UNESCO organizes a series of workshops on safety for journalists working in rural areas in Pakistan. This activity is designed to equip participants with the information and skills on how to do their journalistic duties in hostile environments, which is currently the case in some parts of Pakistan.
Under this activity, which is implemented by the Rural Media Network of Pakistan (RMNP), with the support of IPDC/ UNESCO six workshops are planned to be organized from October 2014 to March 2015. At least 15 rural journalists are expected to participate in each workshop, which will bring to approximately 100 the number of participants who will benefit from the training.
The activity kicked off with a workshop held in Tehsil Yazman, District Bahawalpur, from 18 to 19 October 2014. This first event was conducted by Karachi and Lahore based trainers and other resource persons, and was attended by 20 rural journalists.
Subjects discussed at the workshop included an assessment of the security situation; how to use common sense and judgment to be prepared for possible risks; and how to manage core contacts during duties in hostile areas. Trainers informed participants about main reasons behind threats and guided them how they can ensure their safety. Participants learned the techniques to cover violent mobs along with the drafting of sensitive stories. A session was conducted about the journalists’ contacts and relations with militant groups.
Apart from issues related to safety guidance on how to operate in hostile environments, the Yazman workshop discussed how media people can monitor attacks on press freedom, and support journalists and media organizations that have been victimized. Participants also discussed the importance of monitoring freedom of expression, and were given knowledge on practical guidelines for monitoring and investigating violations of freedom of expression, as well as on writing effective action alerts to report press freedom violation.
A five-member press freedom monitoring committee was constituted under the chairmanship of senior journalist Rana Muhammad Hussein Shahid . The Urdu hand book of Reporters Without Borders, published by UNESCO Islamabad and the RMNP safety training manual were also distributed among all participants.
The Rural Media Network Pakistan has declared Pakistan one of deadliest place for journalists, where nine journalists and five media workers have been killed up to October of this year.
The President of the Yazman Press Club, Muhammad Ramzan Goraya, General Secretary Imdadullah Shahid and Patron Haji Abdul Haq have hailed the RMNP-UNESCO decision to organize the workshop in Yazman. They expressed the hope that the beneficiaries of this training would be able to cope with the alarming situation in rural Pakistan and would also transfer the acquired skills to their colleagues working on dangerous assignments.
President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Khan Sehar stated that Rural Media Network of Pakistan (RMNP) had earlier successfully trained more than three hundred rural journalists and district correspondents on safety issues through sixteen training sessions from 2011 to 2013. It also held a safety conference and has re-launched its website, with the main aim to provide information related to the latest developments of freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, in Pakistan. The Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) website is also functioning as the platform to build a database on the monitoring of any kind of freedom of the press violation. Any violent acts, including killings, against journalists are being reported regularly on the website, he added. The President of RMNP informed the participants that earlier with the support of UNESCO, one hundred journalists benefitted from four training workshops which were organized from January to April 2011 in rural Pakistan.