March 27, Karachi: The impressive growth in Pakistan’s media over the past decade is a success story in its own right. However, citizens in some regions – especially conflict-affected areas – have yet to reap the full benefits of the vibrant media scene with regional journalists often lacking professional skills and under frequent attack. To enable the Pakistani media to keep up with the growing demand for professional journalism and access to reliable information, the Government of Denmark is now supporting a two-year program to support professionalization of Pakistani media. The project will be implemented by the International Media Support (IMS), a media development non-profit organization which will work together with several Pakistani media support organizations.
The program was launched today by the Danish Ambassador Mr. Jesper Moller Sorensen. The launch program included panel discussions by key media professionals, political representatives and media development practitioners. The panel members discussed the state of media in Pakistan with focus on the imperatives for media professionalization and media as a force for democratization and stability. Participating in a panel discussion, Danish Ambassador Mr. Jesper Moller Sorensen stated that Denmark was pleased to support a project that would help improve the conditions for professional journalism in order to strengthen the role of the media in some of the most remote and difficult areas in the country. Ambassador Sorensen termed the media as the ‘backbone of a democratic society’ which played a crucial role in shaping healthy democracies around the world. Acknowledging the challenges under which regional journalists – and especially those reporting from conflict affected areas in Pakistan– work in, Ambassador Sorensen said that the regional journalists also play an important role in highlighting socio-economic challenges in far-flung areas which otherwise are neglected by the mainstream media.
He also noted that following the devolution of power to local governments in over 100 districts all over Pakistan, district-based journalists have become an even more important player in the evolving scenario of devolution of power in Pakistan due to the increase in political and development activities at local level. “Pakistan’s regional language media can play a significant role in consolidating the gains made so far in the civil and political processes by focusing on serving the needs of citizens in the provinces while fostering a sense of inclusion among marginalized communities and advocate for human rights”, said Ambassador Sorensen. In the past decade, the emergence of a vibrant media sector has played a crucial role in the evolving socioeconomic and political discourse in Pakistan. But media workers, especially those employed in the provinces, are often untrained and underpaid.
In addition to these challenges, threats and violent attacks against journalists continue. It is estimated that around 100 journalists have been killed in Pakistan over the past decade. The Danish supported two-year project is set to improve the skills and safety of journalists in Pakistan’s provinces, and enable media stakeholders to produce a consensus code of conduct for the entire sector based on international standards. The program’s implementing organization, International Media Support, has worked in Pakistan since 2010 to further the safety and professional skills of journalists. The organisation has over a decade of experience in media development in countries undergoing political transition or affected by armed conflict.