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A long way to go

By: Najia Ashar

More than two-thirds of women journalists in the world are subject to pressure, threats and bad behaviour around the world. You! takes a look…

More than two-thirds of women journalists in the world are subject to pressure, threats and bad behaviour around the world. This was uncovered during a conference ‘Global Forum on Media and Gender’ that was recently held in Bangkok. A survey conducted by the International News Safety Institute and International Women’s Media Foundation also revealed that more than half (64.48% out of 822 participants) female journalists have been ill-treated during their careers.

During the conference, the problems faced by the women in the field of journalism were discussed, and the participants tried to find out ways to solve these issues. If we take a look at the scene in Pakistan, it is not at all bright. In fact, there was no official representation of Pakistan in the conference; hence the viewpoint of female journos in the country wasn’t conveyed to the members.

The truth is that in Pakistan, many women are associated with the field of journalism which has received a boom a decade back due to the arrival of electronic media. Many women, who studied journalism, came in the field and managed to make a name for themselves with their will and support of their colleagues. The women of today work 24 X 7 in Pakistan and are at par with the men in the field due to their ability to match their colleagues.

Be it breaking news from the field or covering an event, they perform their duties to the best of their abilities. Even then, there have been incidents of sexual harassment, cases of pressurizing a female journalist and instances of receiving threats that have hampered the progress of women in this particular field. Such incidents are not even considered worth mentioning in a country where women are more in number than men! Some social media websites have taken up the cases but still have not dealt with them as they should have. And those that have been investigated privately by the employers have not seen the light of the day. It is due to such conducts that the affected women either leave the profession for good after some time or continue to work without uttering a word regarding the ordeal that they are going through. And those employees who stay back and continue to work despite getting married are considered a liability by the bosses who believe that they aren’t giving their 100 per cent.

Such instances are not just limited to the office premises, but even when the journalists are working in the field, they are subjected to such treatments. They may be welcomed with open arms when they complete their studies and join the industry but with the passage of time, they face discrimination usually by their male bosses. In the media industry, unlike other fields, women work in shifts (morning, evening, night) and when their family life suffers because of their work, they tend to succumb to the pressure of their family members (if unmarried) or in-laws (if married). And due to this reason not many women in our part of the world have managed to reach top positions in the media industry, which still remains a male-dominated field. The women in the media industry also don’t have a say in compiling the editorial policy of their organizations, neither their views are considered important by the bosses.

Even then, there have been a few instances where women journalists have carried on despite these hurdles and managed to carve a separate identity for themselves due to their sheer hard work and dedication. Ms. Zubeida Mustafa is one such glowing example who has been in the field for over 30 years and was awarded ‘Courage in Journalism’ for her outstanding services. Ms. Razia Bhatti, a journalist par excellence also received many awards during her long career whereas Ms. Sherry Rehman became the first woman journalist from Pakistan to be conferred with the Independent Journalism award by the British House of Lords. When you look at the renowned broadcaster Shaista Zaidi, you get to know that there are many women who have excelled in their fields and have managed to stand out with their will and commitment. And if the female of the current generation try to emulate them, instead of just giving up they can achieve success in their line of work as well.

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