FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Friday:  August 15, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in journalism (7)

Sunday
Jun262011

Major Media Markets Big Winners at African Journalism Awards (REPORT)

By a HUMNEWS Correspondent in Johannesburg

(HN, June 26, 2011) -- Major media markets such as Kenya, Uganda and South Africa walked away with the bulk of the awards last night at the African Journalism Awards in Johannesburg last night.The African Journalism Awards gala in Johannesburg. CREDIT: HUMNEWS

The top prize winner was Fatuma Noor of The Star of Kenya, who was recognized for her hard work on a three-part series on the militant Islamic group in Somalia, al-Shabab. It was chosen from among 1407 entries from 42 nations across the African continent.

The series tells the story of the young men who give up their freedom abroad to return and fight for the ‘Al-Shabaab’ in one of the world’s most dangerous places on earth – Somalia.

Fatuma Noor was one of the 27 finalists at the Awards ceremony on Saturday evening and was a winner in the category ‘General News Award (Print).’

The Awards, which rotate location each year in tribute to their pan-African credentials, were held at a Gala ceremony hosted by CNN and MultiChoice. Established in 1995 in Ghana, the awards were co-founded by the legendary African photo-journalist "Mo" Amin.

Last night, Kenya alone received four awards, Uganda three and host country South Africa three. One sponsor of the event told HUMNEWS that the domination of larger media markets in the awards line-up is a trend that has held almost since the event was first hosted. He added that smaller countries may not have the capability to submit entries or that some works are produced in countries that have governments hostile to enterprise journalism.

Chair of the judging panel, journalist and media consultant Joel Kibazo said: “The judges were impressed with the high quality of entries to the competition this year, and this intrepid young journalist has shown great courage and determination in going the extra mile to tell this fascinating story. Fatuma Noor’s three-part series on the Al-Shabaab provides a detailed and personalised portrait of the young men who leave their comfortable western lives to join one of the world’s most ruthless militant groups in Somalia.”

The evening also recognised Mahamud Abdi Jama as this year’s recipient of the Free Press Africa Award, for his work in Somalia. His situation was noted by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) in New York. He wrote a critical article about the government there and was jailed for just over a month and released when pressure was put on the government of Somalia.

Media freedom is still very tenuous in many markets on the African continent. Just last week, the CPJ reported that Ethiopian columnist Reeyot Alemu has been detained and held incommunicado. She is a regular contributor to the independent weekly, Feteh.

Even in host country South Africa, journalists tell HUMNEWS they fear a sweeping crackdown if a proposed draconian bill on secrecy passes the legislature.

(The Bill is a revised version of a 2008 piece of proposed legislation that was withdrawn after protests that it would give state bodies too much leeway to quash information. It establishes serious hurdles for the media and civil society to obtain information about official corruption mismanagement and government service delivery issues. It gives government officials wide powers to prevent disclosure in the interests of “national security” which is broadly defined to cover a vast array of information).

No mention of the legislation - initated by the administration of President Jacob Zuma - was made last night.

Other winners at the awards ceremony were:

ARTS & CULTURE AWARD

Kofi Akpabli, Freelance for DailyGraphic, Ghana.
Title: ‘What is right with Akpeteshie?’


DIGITAL JOURNALISM AWARD

The Dispatch Online Team on behalf of ‘The Daily Dispatch’ in South Africa.
Title: ‘Failed Futures’


ECONOMICS & BUSINESS AWARD

Sylvia Chebet and Kimani Githae, Citizen TV, Kenya.
Title:  ‘An uphill task’


ENVIRONMENT AWARD

Lamia Hassan, Business Today Egypt, Egypt.
Title:  ‘Washed up’


FRANCOPHONE GENERAL NEWS AWARD: PRINT

Rabin Bhujun, L'Express Dimanche, Mauritius.

Title: ‘Le vrai pouvoir des castes’


FRANCOPHONE GENERAL NEWS AWARD: TV / (RADIO

Claudine Efoa Atohoun, ORTB, Benin.

Title: ‘Le barrage de Nagbéto: Outil de développement ou source de nuisance’


FREE PRESS AFRICA AWARD

Mahamud Abdi Jama,Waaheen Media, Somalia.


