Courtesy of the so-called media crisis, Pakistani newsrooms have been losing strong voices on women, and the vacuum created by it has been filled by the management with lower journalistic standards, said the gender adviser for UN Women in Pakistan, Muhammad Younas Khalid, on Wednesday.
Khalid was addressing a webinar hosted by the Uks Research Centre on the launch of their report titled ‘Pakistani Media in Times of Covid: A Gendered Focus’. He termed the under-representation of women in media a “South Asian syndrome”, due to which the stories about the development of women are largely neglected.
“Look at the coverage of the Motorway gang rape case: most of the stories revolved around the imagination of alternative scenarios rather than focusing on the issue, which reinforced the stereotyping of women in society.”
He pointed out that there is a lack of consistency in reporting about gender-based violence because the newsrooms do not see them as essential items to be covered.
Shireen Pervin Huq, Bangladesh-based women rights campaigner and founder of Naripokkho, said a woman apparently has to have died or broken her limbs for her story to make it into mainstream media. She held “cultural misogyny” rooted in the structure responsible for it. She said the situation of gender-based violence is the same, but it has intensified during the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Media failed women’
Dilrukshi Handunnetti, executive director of the Centre for Investigative Reporting in Sri Lanka, said that although there is an emphasis on reporting gender-based violence, it is not to the extent it happens.
She said that the media has failed women during the Covid-19 crisis, and that their contribution to the efforts to cope with the pandemic have been neglected.
Indian journalist Nupur Basu said the problem of violence against women is not limited to South Asia but also present in the West, with the only difference being that they have laws to deal with it.
Referring to a viral video of a woman being stabbed by her husband in broad daylight in India, she said the video was edited with a picture of a female journalist to intimidate other women journalists with the apparent warning for them to toe the line.
Lack of data
Dr Cosette Thompson from the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in the US said a lack of data also contributed to the plight of women, as more black women health workers than others died in the US but the stories did not gain the due attention. She said the media missed many important stories, like the impact of Covid-19 on singlemothers who headed 15 million families in the country alone, as well as those who were homeless.
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