By Anil Datta
Karachi: Speakers at a seminar on Saturday said there were so many complaints about the state of women in the media, and there was a need for giving them a greater role.
They were speaking at a national consultation titled ‘Women, Media and Ethics: Bridging the Gap’, which was held at a hotel. The event was organised by Uks, a research, resource and publication centre for media and women.
Participants who included mostly women from various journals, television channels and websites highlighted the present-day trends, changes needed and problems facing women in the field.
Addressing the audience, Tasneem Ahmer, executive director of Uks Research Centre, said: “We don’t see very many women in the newsrooms at the top. Their [women’s] representation in the media is relatively small.”
“The portrayal of women in the media remains largely negative, stereotyped and biased,” she further said.
Ahmer talked about an audience survey, which brought together 300 respondents. She said 91 men and 23 women journalists had been trained from all across the country from the print and electronic media.
She said found it rather sad that Ayyan Ali and Qandeel Baloch became sources of entertainment despite the serious nature of the stories published against them.
“Each one of us needs to play our role proactively for ensuring a better portrayal of women in the media. We need to bridge this gap and help the media adopt gender sensitivity,” said Ahmer.
Other speakers complained that working women were not portrayed in a positive light in our media.
Nabeela Aslam, project manager, Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy, commenting on the minorities, lamented that there was no representation of Christians in the media.
She said the media were now becoming a commercial entity, which was affecting their moral aspects. She suggested that there should be special workshops for crime reporters.
Professor Dr Tauseef Ahmed of Karachi University stressed the need for bringing about of a change in the mindset of teachers, which in turn would change the mindset of the mediafolk.
Mehnaz Rehman of the Aurat Foundation lamented that the institution of the professional editor in the newspapers had finished. “Our institutions should be professional,” she said, suggesting that “we need to tell society what gender implies”.
Another participant said that the tragedy was that the concept of media had gone to the multinationals. The media, for increasing their revenues, catered to the whims of the multinationals as regards advertisements and policies.
The net result of all the discussions could be summed up thus:
* There should be a balanced coverage of women as well as men in the media;
* There should be a gender-based perspective;
* Avoidance of content that promotes stereotypes;
* Portrayal of women as targets or objects must be stopped right away;
* There should be equal opportunities for women who constitute 50 percent of the population;
* Concrete policy efforts to encourage the entry of more women into the media;
* Inculcation of a conducive environment in the media where women could aim at both horizontal and vertical growth;
* Focus should be on content that contributes to a greater understanding and awareness of issues pertaining to violence against women as well as other relevant topics like women achievers, education and health perspectives.