HIV/AIDS REPORTING IN AFRICA AWARD

Beryl Ooro, K24 TV, Kenya.

Title: ‘HIV infection among senior citizens in Kenya’


MOHAMED AMIN PHOTOGRAPHIC AWARD

Norman Katende, freelance for The New Vision, Uganda.

Title:  ‘When death strikes’


PORTUGUESE LANGUAGE GENERAL NEWS AWARD

Selma Marivate, TV Miramar, Mozambique.

Title:  ‘O Movimento Rastafari em Mocambique’


RADIO GENERAL NEWS AWARD

Melini Moses, SABC, South Africa.
Title: ‘Hillbrow – Den of Iniquity’


SPORT AWARD

Kamau Mutunga, DN2 Magazine, Daily Nation, Kenya.
Title: ‘Soccer and Superstition (Animal body parts and snake blood on the pitch)’


TELEVISION – GENERAL NEWS – FEATURE/CURRENT AFFAIRS AWARD

Lindile Mpanza, e.tv, South Africa.
Title: ‘Silence of the innocents’


TELEVISION – GENERAL NEWS – NEWS BULLETIN AWARD

Farouk Kayondo, UBC, Uganda.
Title:   ‘Watching in the hood’


TOURISM AWARD

Benon Herbert Oluka, DailyMonitor, Uganda.
Title: ‘Why Ugandans would rather watch goat races than visit their national parks or heritage sites’

Saturday
Apr302011

Obama Honours Journalists Under Attack Around World (NEWS BRIEF)

US President Barack Obama. CREDIT: White House(HN, April 30, 2011) US President Barack Obama, pausing during a mostly humour-filled White House Correspondents Dinner this evening, defended the right of journalists to do their job around the world.

Speaking in front of 3,000 guests at the annual event in Washington, D.C., Obama said journalists are increasingly under threat.

Said Obama: "In the last months we have seen journalists threatened, arrested, beaten, attacked, and in some cases even killed - simply for doing their best to bring us the story..giving people a voice and holding people accountable.

"And through it all we have seen daring men and women risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced and everyone deserves to know the truth."

He said reporting by journalists is "especially important in times of challenge - like the moment America and the world is facing now."

The US President paid tribute to "those that have been lost as a consequence of extraordinary reporting that they have done over recent weeks. They help too to defend our freedoms and allow democracy to flourish."

According to the figures collected by Reporters Without Borders, a non-profit organization that fights for the rights, freedom, and protection of journalists worldwide, 25 journalists were killed in 2002, 64 in 2005, 87 in 2007, and 18 since the beginning of the year.

Earlier this month, award-winning photo-journalist and documentary film-maker Tim Hetherington and a colleague were killed while reporting on the ongoing conflict in Libya.

- HUMNEWS staff

 

Friday
Apr222011

“Deployment of Solo TV News Crews to Foreign Conflict Zones Problematic” - Indeed (PERSPECTIVE)

By Maggie Padlewska

(HN, April 23, 2011) News-gathering technology is without doubt becoming more accessible, portable, and inconspicuous.

More and more journalists are trained and expected to file stories for multiple mediums (print, radio, television, and the web), once all considered independent of each other. Major networks are increasingly focused on cost-effectiveness, thus cutting back on resources and much of its “human” workforce. The obvious result: fewer people, doing more.

It is no surprise, therefore, that major networks are now toying with the idea of deploying a one-person "crew" to report from conflict zones. This was expected.

The question is: is it “too soon” or flat out “problematic”?

The risk factor involved reporting from a conflict zone is not new nor, sadly, one that is likely to diminish miraculously over time.

According to the figures collected by Reporters Without Borders, a non-profit organization that fights for the rights, freedom, and protection of journalists worldwide, 25 journalists were killed in 2002, 64 in 2005, 87 in 2007, and 18 since the beginning of the year.  

So, should deep-pocketed networks deploy “Backpack Journalists” (BPJs) or 'Multi-Media Journalists' (MMJs) to report, single-handedly from conflict zones without any safeguards in place? No. Should BPJs avoid reporting from conflict zones? Not necessarily.

