Journalists’ training concludes after introducing blogs and social networks


The Baloch Hal News

QUETTA: A three-day workshop on media, democracy and human rights held at Quetta Press Club concluded here in the provincial capital the other day with introducing correspondents from sixteen districts of Balochistan about the use of modern tools such as blogs and social networks to gain a wider audience while covering human rights and democracy.

The workshop had been organized by Balochistan Institute for Future Development (BIFD), a Quetta-based think-tank, with the collaboration of National Endowment for Democracy. At least twenty journalists hailing from sixteen districts and different print and electronic media houses attended the workshop which was intended to educate the journalists with reporting on democracy and human rights.

The first session on the third day of the workshop was moderated by Malik Siraj Akbar, editor of Balochistan’s first online newspaper the Baloch Hal and Urooj Zia, a Karachi-based journalist affiliated with The News International. As the participants of the workshop agreed to from a Balochistan Institute for Future Development Journalists’ Network (BIFDJN) for long-term partnership with their counterparts in different districts of Balochistan, the moderators introduced the participants of the workshop with online mailing groups, blogs and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The participants found the session very informative as many journalists acknowledged that they had not previously known how to use a blog or utilize social networks for spreading news. Thus, the moderators taught all the participants how to create a blog and an account on a social network. This process was very interesting as the moderators and the participants continued the exercise step by step. Finally, the participants created an official blog for the BIFD Journalists’ Network (www.bifdjn.wordpress.com).

“I am thrilled to learn about social networks and blogs. They are a source of free and fast expression of news and views,” said Abdul Fateh Bangulzai, 50, the senior most participant of the workshop who had come from Bolan District to avail this learning opportunity, “ I will share the learned lessons to my colleagues back in my home district.”

Syed Ali Shah, the Balochistan Bureau Chief of Dawn News, Pakistan’s premier English news channel, delivered a lecture on “Reporting on Conflict and Humanitarian Issues”. He spoke in detail about the hardships journalists in Balochistan faced while covering the Baloch insurgency and the issues related to Pak-Afghan relations vis-à-vis the troubled border Pakistan shares with Afghanistan. He advised the journalists to ensure their neutrality while reporting from a conflict zone like Balochistan in order to minimize the risks posed to their lives.

“The journalists should avoid solely covering the VVIPs,” he said, “There is a greater need to cover issues of human interest.” He regretted that the media reports in Pakistan were mainly devoid of reports that describe the plight of the man in the street. Guiding the journalists about reporting on human interest issues, he said reporters should build contacts with the lower staff in the government ministries. “You are mistaken if you think you will get good news stories from top officials. The best and reliable sources often come from the lower officials,” he observed.

Abid Mir, editor Daily Asaap, which was forcefully shut by the government last year due to its anti-government slant, indeed enchanted all the participants with his bold and fearless views during a session on “Journalists’ views on democracy”. Mir, who has authored three books and is widely respected in Balochistan for his short stories and columns, entirely disagreed with the notion that journalists must not have an opinion on political and social issues.

“If you do not have an opinion then you are not a journalist,” he commented, “A journalist’s responsibility is to clearly distinguish between the good and bad guys because he has a responsibility of guiding the society on the right direction. If you do not have an opinion then you are not a journalist but a stenographer.”

He recalled the days how the office of Daily Asaap was besieged by the Frontier Corps (FC) in August 2009 for two weeks. “We worked with guns brandished on us outside the window. We could see the tank stationed outside our office. They were the worst days of repression of the media in Balochistan,” he recollected. As the government refused to lift the siege of the newspaper, the management had no option but to shut down the paper for the safety of its young staff members.

Mir also quoted some paragraphs of fearless Pakistani journalist late Zamir Niazi’s critique of the Pakistani media. In response to a question that some people believed that Asaap had become a pamphlet rather than a newspaper, Mir said if his newspaper was a pamphlet of the marginalized sections of the society then he was not apologetic about it. “We are glad that we are not among some of the top newspapers of the country which are a pamphlet of the country’s ruling establishment. Every newspaper follows a certain ideology. I am glad we do not follow the corporate and exploitative ideology. We gave a voice to the voiceless people of Balochistan and that is what journalism means for us,” he commented.

At the end of the three-day long event, the participants deeply appreciated the organizers of the workshop and termed it as highly enlightening. They said the workshop had widened their understanding of issues related to democracy and human rights. Once they go back to their respective district, they would strive to dig out news reports where the basic human rights have been violated.

Mohammad Khan Sasoli, president of Khuzdar Press Club, suggested that the organizers of such workshops should also help the local press clubs by providing them basically needed equipment such as computers, fax machine or digital cameras because many of the press clubs do not have these facilities to properly report in the national media.

Mohammad Ali Baloch, a journalist from Jaffarabad district, lauded the workshop but suggested that workshops held in the future should focus on developing the technical capability of the district correspondents. Elaborating his suggestion, he said many journalists working in the remote districts of Balochistan still did not know to operate a computer, compose an email, make an attachment, use a digital camera, crop a photograph or use the Inpage (Urdu software) and Microsoft Word.

“I recommend that workshops in the future should entail more practical work so that all the district correspondents get a chance to use digital media,” he said.

Balochistan’s senior journalist, Ayub Tareen of BBC, distributed certificates among the participants of the workshop. He urged the reporters to keep improving their skills by continuously working hard. He whined that many of the reports emanating from various districts were often not balanced. “As reporters, you have to try your level best to give the version of all the parties involved in a story,” he suggested.

Journalists belonging to various print and electronic media outlets working in sixteen different districts of Balochistan attended the training program. District correspondents from Quetta, Mastung, Kalat, Pishin, Naseerabad, Jaffarabad, Khuzdar, Sibi, Awaran, Chagai, Noshki, Panjgur, Kharan, Bolan, Lasbela, Jhal Magsi, students of Department of Mass Communication at the University of Balochistan and two professional journalists from Quetta also attended the event.

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