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Tuesday May 28, 2024

Study shines light on journalists’ well-being in South Asia

By Muhammad Shahid
April 16, 2024
A representational image showing a woman operating a camera in Dhaka, Bangladesh. — IFEX/File
A representational image showing a woman operating a camera in Dhaka, Bangladesh. — IFEX/File

PESHAWAR: Amid a global pandemic, a beacon of collaboration and research emerged from a humble WhatsApp group, sparking a journey of discovery into the emotional well-being of journalists across South Asia.

Led by Prof Dr Ola Ogunyemi from the University of Lincoln in England, the JETREG(Journalism Education and Trauma Research Group) embarked on a study, shedding light on the nuanced interplay between media organisations and the happiness of their employees.

The research titled “Workplace Happiness, Journalism, and COVID-19 in South Asia” was a collaborative effort involving multiple scholars from various institutions across South Asia.The researchers’ team included Achala Abeykoon from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka; Archana Kumari from the Central University of Jammu, India; Mohammad Sahid Ullah from the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh; Pallavi Majumdar from the Royal Thimphu College, Bhutan; Dr Sajjad Ali from the University of Malakand, Pakistan; Mou Mukherjee Das from the Maulana Abdul Kalam University of Technology, Kolkata, India; Santosh Kumar Biswal from the Rama Devi Women’s University, Bhubaneswar, India; M. C. Rasmin, a Media Development Specialist and Academician from Sri Lanka; Shilpa Kalyan from the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, India; Dr Muhammad Shahid, a journalist from The News in Peshawar district of Pakistan; and Mamunor Rashid from Khulna University, Bangladesh.

The research study concluded with several key takeaways regarding journalism and the state of journalists in South Asia.Organisational impact on journalists’ well-being:

The study conducted by JETREG unveiled a profound truth resonating across the diverse tapestry of South Asian journalism - the pivotal role played by media organisations in shaping the happiness and resilience of their workforce. From Bangladesh to Bhutan, India to Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, the study unearthed a landscape where the support provided by employers bore a direct correlation to journalists’ levels of satisfaction and contentment amidst the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.

Navigating stress and paradoxes:

Amidst the throes of the COVID-19 outbreak, South Asian journalists found themselves grappling with heightened levels of stress and despondency. The study illuminated the paradoxical nature of their predicament, wherein the pursuit of professional duties clashed with personal safety concerns. Despite these trials, the majority of journalists expressed gratitude for the stability of their monthly salaries, a beacon of assurance amidst the economic turmoil besieging their organizations.

The power of collaboration and innovation:

In the face of adversity, South Asian journalists exhibited resilience and innovation. Embracing the opportunity to work remotely, they found solace in the newfound flexibility afforded by home offices. This shift not only safeguarded their health but also fostered a renewed appreciation for work-life balance. From Pakistan to Odisha, respondents lauded the introduction of home offices as a source of comfort amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic.

Supportive measures and safety nets:

Amidst the tumult of the pandemic, several media organisations emerged as beacons of support, prioritising the well-being of their employees. From flexible leave policies to tangible gestures such as accommodations for quarantined staff, these initiatives underscored a commitment to employee welfare. The active engagement of senior management further bolstered spirits, offering a glimmer of hope amidst the uncertainty.

Looking towards the future:

As South Asian journalists reflect on their profession, lessons learned paved the way for a more resilient future. The research study advocates for a proactive approach from media organisations, emphasising the importance of emotional and psychological support for employees facing unprecedented challenges. By fostering a culture of care and innovation, the journalism profession can emerge stronger, and better equipped to navigate the complexities of tomorrow.

In the tapestry of South Asian journalism, amidst the chaos and uncertainty, tales of resilience and adaptation illuminate the path forward. As journalists continue to navigate uncharted waters, their stories serve as a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the enduring power of the press to illuminate, inform, and inspire.