MMJs have been presented with a significant and unique set of opportunities: lightweight mobility, rapid field production (laptop editing and story filing via the Internet), and most importantly, as noted by Professor Stacey Woelfel during the National Association of Broadcaster panel discussion, a dramatic decrease with respect to the “intimidation factor” for interviewees. Thus, there is much to be gained from this independent form of reporting. Padlewska on the job as a MMJ in Panama

As for reaping the benefits? The key perhaps, is therefore, to strike the proper balance. There is strength (and safety!) in numbers – true.

Now apply that to independent MMJs gathering in a conflict zone…and what do we have? The best of both worlds perhaps…

Sadly, however, while “numbers” may increase the odds of safety (such as providing video journalists and photographers with additional sets of eyes to watching each others’ backs as noted by veteran news-photographer Kevin Benz), they do not guarantee safety.

The tragic loss of photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros in Libya earlier this week, is another grim and harrowing reminder of the danger and risks involved in conflict zone reporting; be it as an independent or a member of a crew.

Hence, while deploying solo MMJs to conflict zones may be tempting for major networks (highly effective and cheap), now, or later, is not the time for cutbacks that could further jeopardize the safety and security of those who, courageously and selflessly, step in harm’s way to report on the horrors of conflict without first putting much thought into the ‘real cost’ of “cost-effectiveness”.

Maggie Padlewska is an independent video journalist and founder of the One Year One World initiative; a solo journey around the globe to document and share the stories of people who lack the resources to share their views and ideas with the world (oneyearoneworld.com). She has worked as television news reporter, host, director, producer, editor and writer for both national and international networks for more than a decade. She is a fearless multilingual nomad with several degrees, a passion for storytelling, and a relentless curiosity of the world. 

Monday
Apr182011

Presidential Election in Nigeria Held as Attacks on Media Increase - Watchdog Group (NEWS BRIEF)

Campaign posters in Abuja. Credit: HUMNEWS(HN. April 18, 2011) - As Presidential elections were held this weekend in Africa's most populous nation, the US-based watchdog group, Reporters Without Borders, voiced concern about a crackdown on journalists in Nigeria.

The group has recorded more than 30 attacks on media freedom so far this year, despite reforms and the promises of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure the free flow of news during the campaign for the delayed 9 April parliamentary elections and this past weekend’s presidential election.

Nigeria has one of the poorest media freedom ratings in Africa and is 145th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders worldwide Press Freedom Index. It is a dangerous place for journalists to work.

The country does have a diverse media and a flourishing Internet scene - in fact it is one of the few African countries without laws governing the Internet -  however and the senate passed a law last month giving public access to official information as long as it does not affect national security. But threats, intimidation, physical attacks and unlawful arrests of journalists have remained at an alarming level since the beginning of this year.

For the most part, foreign journalists working in Nigeria are spared from intimidation but still are at risk, especially if they are critical of powerful state governors. Last year, a Lagos-based correspondent for the BBC World Service, Fidelis Mbah, said his wife and son received a letter threatening to kill them.

The country’s State Security Service (SSS), which was on the Reporters Without Borders worldwide list of predators of press freedom for several years until being taken off it in 2010, is still a repressive body, which targets and arrests journalists.

One recent example was the case of US-Nigerian journalist Okey Ndibe, who was arrested and interrogated at Lagos airport on 8 January this year and his passports seized for two days.

Political parties and state governors also threaten and harass the media, according to Reporters Without Borders. Journalists who criticise the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are sometimes prevented from reporting on political activities.

Ehigimetor Igbaugba, of The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), was unable to cover the senate primary elections in Auchi (in the southern state of Edo) on 8 January after being detained by PDP officials who criticised articles he had written about the party.

Intimidation of accredited journalists sharply increased when polling stations opened on 9 April for the parliamentary elections. African Independent Television cameraman Tamunoemi Kingdom and another crew member were beaten in Ozoro (Delta state) by PDP officials who objected to the filming of them harassing a man entering a polling station. The camera and the windscreen of the journalists’ vehicle was damaged. Aisha Wakaso, of This Day newspaper, and Afeyinwa Okonkwo, correspondent of NAN in Enugu state, were hounded by police who prevented them reporting on the voting.

Analysts say that Nigerian journalists are east targets by polticians, as they are poorly-paid and receive little training and support. Said one Lagos-based foreign correspondent in a 2010 blog posting: "Many senior journalists have now adopted a loose lifestyle of selling their influence to government officials and businessmen in exchange for cash and gifts without the slightest concern for any conflict of interest."

