Human rights reporting in Pakistani media
Pakistan’s Urdu and English print and electronic media understand and present human rights issues in a variety of ways. The manner in which newspapers, magazines and television channels portray human rights issues and defenders, and victims of violations and abuse shapes people’s opinion. It also affects policymaking and legislation. This study intends to determine how journalists and media organizations view and report human rights issues in Pakistan. Conversely, an effort has also been made to investigate how the people, human rights organizations and activists see the role of the media’s coverage of human rights issues.
The study also aims to explore journalists’ capacity for well-informed, investigative and rights-based journalism. Meanwhile, public perceptions of human rights issues have been studied with a special reference to the impact of contemporary media reporting approaches. These approaches have been documented and analyzed, especially journalists’ attitude towards victims, treatment of human rights issues as well as the patterns and quality of reporting. An analysis of the opinions and content has also been included with excerpts from news items, reports, editorials and debates to better comprehend the media coverage. The environment for reporting on human rights issues was also studied to comprehend the threats and pressures which limit journalists’ capacity for investigation and reporting. Another objective was to evaluate the role of the media and the mindset of journalists to improve and fill the gaps in human rights reporting.
There is no dearth of literature and reports on human rights issues in Pakistan. A great deal of statistical and narrative data is also available on the subject. Human rights violations in Pakistan, including violations of rights of women and children, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, harassment of families of the disappeared, excessive use of force by state agents and unlawful killings are regularly monitored, highlighted and protested against by a number of human rights organizations in the country and abroad – the prominent ones include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Defense of Human Rights and Aurat Foundation. These and other human rights organizations are engaged in raising awareness about human rights and lobby whenever any important case arises. They also produce and disseminate reports on human rights issues, which are reproduced and discussed in Pakistani print and electronic media.
Media organizations are another source of information, analysis and reports on human rights in Pakistan. Rights issues have become a regular feature of the electronic media as well. Be they cases of enforced disappearances and illegal detentions or curbs on rights after promulgation of the state of emergency, Pakistani media has played a key role in keeping human rights in the limelight.