Reporting Poverty, Influencing Policy
Success Stories in Poverty and Communication
Tuesday 24th November, 2009 Marriot Hotel, Islamabad

Islamabad: Panos South Asia Pakistan organised a one day roundtable on Reporting Poverty, Influencing Policy in the Marriot Hotel, Islamabad which was attended by thirty representatives of prominent non-governmental organisations and media.

Ms Sahar Ali, Country representative PANOS, informed that over the last year PANOS Pakistan had carried out research into the communication and advocacy efforts of three Pakistani organisations that have striven to address the issue of poverty and deprivation by providing a platform for the poor to engage with the state/policy makers on the policies that impact their lives.

Mr Ziagham Khan, Research Consultant, presented a case study “Bringing the media mountain to Hazara Hillsides.” He highlighted the activities the NGO Omar Asghar Khan Foundation carried out in the 2005 earthquake. The second case study “Putting Mancher on the Map: Raising Voices for Lost Liveliloods at Manchar Lake” was presented by the country representative Panos Pakistan, Ms Sahar Ali, and the third case study “Unleashing a Barrage of Protests: Displacement and Resistance at Taunsa Barrage” was also put to the roundtable by Mr Zaigham Khan, Research Consultant.

Documentaries regarding the Mancchar Lake disaster and “Daring to Dream” on the Taunsa Barrage were also watched by participants. Ali Asghar Khan, Chairman OAK DF, Ms Zubeda Birwani, Manager Advocacy, ShirkatGah Sindh, Musthaq Gadhi, Academic and Activist, head of Hirac Trust besides other participants passed their comments. A Question and answer session was also conducted in which Bureau Chief Mehran, TV channel, Representative Asian Development Bank(ADB) and Action Aid along with other participants expressed their views. Country Representative PANOS Pakistan, Ms Sahar Ali, presented A SWOT Analysis. Afterwards a discussion on strengthening civil society organisations and the media was held.

The majority of NGOs office bearers complained that both print and electronic media are not covering their humanitarian assistance activities. They severely criticised the role of some anchor persons of independent TV channels, district correspondents, and urban based media.

The Director News GEO TV Channel, Mr Absar Alam, told the participants that the office of the director news is the most powerful in any news TV channel organisation. He asked the NGOs and CSOs to keep close liaison with directors news of independent TV Channels and anchor persons so their activities can be highlighted. It is the only way to get prominent TV coverage, he concluded.

The President Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) Ehsan Ahmed Sehar told the participants that district correspondents are the backbone of the media industry in Pakistan, but no media house has yet paid attention to capacity building of the district correspondents who represent 65% of the populace of the country. He said that 99% of district correspondents are not paid or poorly paid, but despite it they were reporting to both print and electronic media in Pakistan. He said that print and electronic media in Pakistan is based in major cities but the district correspondent released a large number of breaking news stories.

Citing the example of the Mukhar Mai gang rape incident, he said this story was first reported by a rural correspondent based in Jatoi, District Muzzafar Garh, South Punjab and published in a regional newspaper Naya Daur Multan. Afterwards it was picked up by the international newsagency AFP and received extensive coverage in both national and international media. Now gang rape victim Mukhtar Mai is one of the torch bearers of women’s rights in rural Pakistan and her NGO Mukhtar Mai Welfare organisation is also beneficiary of NED with OAK DF.

The President of RMNP underlined the need for capacity building of district correspondents and urged NGOs and CSOs to collaborate with national and regional media organisations so training programmes for rural female journalists can be launched. He stated that an unfortunate aspect of Pakistani journalism is that there were many distinguished women journalists in cities but none in rural areas. He added that rural societies are highly segregated and the lack of women journalists meant that media did not properly cover a large segment of rural life.



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