KARACHI – Speakers at a meeting on November 30, suggested that media people should be sensitized to the issues relating to the sensationalism in the reporting of incidents involving women.
The meeting on Women and Media: The South Asian Experience was organized by the Media Women Publishers and Journalists Organization. Besides local professionals, three foreign delegates — two from Bangladesh and one from Sri Lanka – were among the participants.
The speakers pointed out that in many newspapers, particularly those in Urdu and regional languages, reports of crime involving women were sensationalized. Besides, they said, unwanted, sometimes even slanderous, comments were also added to the facts.
They said that if proper gender-awareness training was imparted to media people, they would be able to do balanced reporting. Regarding the electronic media, they said that in the past, the censor board had been deciding what was fit for screening, but now, with many private TV channels having been on the air, there was no check on the screening of indecent or unfit stuff.
The censor board’s role in this regard had now been acquired by advertisers who, they said, dictated their terms to the channel operators. The speakers also suggested that the advertisers — advertising agencies, multinational and other major commercial firms, etc. – should be approached and urged to review their policy of using women models like a ‘commodity’ or using them in the ads without a valid justification.
The media, over the years, has become very powerful and effective medium and could be used to spread awareness and introducing new/changing values and other such purposes, they said.
The speakers observed that in the late ’70s and ’80s, media was used effectively by the then military dictator, and this had changed many socio-cultural values, behaviour and attitude of the society. They said that efforts should be made to change the mindset of the male-dominant society.
They demanded that the radio and television channels should allocate time for different programmes relating to women issues. They also criticized the practice of portraying women as the weaker section of the society and presenting them in negative roles, like cruel mother-in-law, etc.
They also stressed that unless education was provided to women and they were enabled to become economically independent, they could not be empowered. They said that a vast majority of the women living in remote rural areas was not even aware of women’s rights and thus could not raise their voice against the injustices they were facing.
The speakers observed that most of the films, as well as TV plays and programmes did not present our culture honestly. There were some social taboos also, they added, which sometimes prevented the media from highlighting certain issues properly.
They pointed out that the population explosion, HIV, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, etc., were very serious issues being faced by the society but it appeared to be almost impossible to talk about or discuss such issues on electronic media.
They hoped that now when a large number of television channels was available and many more channels would be coming up soon, the situation would improve and serious issues would be highlighted through the plays, talk shows and other programmes.
The speakers were of the view that men and women in our society had never been rivals. Rather, they added, both the genders always supported each other. The society could never progress in a real sense if half of its population, i.e. women, was denied its due rights, they said.
They suggested that success stories of the women who would excel in their respective fields should be highlighted so that other women could follow them as role models.
Those who spoke at the meeting included Minister of State for Information Anisa Tahirkhaili, Sindh Women Development Minister Dr Saeeda Malik, Hameed Haroon, Mahtab A. Rashdi, Kumudini Hettiarachchi (Sri Lanka), Amina Islam and Mun Mun Chaudhri (Bangladesh), Fariha Razzak Haroon, Huma Ahmad, Seema Tahir, Tahir A. Khan, Owais Aslam Ali, Sultana Siddiqui, Sheema Kirmani, Sahira Kazmi, Samina Pirzada, Reema, Junaid Jamshed and Zainab Ansari.