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Who makes the news

Networking & Advocacy > Who makes the news

Developing the skills of media in understanding human rights and documenting the experiences of women in situations of disaster

On March 1, 2006, Uks Research Centre held a roundtable on ‘Who Makes the News’ supported by World Association for Christian Communication (WACC). It was an attempt to brainstorm on how to develop the skills of our media in understanding human rights and documenting the experiences of women in situations of disaster using the human rights framework.

The participants also deliberated on how to increase the number of women in media. The recommendations and suggestions from this roundtable would enable Uks to identify the areas as well those media persons who would contribute more meaningfully in advocating for women’s human rights, promoting rights-based reporting as well as their inclusion in media.

The 8/10 earthquake in Pakistan is just another example of how men decide what news; views and visuals should be heard, read and seen. No wonder then that most of the news coverage was devoid of gender sensitivity, presenting women as mere helpless victims.

She said that it is in this perspective that Uks would like to look at the issue of disaster reporting in an attempt to promote justice and the empowerment of women in the region. Uks has initiated a project that looks at these issues through a series of media training workshops focusing on ethical questions that have arisen in the recent media coverage. We would like to facilitate the exchange of information and skills to strengthen media’s capacities.

In 1995 and again in 2000, men and women in 70 countries came together to scrutinise the portrayal of women and men by the world news by monitoring stories in newspapers, TV and radio in one day. The results showed that in one day in 1995, women were 17% of news subjects. In 2000, five years later, women were only 18% of news subjects worldwide.

WACC supported organizations and individuals in 76 countries around the world to monitor their media for one day under GMMP (Global Media Monitoring Project). It took them almost one year to gather and analyse all the results (12,893 news items on television, radio and in newspapers) from around the world. The results show that women are 21% of news subjects. Indicating that they have been able to feature just a little more than 2000.

It may also be added that the one and only media (print) study was conducted by Uks in 2001-2002. Titled Changing Images, this remains to be the only media monitoring report so far.

Ms. Ahmar also shared a recent research conducted by Uks that monitored the press coverage of disaster of the October 8 earthquake (from November till February) in the following newspapers: Dawn - The Nation - The News - The Daily Times - The Frontier Post - Pakistan Observer – Jang - Nawa-i-Waqt

Out of a total of 1724 news items, 1362 featured men or were general information; only 362 news reports had women in them, either as news or as a visual. This leaves us with a big question: What kind of reporting there has been for the past four months, and what kind of reporting should we look at all levels and sections of the media. Pakistan has featured in the world media in a big way, and perhaps it is for the first time in many years that Pakistan has featured in a non-terrorist story. We have seen Pakistan in the world headlines and may continue to see different stories emanating out of the earthquake. The question is: Where are the women in these news reports? With it also comes the question: would the situation be different if there were more women in the media?

There is an obvious connection between female reporters and things being reported on females. She narrated her own experience of being in a very remote and conservative village in the NWFP (North West Frontier Province) where she was allowed to speak to the women but her camera person was not. This she felt could be an obstruction. She also mentioned that in some Pakistani English newspapers she saw very good reports on women and when she looked at the by-line, it was a woman.

Aasma Shirazi, the only female television reporter to be at the disaster sites said that right after the earthquake she spent 12 days in the disaster areas and lived in most miserable conditions, but that was all taken as part of the job. According to Aasma, she felt that although there were many issues, the biggest was that of pregnant women. There were no proper hospitals, at times there were no female doctors.

Ms. Fazila stressed on the fact that it has become almost a norm to assign women issues to female journalists. This should not happen. Women are equally capable of taking on other beats including politics and economy and there are some very fine female journalists in Pakistan who are doing it, but their number is negligible.

There were a number of other comments and remarks. One thing that was very prominent was the need for inducting more female journalists to have a better and more sensitised perspective in the media; other was training of all staff-male and female-on how to cover disaster more effectively.


Mr. Umer Farooq - AVT-Khyber Television-Islamabad
Ms. Tahira Sarwar - UN Information Centre-Islamabad
Mr. Inamur Rehman - INP-News agency-Islamabad
Ms. Suzanna Koster - Trouw (Dutch News agency)-Islamabad
Mr. Mohammed Ishtiaq - BBC Urdu Service-Islamabad
Mr. Aijaz Meher - BBC Urdu service-Islamabad
Ms. Aasma Shirazi - Geo Television-Islamabad
Mr. Naeem Jadoon - Daily Jinnah-Islamabad
Mr. Sohail Khan - Daily Pakistan- Islamabad
Ms. Fazila Gulrez - Freelance writer and journalist
Ms. Saadia Haq: Producer - Uks Radio Project-Islamabad
Ms. Qudsia Mahmood - Coordinator-Producer, Uks Radio Project


Ms. Tasneem Ahmar - Director Uks Research Centre-Islamabad