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February 14, 2021

‘Reporting based on biases resulting in irresponsible journalism’

Karachi

February 14, 2021

Reporters and magazines covering religious affairs need proper training and self-regulatory mechanisms to ensure responsible reportage because reporting based on inaccurate information and biases is resulting in irresponsible journalism.

This was the conclusion reached by the speakers who attended a recent three-day training session organised by the Voice Media Network (VMN), a non-governmental media development body, at a hotel.

A large number of editors and staff members working for various religious magazines and journalists covering religious beats attended the training session, whose main focus was on enabling journalists and writers to report on religious affairs constructively and in a manner that does not jeopardise peace and religious harmony.

The speakers said that religious publications are not a new phenomenon in Pakistan, and that despite their sectarian and political affiliations, the sphere of these publications and readership is wide, where writings focus on intellectual debates, religious, cultural and socio-political issues, and international relations.

However, they pointed out, religious media is a double-edged sword: it can become an important tool to promote religious harmony and ease tensions, but at the same time, it can escalate tensions by exaggerating events and becoming a mouthpiece of war-mongers.

The participants were briefed on various measures required for independently reporting on religious affairs, and on ways to deal with extremism and increase tolerance and harmony among the people. They were urged not to use derogatory terms for people of other sects and faiths.

They informed the trainers that no written guidelines or training has been provided to journalists covering religious issues. They were told to highlight examples and case studies to promote religious harmony though their writings and reportage, inviting scholars of different sects and exploring ways and means for sectarian harmony.

The speakers stressed upon the participants of the training session that balanced reporting on religious issues can help promote feelings of equality, harmony, peace and tolerance.

The trainers and speakers included religious scholars Mufti Noman Naeem and Mufti Zubair Ashraf Usmani, journalism teachers Dr Tausif Ahmed Khan, Dr Osama Shafiq and Prof Saeed Usmani, and a scholar on Islamic law.

They also included former Pakistan Madrasa Education Board head Dr Aamir Tuaseen, former Karachi Press Club president Imtiaz Khan Faran, journalist Syed Najam Soharwardi, former National Counter Terrorism Authority official Ahmed Jan and the VMN’s Tehmeed Jan.