Reporters Without Borders has fought for press freedom on a daily basis since it was founded in 1985. 

- Reporters Without Borders, HUMNEWS staff

Friday
Apr152011

Deployment of Solo TV News Crews to Foreign Conflict Zones Problematic (REPORT)

TV news crews are frequently finding themselves as targets: news crew near Tahrir Square in Feb 2011. M Bociurkiw/HUMN(HN, April 16, 2011) - With foreign journalists under siege in many parts of the world, especially in ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, news agencies may need to think twice before deploying solo video journalists to conflict zones.

The issue of precautions for so-called all-platform journalists or multi-media journalists came up a a panel at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) this week in Las Vegas.

Also called 'backpack journalism' (BPJ), the trend of downsizing news teams is emerging in more TV markets, both big and small. Smaller cameras and ubiquitous connectivity - as well as budget slashing at news operations - are making media proprietors far more keen on the all-platform journalist model.

While the trend has worked fairly well in developed economies, such as the US and Canada, it is still too early to tell whether conditions allow for mass deployment of one-man videographer teams in danger zones overseas.

"When it comes to folks working by themselves you don't have someone watching your back," said Kevin Benz, a broadcast journalism veteran and award-winning news photographer. "When you are staring down that lens you are in complete tunnel vision and you don't have anyone watching for you."

Benz said that in conflict zones, larger crews may be more conspicuous but they allow for more protection.

"If you go off to dangerous places - whether it's in our cities or in other countries - by yourself there should be significant ethical consideration in our newsrooms that we make sure that we are keeping our journalists safe. If we know that we are sending them into something that is dangerous that we are sending them with support. That's being smart about being safe," said Benz.

On the other hand, there are benefits to a lean deployment to the field. The "intimidation factor" of interviewing subjects drops dramatically with smaller equipment, said Stacey Woelfel, an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and the news director for KOMU-TV, the University of Missouri-owned NBC affiliate for central Missouri.

"Smaller equipment does lend some stealth to the operation that we didn't have before," said Woelfel. "There is a trade-off there as our journalists will be able to work more secretly."

The issue of the safety and security of journalists has become more prominent in recent weeks as protests have rocked numerous countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Earlier this month a team from The New York Times was detained for several days by pro-Gadaffi elements in Libya. And in February, CBS News '60 Minutes' correspondent Lara Logan was assaulted in Cairo while covering the uprising in and around Tahrir Square.

CNN correspondents Anderson Cooper and Hala Gorani, and CBS News anchor Katie Couric were shown on-air being pushed around while covering the uprisings in Tahrir Square. All were accompanied by at least one crew member when they became the target of unruly crowds.

As news gathering drifts into a task done by many - including freelancers and citizen journalists - sufficient vetting of user-generated content streaming into newsrooms needs to be a major consideration. One panelist said that with more new sources sending stories and tweets into newsrooms from far-off locations, fact verification has to be part of the news work flow. "You want to be sure these people are legitimate."

Benz cited the Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) as an institution that has pioneered fact verification in often difficult circumstances. The service uses contributors in country where freedom of information is severly restricted. "They have developed very, very strong systems to verify information."

Benz said whether at home or abroad, leaner news operations means that "fewer people are working faster" to gather the news. "Give journalists time to verify the facts," he said.

- Reporting by Michael Bociurkiw in Las Vegas

Saturday
Sep182010

South African Media Gets Low Marks on Reporting on the Economy and the Poor

The media panel held on Friday in Johannesburg CREDIT: M. Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS(HN, September 18, 2010) - The South African media do a generally poor job of covering crucial business stories, often ignoring news that affects the poor.

 “We wake up once people start burning tires,” said Mondli Makhanya, Editor-in-Chief of Avusa Media - South Africa’s largest newspaper group - told a media roundtable Friday in Johannesburg.

The panel of media proprietors, academics and civil society leaders said that, amid the global economic crisis - which has hit southern Africa hard - print publications have tended to focus on the “same old talking heads,” using outdated rhetoric and stale economic propositions.

