Should Pakistani Media Show 'Bodies or Blood?'

Feb 212013
  • Fakhar Durrani of Dunya News in Islamabad gained skills in teaching ethics and digital tools and now plans to train reporters in remote areas.

A new corps of trainers is teaching best practices

Less than a week after participating in an ICFJ “training of trainers” session in early February, reporter Fakhar Durrani of Dunya News was already leading a workshop on journalism ethics in his Islamabad newsroom. He’s also helping to draft his organization’s first code of ethics.

Durrani is one of 13 Pakistani journalists who participated in the three-day session, held as part the U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism Program. The journalists learned how to run customized workshops that fill professional gaps. Nearly 80 journalists have worked in U.S. newsrooms as part of the exchange program. These trainers are greatly expanding the program’s reach by helping far more journalists than could be brought to the United States.

Veteran journalists Sherry Ricchiardi and Hoda Osman led sessions on workshop design and training techniques. Then the participants broke into groups according to region, since working conditions vary across the country. Special emphasis was given to ethics training and investigative reporting.

As soon as he could, Durrani launched into action. “It was a wonderful experience conducting a workshop in one's own newsroom...so many senior colleagues attended,” he said. “They gave me a positive response.”

He’s not alone. Sohail Akhter of Pakistan Television in Quetta will be training journalists in volatile Balochistan province on how to safely and responsibly cover regular outbreaks of violence. “Whenever a bomb blast occurs we are undecided as to whether to show bodies or blood,” Akhter said.

Senior producer Nadia Malik will be bringing investigative reporting skills to her team at GEO News in Lahore in advance of the May 2013 general election. Dawood Tareen of the Daily Balochistan Times is focusing on human-interest storytelling. And Shahab-Ud-Din of Aaj News in Peshawar will introduce digital tools and safety techniques to young journalists in the tribal areas.

For Durrani’s next workshop, he will work with correspondents in smaller cities on how to cover religion, a sensitive subject that has triggered violence in the past. He is using the 90-person Facebook group that connects program alumni to recruit participants. This is just one more example of the positive ripple effects of linking U.S. and Pakistani reporters.