The Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) was established in 2004 and registered as a non-profit organization with the object of assisting the development of independent rural media in Pakistan. This was to be done by conducting training programmes for both male and female journalists, carrying out World Press Freedom Day and freedom of expression seminars, and campaigning to defend and promote the freedom of press.
The RMNP regularly organizes training programmes and seminars in rural centres which address the issues facing the Pakistani media. In particular RMNP has worked for the improvement of professional skills, and to raise rural journalists awareness of professional, social, political, and human rights issues, including those related to the environment.
The RMNP collaborates with local press clubs and journalists unions and the Citizens Media Commission of Pakistan on the national level. On the international level it has developed relations with UNESCO, the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the World Association of Newspapers & News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF),Global Editors Network(GEN),International Press Institute(IPI) and the International News Safety Institute (INSI).
In addition to capacity building the RMNP is committed to the promotion of the freedom of the press in rural Pakistan. RMNP organizes training programmes on basic skills, press freedom, investigative and election reporting, safety of journalists, the rights of journalists , journalists ethics , broadcast and online journalism.. RMNP has played a leading role in promoting the use of the recently introduced access to information laws and is lobbying for improvement of these laws. Urdu translations of these documents have been distributed by RMNP among rural journalists in South Punjab.
RMNP is the only organization in rural Pakistan which celebrates World Press Freedom Day every year, and which publishes an annual press freedom report. This year’s report was published in and reported on by national and international media. In 2005, 2006, 2009 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 seminars on UNESCO’s annual themes were organized. From 1999 to 2004 WPFD seminars were organized by the National Press Union, with the collaboration of the rural Daily Nawa-I-AhmedpurSharqia, now merged in RMNP.
RMNP is the only organization in rural Pakistan which is keeping contact with the international press freedom organizations to promote initiatives that stress the importance of press freedom for democracy and individual and collective liberties. RMNP is active in reporting and publicizing crimes against communication professionals in rural Pakistan, and elsewhere.
Freedom of Expression Monthly Newsletter Sadiq News
In 2005 RMNP published Pakistan’s first Freedom of Expression newsletter which foreword was written by Mr Javed Jabbar former Federal Minister for Information & Broadcasting. It is a monthly published in the Urdu language, the main language used by journalists in rural Pakistan.
Sadiq News was published with the technical assistance of UNESCO with a ceremony on 19th December 2005, and a seminar on the Freedom of Expression Situation in Pakistan. The Minister of State for the Environment, Government of Pakistan, Malik Mohd Amin Aslam Khan, MP Malik Farooq Azam, 250 journalists, representatives of civil society organizations and regional heads of political parties attended. The first colour edition of FOE Newsletter Sadiq News was distributed among all participants and a report of the launch was posted on the websites of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), the International Journalists Network (USA), the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU), UNESCO, and several other media organizations.
So far RMNP has published 13 issues and distributed them free of cost to press clubs, rural journalists unions, and educational institutions. But financial constraints mean that since 2007 only one issue is produced each year, on the eve of World Press Freedom Day (3rd May).
FOE Newsletter Sadiq News has become so popular in Pakistan that RMNP received many emails from urban Pakistan asking for it to be published on the web in both Urdu and English and asking for it distribution by mail. Rural journalists value it so highly they have asked for it to be published fortnightly. RMNP on 26th April 2009 in a ceremony organized with the assistance of UNESCO launched first monthly Online Urdu edition of FOE Newsletter Sadiq News which is being distributed free of cost to rural journalists in all the four provinces and Azad Kashmir.
