Global Neighbourhood for Media Innovations (GNMI) organized a webinar titled ‘Remote Reporting, Journalist Safety, and the Threats of Disinformation in the Light of COVID-19 and Polio’ on Thursday February 4, 2021 on its official Facebook page.
News anchor Faisal Karim hosted the webinar. He started the Facebook live with a warm welcome to all the viewers. He went on to introduce a panel with two journalists, Attiya Akram from Quetta, Baluchistan and Syed Shahab-ud-din from Swat, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Ayesha Bano, Member Of The Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Bano also reports on polio to the Chief Minister of the province.
Karim started the discussion with a question for Akram about the issues she and other journalists had faced during the lockdown. Akram told that she caught the novel virus twice. She also highlighted the lack of awareness campaigns about the pandemic.
‘The people [here] even do not have awareness about polio. Parents refuse to get their children vaccinated against the poliovirus,’ she said. ‘They believe the vaccine will make their children sterile.’
Akram wrote a report about a polio vaccine worker who, despite getting refusal, kept on going back to the area till all families agreed on getting their children vaccinated.
The host then turned to Shahab-ud-Din and asked him about the situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He agreed with Akram that the government had not done much to raise awareness among people about the pandemic.
‘I did not see many people wearing masks or following social distancing,’ he said. ‘The journalists had no protective gears, but fortunately, only a few tested positive for Coronavirus. The rest of us remained safe.’
Shahab-ud-Din shared that not many newspapers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa pay salary to their employees. Only big TV channels offer paid jobs that too come without any additional perks, he said. He said that most of the journalists working in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the pandemic had no protective gear to use on duty.
Ayesha Bano, who had been taking notes while both journalists had been speaking, told the other side of the story, i.e., what was happening in parliament and public offices. She said COVID-19 brought a challenging time not only for Pakistan but for the entire world.
‘It was a new thing for the whole world. There was a new development every day. Pandemic brought a toll on our health system as well as on the economy,’ she said. ‘The challenging part was the ignorance of the people. Many of them had their belief in conspiracy theories. How do we educate them? How do we tell them that it is a true disease and it could take their life?’
Bano shared that the priority of the government was to provide protective gear to the health workers working in the hospital during the first and second waves of coronavirus. She also said that the government is aware of the issues of polio workers, and it had been trying to resolve those.
GNMI had also invited the spokesperson of the Government of Balochistan, Liaquat Shahwani, on the webinar, but he could not join due to connectivity issues. However, he sent a text message to Karim sharing the provincial government’s efforts to control the pandemic.
Karim took concluding remarks from all participants and ended the webinar on a note that media and state should work on parallel footings to bring change in behaviors and attitudes of the people.