“We are pretty bad at covering the economy,” said Nic Dawes, editor of the Mail and Guardian, one of the most respected weekly in the country. “And we are not fundamentally good at examining the lives of the poor.” He added that an impediment for newspaper proprietors is that they rarely have serious economists on the newsroom floor to tap when a good business story presents itself.

Said Dawes: “Those who are serious economists are quickly picked up by the wire services or the banks.”

Representatives of civil society said that, even though they have many good story ideas and access to content and data, they feel roundly shut-out from the country’s newsrooms. There was general agreement that in this day and age, journalists are resorting to “desk-top journalism” - rarely leaving the comfort of their buildings, instead using the telephone to tap the wisdom of a closed circle of sources.

To be sure, there is no lack of selection when it comes to the print landscape in South Africa. The country supports at least 655 consumer magazines, 700 business-to-business publications, 470 community papers, 21 daily papers and 24 major weeklies.

Some outlets, like the Mail Guardian, only have 65 staff members - including cleaners and receptionists, and yet manage to do a fairly decent job reporting. Dawes said that, even after deep cuts, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have 800 and 1200 staff members respectively.

In media, size doesn't matter said one editor. The state-run South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has more than 1000 staff members and “no one can remember the last time they broke a story.”

An example of a series on the marginalized run by the Cape TimesAt least two newspaper representatives said that aside from opening up their opinion pages to more sophisticated debate, town hall meetings have proven to be a satisfactory way to draw ordinary voices into the discourse on the economy. The editor of the Cape Times, Alide Dasnois, said her Cape Town-based newspaper has devoted hundreds of column inches to probing economic stories, many of which focus on the poor. Some papers are even partnering with NGOs in order to get marginalized voices heard.

As in other economic forums in the region, speakers agreed that there are many good stories of entrepreneurialism on the continent, but that few get covered. One that was concerned a shoe factory in Durban where employees re-engineered the manufacturing process to stay competitive with China.

Most panelists agreed that South African print media tend to be obsessed with reporting on political stories, and that when it comes to economic stories, the easiest ones are those dealing with companies.

One speaker said there is a tendency among media to “celebrate wealth” - by running rich lists and other special on the economic elite.

Some of the comments from women in the audience raised the issue of a contradiction around the issue of rich lists, saying they deflects attention away from the have nots.

Said one audience member after the panel: “The rich lists set up a false dream that everybody buys into, and diverts attention from communalism. The question is: how do we redistribute wealth. This wealth reporting diverts attention away from it and screws up the morale obligation of the state to take care of the have-nots.”

The entrenched media practitioners conceded they have much room for improvement. Said Makhanya: “There is a huge economic story in South Africa we could be covering better - and that story is corruption.” He added that while investigative political reporting is made easier by the plethora of whistle blowers in government, the same does not hold true on corporate stories.

Media chiefs said what also hurts good economic reporting is poor handling of data, especially desegregated numbers that show who the poor are and where. The data speaks and tells the stories.

What under-analyzed data hides is inequality gaps and inequality is what is breeding social instability and crime in the country, said one of the panelists.

Concern was also voiced about the quality of foreign media reporting on South Africa. One panelist said that while super growth economies like Brazil and Malaysia get positive stories, South Africa is often seen through a critical, narrow lens.

The media roundtable was organized by the non-profit news agency, The South African Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Reporting by Nadira Omarjee and Michael Bociurkiw in Johannesburg

Saturday
Aug212010

PAKISTAN: FOREIGN MEDIA-OCRITY (PERSPECTIVE)

By Themrise Khan in Karachi

(HN, August 21, 2010)  --- “It’s such an exciting time to be in Pakistan.” This is a line one hears time and again from every new arrival of foreigners that lands at Islamabad airport. From the US Secretary of State, to the new foreign service employees at an embassy, to the newest international media correspondent, Pakistan seems to be the new land of opportunity.

Except that this opportunity doesn’t really work for us too much, considering we were declared the most dangerous country in the world last year and now, because of natural disasters, are at our absolute lowest point. Sadly, Pakistan is being mined by the rest of the world as an example of how good it can get when it gets really bad.

Unlike most other developing nations that have abject poverty, corrupt economies and poor leadership, Pakistan has still managed to hold onto some semblance of normalcy in its daily suffrage. There is still a sense of survival (just barely), social decadence and just plain old resilience amidst the madness of militant terror and disastrous flooding.  Supposedly this is what makes Pakistan ‘exciting’ for outsiders.

