Media in Pakistan cannot say they are inclusive when very few marginalized communitiy members hold decision-making positions. DW Akademie is working to foster diversity and constructive journalism in the media landscape.
"The only solution for diversity is to diversify ourselves," said Mehmal Sarfaraz, a journalist previously associated with the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. She spoke at a national diversity conference, one of a series of DW Akademie events on media diversity and constructive journalism for marginalized groups. The project was supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
"Our media is very typical in thinking and in their portrayal of local culture, women, marginalized communities and ethnicities because our newsrooms and owners lack diversity,” added Sarfaraz. "They are either from Karachi or Lahore, so they are looking into every subject with the same lens."
In December 2021, DW Akademie organized three trainings and a national conference for media stakeholders, influencers, news anchors, journalists and academics, as well as minority religious members and representatives from disabled and transgender communities.
The "Diversity in Pakistan's Media Landscape" national conference in Islamabad drew about 100 participants, including German Ambassador to Pakistan Bernhard Schlagheck (center) who spoke at the event
According to Asif Khan, DW Akademie’s country representative for Pakistan, when a newsroom is not diverse, entire communities can be missing from TV screens and radio airwaves.
"Media and government officials clearly need a proper understanding and acceptance of diversity in the areas of policymaking, human resources, workflow, content creation and the coverage of issues," said Khan.
Rethinking diversity in the news
False and stereotypical reporting also frequently affects Pakistan’s underrepresented groups, such as women, religious minorities, transgender people or the disabled. Often, this reporting leads to hate speech, especially on social media.
"Our media have the biggest responsibility to highlight sex and religious minorities in Pakistan and to create a favorable environment for us," said Bubbli Malik, a prominent transgender activist and an event participant and panelist at the national diversity conference.
The project also focuses on constructive journalism as an alternative to the traditional "if it bleeds, it leads" mindset that can exacerbate social tensions or spur conflicts. Constructive journalism offers more nuanced, contextualized, and solutions-oriented reporting toward engaging marginalized communities.
Khan feels that diversity in Pakistan’s news coverage can improve, citing enthusiastic conference participant feedback.
"With a combination of inclusiveness and constructive approach,” said Khan, "media standards and content have a huge potential to improve so that they can serve all communities in the long run."