International coverage of Pakistan has typically come through the keyboards, cameras, and microphones of western correspondents. Journalists from North America and Europe have reported on everything from politics and education to climate change and fashion. Behind the scenes – and sometimes up front – foreign reporters have partnered with local reporters who’ve acted as guide and advisor and translator all rolled up in one. It’s not a new system. Foreign correspondents have worked with local stringers in all sorts of places and while it’s a relationship that serves its purpose, there has been an ongoing critique that, ideally, Pakistanis should be the ones reporting on Pakistan.
But Pakistan’s diverse and dynamic media landscape often goes unnoticed by international audiences. Inside Pakistan, as in many places, the media is perceived as being unethical and untruthful. There’s an assumption that Pakistani media are not doing any important work despite the fact that serious reporters have made space for themselves by reporting on vital issues — reporting that can lead to danger and sometimes death for those reporters. They’ve conducted investigations into corruption, uncovered nefarious political ties, kept track of government promises that have gone unrealized, and shone a light on injustice.
In the work I’ve done with News Lens Pakistan in mentoring Pakistani reporters, I’ve always been impressed by the desire of local reporters to do their best in telling the stories of their own communities whether it’s about archeological heritage in Baluchistan or labour rights in KPK. The quality of reporting – and reporter – has been steadily improving and, as you’ll see in this issue, the stories today are of the highest caliber. Many Pakistani journalists are stepping up to play an important role in preserving democracy by making sure that powerful people stay accountable. It isn’t always easy and media aren’t always successful but initiatives like the kind of training reporters get through News Lens Pakistan are key ways to support those journalists who are helping to build a better future for all Pakistanis.