely discuss these issues with an emphasis on solutions,” she said.
“We wanted to organise this session because of the complex situation that Pakistani journalists are facing in the local industry – it presents a unique set of issues that require their own solutions, and we won’t get to those without having these important conversations,” she added.
CFWIJ is a global organisation of support for women journalists. The CFWIJ pioneered mentorship for mid-career women journalists across several countries around the world, and is the first organisation to focus on the status of free press for women journalists.