World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) has provided the appropriate platform in rural Pakistan to strengthen networks, monitoring, and the exchange of information and strategies on FOE. As a result of RMNP’s efforts since 1999 four international organizations, UNESCO, World Association of Newspapers (WAN) France, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) USA, and International Press Institute (IPI) Austria recommended that RMNP be enrolled in the IFEX community. For the same reason the World Association of Newspapers & World Editors Forum (WEF ) sponsored the editor of FOE Newsletter Sadiq News and President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Sehar to its annual congress in CapeTown, South Africa in June 2007. And similarly the Commonwealth Journalists Association paid for President RMNP & the editor of the FOE Newsletter Sadiq News to attending its triennial conference in Kuching, Malaysia October 2008 and WAN-IFRA for 17th World Editors Forum Hamburg, Germany from 6th October to 8th October 2010.President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Sehar also attended Global Editors Network (GEN) first international conference ( News World Summit) held in Hong Kong from November 27 to 30, 2011 , International Conference For the Protection of Journalists Dangerous Situations organized on January 22,23,2012 in Doha, Qatar and participated in three days long KAS Asian J-School Summit 2014 in Phnom Penh the capital of Cambodia from February 6-8, 2014 which was organized by German political foundation “Konard Adenauer Stiftung
It is pertinent to mention that earlier in 2009, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad had refused to grant a visa to the President of the Rural Media Network Pakistan and Chief Editor/Publisher of the Daily Nawa-I-AhmedpurSharqia, Mr Ehsan Ahmed Sehar.The visa was applied for to attend the World Newspapers Congress and World Editors Forum scheduled in Hyderabad, India from 30th November to 3rd December 2009. No reason was given for refusing the visa.
Ehsan Ahmed Sehar is the only editor from Pakistan sponsored by the WEF to attend 2009 World Newspapers Congress and the previous Congress in 2007 in Cape Town, South Africa.
The Indian Newspapers Society (INS) supported the President’s visa application.
RMNP mounted an international website http://online-rmnp.tripod.com/ in May 2006 with the assistance of the Australian chapter of the Commonwealth Journalists Association.
The website was updated daily up to February, 2010 with news of events in the rural and metropolitan media of Pakistan, and of events organized by RMNP. However after the death of webmaster Mr Pieter Wessels,this website could not be updated, so with the assistance of UnescoTehran,a new website was launched in 2011 which was hacked four times. Now in August 2013, a Pakistani host launched RMNP new website www.ruralmedianetworkpk.org. Rural journalists now download monthly FOE Newsletter Sadiq News and read fresh media related material in their country language Urdu. This new site provides an active link for interested mass media across Pakistan and abroad and also provides information on media defence issues such as regular monitoring of the state of media to record the chronology of media violations, tracking progress on media related court cases and legislation; and compiling an interactive directory of Pakistani journalists and media organizations.
Sadiq Press Freedom Award
With the support of the Emir of Bahawalpur RMNP has instituted an annual Sadiq Press Freedom Award to recognize courage and professional commitment by journalists and media organizations in Pakistan. It also serves to focus national and international attention on the state of FOP in rural Pakistan.
The amount of the annual award is Rs 5,000 which RMNP wants to raise to Rs 100,000.
In 2009 the Sadiq Press Freedom Award went to Mubarakpur journalist, Mazhar Rasheed (GEO TV, Jang), at the World Press Freedom Day Seminar on 3rd May in Jinnah Hall, AhmedpurEast.Thanks to World Association Of Newspapers & News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) which supported this award in 2011 and provided (US$ 1500 PKR 1,50,000).As per the announcement of RMNP jury, Pakistan first female video Islamabad journalist ( GEO TV) Mrs Sadia Haideri was awarded in a ceremony held in rural Pakistan on 3rd October,2011.Sadia’s husband Azizullah Haideri ,correspondent & photographer of Reuters news agency was gunned down along with his western colleague in 2001 in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. RMNP also distributed small PKR 17 thousands awards among rural press freedom advocates and working journalists on the eve of World Press Freedom Day ( May 3,2012) with the support of UNESCO.The Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) presented its 2014 Sadiq Press Freedom Award, amounting PKR 60 thousands supported by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), to the son of murdered tribal journalist Malik Mumtaz Khan former president press club Miranshah ,North Waziristan at a ceremony held at Punjab College in Ahmedpur East on September 14, 2014. Similarly in 2015 RMNP gave its Sadiq Press Freedom Award amounting PKR 100,000 to Resident Editor Jang Multan, Zafar Aaheer on the eve of World Press Freedom Day( 3rd May).It was sponsored by former Director International Press Institute (IPI) Ms Alison Bethel McKenzie.
RMNP’s objectives are firmly based on the concept of a pluralistic and independent media. RMNP foresees a Pakistan where the media has the freedom and capacity to reflect the realities of society accurately and in a manner that captivates the interest of its readers, listeners and viewers.
RMNP’s mission is to establish a network of journalists to monitor and defend freedom of expression in Pakistan, to build the capacity of rural journalists to report government and politics, and to provide a forum for debate.