Rights-based Journalists Network
Center maintains a strong network of around 450 journalists from print and broadcast news media of Pakistan. The journalists in this network are trained in the rights-based approach to journalism and instrumental in Center’s media advocacy initiatives.
Center sees ‘media advocacy’ from a rights-based and participatory perspectives as a tool for “shifting power back to the community by cultivating skills that can enhance and amplify the community’s voice.” Media Advocacy is, thus, a strategy to enable communities to be heard and to exercise influence over the policy environment, primarily by use of news media.
The News Media in Pakistan
There has been a tremendous upsurge in news media in Pakistan in last decade or so. The State owned media stayed dominant in electronic arena for decades and although print media was mostly privately owned and operated, censorship and state control determined most practices for media in Pakistan until almost a decade back. Most of the recent investments in news media has come from commercial entities and all media organizations have fallen victim to a rating system that left little to no room for coverage of issues pertaining to human and social development – generally considered as non-sensational stories with limited commercial viability. Two of the most common reasons for poor or little coverage of such issues in mainstream news media are the inability of journalists and reporters to capture the stories correctly so that they are commercially viable and lacking necessary knowledge and skills of innovative approaches to journalism. Both the issues can be approached through capacity strengthening. Alongside strengthening capacity of journalists in reporting on specialized subjects, there is an also a need to bring the media decision makers on board. Past experiences of various similar programs teach us that despite enhancing capacity of beat reporters, allocation of space is still influenced either by commercial factors or by the opinion of editors, owners and high influencers of media houses. Media advocacy allows these issues to be addressed holistically.
Center has been working with journalists and engaging them through a range of capacity strengthening initiatives since 2004. Activities have ranged from developing resources and creating learning platforms to organizing workshop and facilitating dialogue on topics such as leadership in strategic communication, human rights approach to journalism, art of human interest stories and positioning stories to desk. These efforts have resulted in creating a strong network of around 450 professional journalists working in mainstream broadcast and print media across Pakistan. Among these, more than one hundred are district-based journalists who are usually underpaid and are least resourceful as compared to journalists settled in and reporting from urban centers.
Center has a robust and continuous engagement with networked journalists. In addition to developing resource material, i.e. handbooks and tutorials, Center regularly shres information through publications and connects journalists to subject experts. Center uses peer-to-peer approach to strengthen capacity and mentor journalists by their senior colleagues. Center facilitates peer review sessions for journalists for sharing their work. Fora like these provide them opportunity to share information, ideas and networking.
The Excellence Award in Journalism
In 2016, Center in collaboration with Center for Excellence in Journalism at the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi launched an annual Excellence in Journalism Award. This is first ever bipartisan awards for journalists with an aim to promote specialized reporting in Pakistan. For its inaugural year, the award focused on health reporting in three distinct categories of mainstream television and radio broadcast, mainstream print and online news publications and district correspondence for television, radio, print and online. The Excellence in Journalism Award is now announced every year and held in December.