By Anmol Sheraz
International World Press Freedom Day observed every year on May 3 to notify globally that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are major human rights. This day annually reminds the masses that plenty of journalists fearlessly died or faced imprisonment to disseminate news and information to people.
The theme this year is “Information as a Public Good”, a reminder to sustain the significance of valuing information as a public good. It is important to have the right to authentic information especially in the age of misinformation. Even in this era, journalism is impeded in two-thirds of the world, it is seriously restricted in 73 nations.
Pakistan is ranked 145/180 in World Press Freedom Index 2021 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Pakistan has excelled in its rank about press freedom comparatively with other nations, the country enjoys freedom to some extent yet the policies endured by the organisation or govt exists.
Media and Journalism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are rich as compared to other provinces. Journalists in KP have worked during the time of war on terror and on the frontline to provide exclusive news to the public. Similarly, female journalists played a vital role just like their male counterparts during the era of terrorism.
Voice of KP on World Press Freedom interviewed the female journalists of KP and penned down their journey as a female in the otherwise patriarchal society.
Farzana Ali is privileged to be the first female Bureau Chief of AAJ TV in KP says, “The obstacles are more as compared to past. Access to information from sources is restricted. In the last three years, no staunch investigative story published. Government bodies do not want to share information regarding the events happening in KP and development in ex-FATA. I think we are doing something but at least we are not doing journalism due to the increased hurdles.”
Aneela Shaheen a senior female journalist associated with News 360 as a correspondent from KP shared her views as she says, “There is no quota system in Peshawar Press Club for females. The membership criteria for females is the same as males whereas nationwide seats are reserved for females in press clubs. As a journalist, our community does not support us and consider us weak and feeble. But when it comes to me I have worked in war zone and bags to be the first woman senior vice president of the Peshawar Press Club yet I will again say that our rights as a journalist are not fulfilled.”
Nadia Saboohi working as a correspondent at Geo News Peshawar likewise said, “Being a female reporter I felt that the journalism in this region of KP is drastically changed, where I used to carry camera and tripod as one of the few women in Peshawar. But in recent years I am seeing more females opting for journalism. The obstacles do exist, but I believe that these are temporary and if one is determined to work in this field then they can prove their mettle.”
Shazia Nisar, a senior reporter of ARY News from Peshawar Expresses, “Bureau Chief have the perception that to keep female reporters safe is by excluding them from hard beats, but I believe that the risk for both genders is same. I have continued to break the gender-based taboos by working in hard beats. I have covered the incidents of the missing persons and nothing could stop me to fight for the freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”
Hira Shah working as a reporter for Dawn News adds, “Despite the relaxation from the organisation, the culture barrier exists. Whenever I enter the field people do not accept me as a journalist because of my gender. Even the females do not support giving out the information. I do not believe that freedom of the press for women exist as compared to men in journalism.”
Despite the challenges faced by female journalists and the increasing number of women in journalism, few like the above-mentioned female journalists are acting as an ideal for those that follow. Senior Female journalists like these are part of policy making and trying to create an environment safe and secure for women journalists in Peshawar.
However, it is the inclusion of the entire journalist community in promoting diversity and interpreting the voice of marginalized sect in the media. The interview conducted by Voice of KP with female journalists from KP cannot claim that they are representing the women lot nationwide, but their comments fit in with the broader narrative of press freedom and then specifically the freedom of speech and expressions for women journalists working in KP media.