In the age of global communication, there is nothing that doesn’t get out. Not even top-secret documents on America’s war in Afghanistan. But some things don’t get out by agenda. One of these is how the global media wants its audience to view countries like Pakistan. Portrayals include a state that colludes with Islamic militants to encourage global extremism; a country rife with civil and ethnic angst that abuses its justice system; a country constantly plagued with preventable and mismanaged natural disasters. And oh yes, a confused nation of elite party-goers all juxtaposed against the women in black (burqas). Pakistan’s stereotype has come a long way. While most of these claims are admittedly true, is that all there is to us?

Over a year ago, I did a story on the sudden rise in the almost permanent presence of foreign media networks in Pakistan since the Afghanistan invasion in 2001.The bottom line was that the war on terror was the only news that was worthy of the presence of almost 100 foreign journalists in Islamabad. Nothing else figured on the agenda. No economics, no culture, no society, no people, except for those affected by the suicide bombings and drone attacks, or those displaced by army action in the tribal areas and lately, by natural disasters.

To give benefit of the doubt, dirt sells and news is business after all. Even our local television feeds the international media with its tales of graphic horror. We don’t give much airtime to anything else either. But one would expect more from the international media networks, since it is one of the very few ways people abroad have to form an impression about countries like Pakistan. All the more reason the stories going out should show more than just one face of the nation.Foreign journalists fuel "mediocrity and one-dimensionality" CREDIT: Michael Bociurkiw

But the reality is, that there is extremely limited interaction of the foreign media with the ‘real’ Pakistan, with global headquarters dictating what should and shouldn’t be news.

In a country of 170 million, only a handful of ‘key’ persons are introduced to a journalist’s brief international posting. Most of those belong to the elite English-speaking and civil and state bureaucracy. Its not newsworthy enough to venture into other more mundane areas like the informal economy, agriculture, performing arts or local initiatives. Frankly, if its not related to terrorism, its not a story. So what ends up is a life primarily ensconced in Islamabad, mixing with the movers and shakers. There is not even a meager attempt to visit the nether regions of the country to show the world how we really live, both good and bad. Last I checked, journalism was about breaking boundaries, leaving your comfort zone and opening minds to different ideas and opinions. I guess I haven’t checked the latest in a long time.

Even with the coverage of the current flooding, the focus remains on how inept our leaders are (which they are) and how aid is waiting to be mismanaged (which it is). But what about what many are trying to do single-handedly? Ever since the earthquake, if there is one thing Pakistanis (barring the feudal and political elite), have been known for, its plunging into the middle of a natural disaster to do all they can. Doesn’t the world deserve to see that side of us for a change? And then they say we suffer from an international ‘image deficit.’

The perception is further fuelled by the presence of the international diplomatic community, supposedly to ‘foster meaningful relations’ and ‘help end poverty.’ The goodwill doesn’t reach further than the diplomatic enclave as its so much easier to spend money sitting in a cubicle surrounded by barbed wire and your very own panic room. After all, that’s how they do it in Afghanistan and Iraq and see how much good its doing there.

So despite best intentions, the perspective remains skewed, to the networks (and its representatives) benefit, but to our own detriment. The slap in the face is a foreign correspondents ‘observation’ of (a very politicised) Pakistan, in hardback edition.  Three years in a city, and they know the country better than we do apparently.

Journalism unfortunately, is now a well-paid job that can get you around the world, complete with furnished homes, domestic staff and your very own ‘king of the hill’ attitude.

But the mediocrity and one-dimensionality of live international broadcasts from residential rooftops in Islamabad, does eventually show through. Case in point – a message sent out to all invitees last year by one foreign correspondent after a high-profile suicide bombing in Islamabad, in response to a scheduled party hosted by another foreign journalist in the same area that night: “if we cancel the party, the terrorists have won.” Senseless loss of life right outside your doorstep, but the party must go on. Now that’s what I call true dedication to the cause of journalism.

I guess they don’t make them like Robert Fisk anymore.

---HUMNEWS contributor Themrise Khan is a freelance social development consultant based in Karachi who occasionally dares to venture into the Pakistani media. This column originally appeared in The Dawn Online.