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Women’s ministry bolts its doors to media

Islamabad: The change of guard following the general elections has seen the Ministry of Women’s Development (MoWD) bolting its doors to the media with no official willing to speak on crucial matters.

Such is the state of affairs that repeated attempts by journalists to contact the relevant officials in the ministry have led to naught. Seeking an official version on any issue would result in frustration and nothing else.

The phone calls are almost always received by the personal secretaries who seem to have taken the art of lying to a new height of expertise. But the clerks stand exposed because their excuses often do not match with each other’s.

“The boss is in a meeting,” is the common pretext cited for not putting the caller through to the official. “Please leave your phone number and he will call you back,” they would say – a call that would never be made.

At times the journalists are told the boss is busy saying his prayers – that could eat up hours or he is out for lunch. On occasions, he would be ‘away’ seeing some senior government official or attending a conference or a meeting on women issues, abroad.

It has now become increasingly obvious that the officials just want to stay away from the glare of the media and thereby keep whatever is going on in the ministry under wraps.

One senior official of the ministry is said to have told a newswoman he would not like talking to any journalist. This reflects well the mindset of the officials who are apparently doing nothing.

One case in point is the Madar-e-Millat Awards ceremony that has not been organised for two years only because of the unavailability of appropriate chief guest. It goes to show how things ‘move’ within the ministry.

Similarly, no one knows what is the latest on the ministry’s much-touted projects like the construction of women centres, building of ‘bashalanis’ for Kalash women and the Gender Reform Action Plan (GRAP).

Women journalists have expressed anger over this attitude of the ministry that is meant to facilitate women and work for their empowerment. “Seeking information from the ministry is our right and the officials are accountable for whatever they do,” said one newswoman associated with an Urdu daily.

Such official mentality is all the more frustrating for journalists, most of whom are women and work on the women ministry beat. “This has an impact on our overall performance and affects our career all the same,” she said.

Another media woman pointed out that she was told by one of the personal secretaries that she come to the ministry and sit there until the relevant official found time to talk to her.

Before the general elections, the journalists used to be invited to all consultations and meetings of the ministry. However, this is not so any more – everything is now either being ‘done or not done’ behind closed doors – ‘The boss is in a meeting’!
Source: The News
Date:11/17/2008

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