Inspiring the Next Generation of Independent Media in Pakistan

Home / Inspiring the Next Generation of Independent Media in Pakistan
March 7, 2024

Search for Common Ground, in collaboration with The Media Training and Research Center, Freedom Network, and The Media Center, implemented Inspiring the Next Generation of Independent Media in Pakistan from September 2020 to June 2023. The project aimed to advance women and youth-led independent media in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

Context

Since 2002, Pakistan’s media sector has developed into a competitive and diverse industry featuring multilingual and multicultural content. However, access to training and support for the development of an independent media sector is still limited in rural areas and the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), especially for youth and women. The limited accessibility of professional and technical training and a complex media environment place women media practitioners at significant risks to their safety in the field and challenges in the workplace. By creating opportunities for young women and men to participate in training and mentorship programs developed with local universities and media partners, young media practitioners were empowered to engage with the media industry and support its development to promote human rights, gender equality, and government accountability in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Building on Search’s previous projects for youth and women in KP and former FATA regions like Pakistan Youth Radio for Peace and the WILL Campaign to Empower Women Politicians, Search leveraged local experience and tested media toolkits to sustainably build the capacity of male and female journalists and provide them holistic and conflict sensitive trainings and access to mentorship networks.

Theory of Change

IF young journalists are equipped to champion conflict sensitive journalism in independent media, AND the media sector is more supportive of women’s participation, THEN independent media in KP and Balochistan will be better able to represent more diverse perspectives and narratives while using conflict-sensitive approaches to better navigate challenges and risks in the sector.

Core Objectives and Activities

Using locally adapted guidebooks and methodologies on conflict-sensitive media such as the Pakistan Mediation and Dialogue Guidebook, Pakistan Radio Talkshow, and Peacebuilding and Pakistan Youth Radio for Peacebuilding, Search promoted the practice of conflict-sensitive journalism by young journalists and university media departments alongside fostering a supportive environment for the professional advancement of women in independent media in KP and Balochistan. This project was designed to complement and sustainably build upon existing university media programs to sustainably institutionalize training programs and develop partnerships with local press clubs to include women journalists and champion women in media. Key activities included a consultative workshop with partner universities, Training of Trainers (ToTs) on conflict-sensitive journalism, a journalist training program, media mentorships, media fellowships, gender training for Press Clubs, workshops with media houses, Press Club Reform Initiatives, and expanding media networks for women.

Results Achieved

1. Search secured the buy-in of, and collaborated with, media and journalism departments of three target universities to deepen professors’ and other university faculties’ understanding of conflict sensitivity in journalism and how to teach it. Through their engagement in the project, university personnel deepened their knowledge of how to practice and teach conflict-sensitive journalism.

2. The University of Balochistan incorporated a course on conflict-sensitive journalism into its curriculum based on the Journalist Training Program developed under this project. During the final evaluation, Gomal University in Dera Ismail Khan reported similar efforts underway.

3. This project increased the capacity and networks of 62 young journalists to lead conflict-sensitive reporting. These journalists were fully trained on the five modules of the Journalist Training Program: Conflict Sensitive Journalism, Journalism for Peace, Media Information Literacy (MIL) & Digital Media, Gender Sensitive Journalism, and Safety & Security for Journalists. They further received mentorship opportunities, being paired with experienced professionals in the field. Overall, 235 mentoring sessions have been organized.

“One problem with media and communication education in Pakistan is the disproportionate emphasis on theory, often neglecting the importance of practical knowledge. The training provided by SFCG effectively filled this critical gap. Through their program, I gained hands-on experience, practical skills, and real-world insights that have been invaluable in my journalism career. The training bridged the divide between theory and practice, equipping me with the necessary tools to navigate the complexities of the media landscape and make a meaningful impact through my work.”
– Participant, D.I. Khan JTP

4. 45 young journalists participated in the Media Fellowship Program, receiving further guidance and opportunities to network and build connections with professionals in the field. These journalists received kits of equipment to support them in conducting their reporting. The final evaluation reported that all supported trained journalists felt equipped and supported to advance conflict-sensitive journalism, and 92.6 percent of the respondents either strongly agreed or agreed that the project increased their opportunities to practice and grow as an independent journalist.

A fellow receiving her kit of equipment. Open House Event in Quetta, April 18, 2023.

“My mentor helped me grow my skills, enabled me to make better decisions, and gain new perspectives on my career. As a mentee, my mentor let me leverage his experience and gave me guidance on my career, which helped improve my journalistic skills. Now I spend less time producing a story because I have been equipped with the necessary skills by my mentor.”
– Female Mentee, Peshawar

5. Young journalists engaged in this project produced 105 media products, which were published or broadcast by various local, national, and international media outlets. Stories covered a range of topics related to conflict, peace, gender issues, community issues, the FATA merger, Afghan refugees, education, and the jirga system. 88.6 percent of these media products met the standards of conflict-sensitive reporting.

“My mentor was very accessible, guiding me from shortlisting my story idea to the research, editing and publishing of my story. I have now become confident that I can cover any news story in a credible way, especially if it concerns conflict.”
– Female Fellow, Quetta

6. The project raised awareness of established professionals on the challenges women face in the workplace in the media industry and the role media plays in questions related to gender in Pakistani society.

“I feel that previously, as men, we did not think too much about how the working environment was for women in journalism. This session enhanced my vision, and now I feel more aware regarding the issues that women face and the need for gender equality to stabilize our society.” – Participant from D.I. Khan

7. Press clubs involved in the project developed and implemented 13 initiatives and policy changes to create an environment more conducive to the professional advancement of women. These initiatives included the formation of anti-harassment committees, increased security around press club buildings, and other measures designed to address women’s safety concerns. This process combined changes in individuals’ attitudes and institutional culture with structural reform to best support enduring change.

“Many of us senior officials often discourage female participation from reporting in certain areas due to sensitivity and security issues, even though the female journalists themselves are willing to do so. However, now our views have changed and instead of discouraging them, we will be trying to facilitate them by improving the working conditions instead of preventing them from going into the field.” – Press club members (KII final evaluation)

The first female journalist in the Khyber Tribal District to submit her membership application to integrate the Landi Kotal Press Club

8. The project also strengthened the female participants’ network, providing female journalists with opportunities to visit established media outlets and connect with media professionals employed there. These networking activities strengthened female journalists’ professional network and knowledge of day-to-day operations, contributing to an increase in their confidence in such spaces. These activities also yielded tangible results, with female participants being offered training and employment opportunities during and after the visits and through their interaction. Besides organizing specific activities to strengthen women’s network, Search and its partners ensured that each activity would provide space for female journalists. Thanks to this ongoing networking, some female participants secured a job during the project implementation.

Participants attending a briefing during the exposure visit to PEMRA. February 9, 2023.

Check this booklet to discover the story of 10 journalists who participated in the project.

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