There is lack of trust from media houses since women are considered weaker creatures, said journalist Zoya Anwer as she spoke about how women journalists are often barred from covering hard news in Pakistan.
“We [women] see blood every month; it’s time news organisations stop asking female reporters whether they will they be able to cover crime stories,” said Anwer during a panel discussion titled ‘Femme Fatale – The Inner Circle of Women in Journalism’ at the Zab Media Festival on April 5. “In the media industry where everyone is held accountable for their actions, a woman journalist has to prove herself twice [as much] in the field and that too on the parameters of cultural norms and religion,” she added.
While talking about how the role of gender in newsrooms involves tracing the shift from an initial consensus that a woman’s only journalistic role was to write with “a woman’s touch” about women for women readers to demands that women be allowed to produce the same “unmarked” news as men, journalist Manal Faheem Khan said, “There is a change in newsrooms these days, but the change is more pertinent to a certain class.” She believes that the change is limited to the English press since the Urdu press is still largely dominated by men.
“The change will not happen because of the shift in technology, the change will come out of people and when there will be more female bosses,” said Fatima Niazi, who has been working as a journalist for nine years.
The session, moderated by budding journalist Zoha Tunio, concluded on the note that sexism is not as much of an issue for women journalists in modern newsrooms as the panelists agreed that there are now “fewer dinosaurs”. However, they believe there still are major issues that make it difficult for women, including problems that have arisen in more recent years like shrinking newsrooms.
The five-day Zab Media Festival is hosted by the Faculty of Media Sciences and the festival’s theme this year is ‘Discovering Pakistan’ which aims to explore various mediums through which entertainment and infotainment are disseminated. The event covers everything from modern-day advertisement techniques to exploring digital media, women in journalism and in mainstream cinema.