UNESCO celebrates WPFD 2017 in Peshawar

Peshawar: In just over one hour, 70 participants drafted key recommendations stemming from dynamic roundtable discussions during the celebration of the World Press Freedom Day 2017 held at the University of Peshawar.
On 3 May, students of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of the University of Peshawar had the opportunity to share ideas and exchange information with senior journalists, media experts, and international stakeholders on topics that are relevant for enabling freedom of expression in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and the rest of Pakistan.

Roundtable discussions, moderated by theme experts, focused on three main topics - Gender in Media, Investigative Journalism and Stress, and Social Media - and resulted in key recommendations as summarized below for advancing SDG 16 target 10 and fostering freedom of expression in Pakistan:

Gender in Media
1. Develop legislations, SOPs, awareness campaigns (government), job security, and codes of conduct (media professionals) to ensure a secure professional environment for female journalists;
2. Increase female representation in media organizations, such as promoting role models and participation at decision-making level;
3. Distribution of beats on the basis of gender should be done away with. Women must be encouraged to report on beats such as courts, crimes, terrorism, among others.

Investigative Journalism and Stress
1. Media organizations: define investigative journalism in Pakistan and formulate a code of conduct;
2. Establish a representative press council for addressing concerns and issues of journalists;
3. Document stress indicators and issue regular publications on investigative journalism and stress indicators.

Social Media
1. Serious efforts needed to increase digital literacy and awareness in the public. The state has a role to play; it has to ensure that users of social media are aware of its possible impacts and uses;
2. Anonymity has resulted in the creation of fake accounts that are used frequently to promote hate speech, sectarian violence and incite other kinds of violence. A formal mechanism for identification of users is required, perhaps linking them to national identity databases;
3. The implementation of laws linked to cyberspace is extremely important. However, to ensure that the implementation of laws isn't used to abuse power, the cybercrime bill, particularly sections related to speech must be amended to include elements of multi-stakeholder governance.

Participants were inspired by two key note speakers who set the stage for the fruitful discussions:

Ms. Mahrukh Jabeen, is a reporter of Tribal News Network (TNN) and the first woman journalist from FATA. Ms Jabeen highlighted the difficulties of female journalists who work in the field, while expressing that despite all challenges, she is still determined to pursue her career as a journalist.

Ms. Farzana Ali, Bureau Chief of Aaj Television, equally described the challenges faced by female journalists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. She argued for the need to increase women representation in media particularly on decision-making level in the media houses.

UNESCO Pakistan commemorated the 2017 World Press Freedom Day jointly with the European Union, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Embassy of Sweden, in collaboration with the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Peshawar.