Press clubs pledge to give greater role to female journalists

Press clubs across Pakistan committed to supporting female journalists at a United Nations Information Centre event ‘Women in Media: Challenges and Success Stories’ on the eve of the International Women’s Day.

In response to a declaration presented by female journalists at the event in Islamabad demanding representation in regulatory and journalistic bodies, press club officials announced a commitment to organise minimum quotas for female journalists in their governing bodies.

The declaration, presented at the end of the event, also demanded the provision of basic facilities for women and the formation of committees to address complaints of sexual harassment in all media houses, unions and press clubs.

The United Nations in Pakistan also offered to host a working group of female journalists in Pakistan, to help tackle issues around harassment, discrimination and lack of opportunities for female journalists at the event jointly organized with the British High Commission and the National Press Club.

Speaking on the occasion, Director of the UN Information Centre Vittorio Cammarota said: “I am very proud to announce today the establishment of a working group for women from the media industry. It will provide a platform for exchange, dialogue, learning, advocacy and support.”

Head of Communications at the British High Commission Samuel Heath said: “I am delighted that press clubs have committed to working with women journalists to tackle discrimination and harassment, and to bring real gender equality to journalism … The UK is committed to supporting women and girls in Pakistan.”

State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb was the chief guest of a two-day event that brought together around 60 press club officials and journalists from Karachi, Hyderabad, Quetta, Multan, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar to discuss the changing media landscape and steps to be taken to improve the working conditions of female journalists. She urged the media to create awareness about laws that protect the rights of women.

A day earlier, participating journalists attended training sessions: Sadaf Khan from Media Matters for Democracy conducted a session on safety of digital space, while high court advocate and criminologist Humaira Masihuddin conducted interactive sessions on the laws governing the employment of journalists and how to deal with harassment at workplace.

The second day, which was open to public, featured two interactive panel discussions on harassment at workplace and success stories of female journalists. included: Tanzeela Mazhar, broadcast journalist, Naveed Akbar, Senior Vice President National Press Club, Uzma AlKarim, Head of the Harassment Complaints Committee Geo News, Kay Johnson, Reuters Bureau Chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan and Maliha Hussain, ‎Executive Director at Mehergarh: A Center for Learning.

The panelists agreed that harassment at workplace was a widespread phenomenon and concerted efforts were needed to curb it.

The panel on success stories of female journalists included Kathy Gannon, Associated Press Senior Correspondent, Myra Imran, Journalist and Vice President National Press Club, Farzana Ali, Bureau Chief of Aaj TV Peshawar, Kamal Sidiqqi, Director Centre for Excellence in Journalism and Dr Musadik Malik, Spokesperson to the Prime Minister.

The panelists noted that despite challenges, Pakistani female journalists have created a space for themselves and made substantial contributions in the field.

Ayesha Tanzeem, VOA Bureau Chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Maha Makhdum, Anchor PTV World and Waqas Rafique, Communication Officer at United Nations Food and Agriculture moderated the discussions.

The event marked International Women’s Day which is a worldwide celebration of progress made towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. Over 140 people, including diplomats, government officials and civil society, were present on this occasion.

See a short video feature of the event here.

See a short video ‘Meet Kathy Gannon’ featuring the Associated Press Senior Correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan here.