Improving safety of journalists in rural areas of Pakistan

Approximately 100 media professionals working in rural areas of Pakistan will benefit from a training programme that will equip them with the necessary safety skills and knowledge to report in hostile environments.

The project, which is being implemented by the Rural Media Network of Pakistan (RMNP), kicked off with a workshop held in Tehsil Yazman, District Bahawalpur, on 18 and 19 October 2014. This first event was conducted by Karachi- and Lahore-based trainers, and was attended by 20 rural journalists.

“Pakistan is one of deadliest places for journalists; only in the current year we have had nine journalists and five media workers killed,” said the President of RMNP, Ehsan Ahmed Khan Sehar.

“We hail the decision to organize this workshop in Yazman and we really hope that the beneficiaries of this training will be able to cope with the alarming situation in rural Pakistan, while transferring the newly-acquired skills to their colleagues working on dangerous assignments,” said the President of the Yazman  Press Club, Muhammad Ramzan Goraya.

Subjects discussed at the workshop included an assessment of the security situation, how to prepare in advance for possible threats and risks, and how to manage core contacts and informants while working in hostile areas. Participants learnt techniques on how to cover violent crowds, along with useful tips for the drafting of sensitive stories. One training session focused on how to contact and relate to militant groups.

The Yazman workshop also discussed how media can monitor attacks on press freedom, and support journalists who have been victims of such attacks. Participants discussed the importance of monitoring freedom of expression and were provided with practical guidelines for this.

The workshop ended with the setting up of a five-member press freedom monitoring committee under the chairmanship of senior journalist Rana Muhammad Hussein Shahid.

The training programme, supported by IPDC, and implemented by RMNP in collaboration with UNESCO/Islamabad, will consist of a series of six training workshops planned to take place before March 2015.

As it unfolds, the project will tackle the challenge of identifying and involving women journalists in rural areas of the Punjab and other provinces in Pakistan, as there is a major gender imbalance in the rural media.