Home KP,Women Rights Challenges for Female Journalists in KP: Harassment, Limited Opportunities, and Gender Disparities

Challenges for Female Journalists in KP: Harassment, Limited Opportunities, and Gender Disparities

Only 2% of female journalists in KP hold senior positions in media organizations, while the majority of such positions are occupied by male journalists.
by TNN Editor - 08 Jun, 2023 1648

Dr. Sumaira Gul

PESHAWAR: In a male-dominated society, female journalists face significant challenges while working alongside their male counterparts. They often encounter issues related to physical and emotional harassment, which have led to instances of harassment and subsequent resignations among female journalists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Furthermore, they face lower salaries compared to their male counterparts, limited job promotions, and are assigned softer beats, being told they cannot cover more significant or "hot" issues.

Riffat Anjum, a senior female journalist in KP, shared her experience, highlighting that female reporters are capable of covering any topic, just like male reporters. However, in TV journalism, female reporters are often assigned softer beats, which hinders their chances of gaining experience in covering hot issues. As a result, they miss out on international opportunities such as awards or training programs.

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Anjum emphasized that media organizations pay female reporters lower salaries compared to male reporters and fail to promote them to senior positions like senior reporter or editor. She recalled an incident when she expressed her capability to cover any issue to her bureau chief, only to be assigned the education or health beat, with the explanation that she couldn't cover the Provincial Assembly or militancy-related issues.

"Social barriers also pose significant obstacles for female journalists in KP, as they are not allowed to work alongside male journalists. Despite hundreds of females having graduated in Journalism and Mass Communication, they end up working as teachers in government or private schools. Lack of opportunities remains a major challenge for female journalists in KP, with only a small number currently working in media organizations," Anjum shared.

KP's traditional male-dominated setup, coupled with cultural pressures faced by women both domestically and in pursuing a profession, further adds to the challenges faced by female journalists. Some communities in the province are still not receptive to female journalists.

Additionally, the province's low literacy rate and limited access to higher education opportunities create a challenging environment for women considering journalism as a career.

According to a study conducted by the Women Media Center, only 3% of journalists in KP are women. Female journalists in KP reportedly earn approximately 70% of what their male counterparts earn for the same work.

Only 2% of female journalists in KP hold senior positions in media organizations, while the majority of such positions are occupied by male journalists.

The aforementioned survey by Media Matters for Democracy indicates that 64% of female journalists in KP have experienced harassment during their careers, highlighting the prevalence of this issue.

Shahida Parveen, a reporter at Daily Express, shared that the acceptance of women in the field by their male counterparts remains a significant hurdle. Female journalists have to put in extra effort to prove their talent and strive for equal opportunities, as they often face the perception of being less competent compared to their male counterparts.

She said that female journalists continuously face harassment from the general public while covering their beats. Negative comments and ridicule are common during public gatherings, creating additional obstacles for female reporters. The majority of male individuals often misbehave and show disapproval towards female journalists, considering them bound to the confines of their homes.

"Such behavior stigmatizes female journalists, who are labeled as 'bad women' neglecting their domestic responsibilities while working in the field," Parveen shared.

Dr. Rehmanullah, Chairperson of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department at Kohat University of Science and Technology, said that in Pakistan, where the female population comprises fifty percent of the total, female representation in the field of journalism is less than five percent. This underrepresentation reflects societal norms and significantly impacts public opinion.

"Negative societal attitudes towards working women are prevalent not only in KP but throughout Pakistan. Women are often considered a marginalized class dependent on men for their survival," Dr. Rehmanullah commented.

He emphasized that equal opportunities are not provided to female journalists compared to their male counterparts in KP. In Peshawar, for instance, there is no proper quota for female journalists to obtain Press Club membership, which prevents them from registering as members. Female journalists also face hurdles in participating in international training programs and fellowships due to their household responsibilities, as long travels and staying outside their hometowns are often unsuitable. While they strive to compete with their male counterparts in all fields, certain unavoidable circumstances prevent them from performing accordingly.

A report by Media Matters for Democracy sheds light on the prevalence of gender-based violence and harassment against women journalists. Despite the existence of a law to protect women against workplace harassment, many news organizations in KP still lack a sexual harassment policy. Anti-harassment committees within media organizations are often predominantly composed of male journalists, which discourages women from reporting instances of harassment due to fear of marginalization and adverse consequences.

As a result, instances of sexual harassment of women journalists in newsrooms often go under-reported, perpetuating a culture of impunity. Moreover, gender-based violence reporting in the vernacular press suffers from victim-blaming narratives and unethical editorial decisions, such as the publishing of survivors' names, further exacerbating the challenges faced by female journalists.

Qamar Naseem, a human rights activist in KP, stresses that female journalists in KP face numerous challenges within a male-dominated society, including harassment, limited opportunities, and societal attitudes that hinder their professional growth. Despite these obstacles, these resilient women continue to break barriers, pursuing their passion for journalism and striving for excellence in their field. However, addressing these issues is essential in promoting inclusivity and providing a supportive environment for female journalists to thrive.

Only by recognizing and rectifying these disparities can the full potential of female journalists in KP be realized. Efforts are needed from media organizations, policymakers, and society as a whole to ensure equal opportunities, protection against harassment, and a safe working environment for female journalists.