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'Justice demands objectivity but media gives us sad music and asks insensitive questions'

'Justice demands objectivity but media gives us sad music and asks insensitive questions'

KARACHI: The Uks Research Centre organised an urgent press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday to address the disturbing and tragic murder of Noor Mukadam and the media's reporting on it.

"Sadly, whenever we are faced with a horrific case of violence against women, which happens almost every day, our monitoring tells us a very sad story," said Director Uks Tasneem Ahmar.

A media monitoring and advocacy organisation, Uks, for over two decades, has been engaged with the media on how to report women issues in general, and cases of violence against women in particular.

"Every day there is a news or two about children and women's sexual abuse, rape, gang rape, harassment at work and in public places, abduction, kidnapping, trafficking and flesh trade; young girls dropping out of schools, and yet when women come out to ask for their rights, they are named and shamed," Director Uks pointed out.

"A lot of the content in the media that we monitor also focuses on the fact that women should not leave the security of their homes. The fact that domestic violence happens within the four walls of one's home is not taken seriously, rather denied. The current media scenario is just an extension of the insensitivity that most of our media has displayed against women, be it print, electronic or social media. Slander and abuse is what has always been happening for almost two decades on most of the talk shows on private TV news channels, and dramas on entertainment channels. The vast majority of both, continue to demonstrate an alarming level of anti-women bias, sexism, chauvinism and patriarchy, bordering on misogyny," she said.

"Social media is the newest tool to humiliate women. It seems there are no boundaries when it comes to indecent, vulgar and obscene content that keeps popping up to target women in the form of tweets, memes and what not," she added.

"Since misogyny and misandry are two sides of the same coin, which are often rooted in culture, society and values, it is found in media as well. Any extreme views based on gender, sexuality, origin, and such are violations of basic human rights. Be it any gender, any segment of society, every human being had a right to be respected and accepted. We need our media to not only understand this but also remember this in its production of content.

"Justice demands objectivity but media gives us sad music and asks insensitive questions. So where's the news?"

Screenwriter and director of television plays, Bee Gul, also shared her observations on how women are projected in the media. "It is an insensitive way of spreading sensationalism," she said.

Talking about the grisly murder of Noor, Gul said there were so many people there who didn't try to save the victim. "Here, too, we just watch like bystanders. We look at the victims like we want them to tell why the crime happened," she said.

She added that since Noor's was a high profile case, it managed to get attention when at the same time there are so many similar cases that go unnoticed.

Then there is social media, which points fingers. "There is talk on social media that the victims ask for it, that they are the liberal 'Aurat March type' feminists. But we, both men and women, are to live in this same world and support each other," she pointed out.

Media analyst and Director of Center for Excellence in Journalism Kamal Siddiqi, who is also a former newspaper editor, said that he has seen the role of media changing during the past decade. "And with it our role as a media watchdog has also had to evolve," he said.

"There is a wrong choice of words, a wrong choice of images. Things are sensationalised for ratings. This goes for TV channels, but then why aren't the newspapers any better?" he asked.

"It is because our journalism has become lazy. The statements of ministers and VIPs are given more importance. It has all become a circus where only high profile cases or stories get reported and the rest just ignored," he said.

"But we need to ask ourselves, as journalists, how are we reporting? There is also the social media doing its own kind of reporting, with an element of bias. And our lazy journalists are copying from there," he pointed out.

"But as journalists what is our training? If violence against women is not reported properly then we are not serving society. And it is our poor reporting and unchecked sensationalism that is giving way to social media," he explained.

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