By Larry Goldbetter
President's Report: My Trip to Pakistan
More than 200 journalists traveled from around Pakistan to participate in the International Media Conference hosted by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) in Karachi last month.
The event underlined the International Federation of Journalist’s (IFJ) global campaign to end impunity against journalists, and drew attention to the 100 journalists killed in Pakistan over the last decade.
I was honored to represent the National Writers Union at the event. The international delegation included IFJ representatives from Canada, France, India, Iran, Kenya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately our colleagues from Afghanistan, Somalia and Nepal were unable to attend for various reasons, including the Nepal earthquake.
Often caught in the crossfire between the military and the jihadists, our brothers and sisters in Pakistan face much greater challenges in doing their work than we do, and yet they are passionately committed to a free press, seeking out the truth, and defending the public’s right to know.
I had an opportunity to meet Iqbal Jaffri and Nasir Zaidi, two retired journalists who were tortured and whipped under Pakistan’s military dictatorship (1977-1988), and Fouzia Dahar, whose brother Shan was murdered in 2013. His killer(s) have never been arrested.
The conference opened May 1 with a big dinner on the lawn of the governor’s residence, and was attended by political and media dignitaries. The evening ended with a torchlight procession in honor of the journalists killed in Pakistan. The next two days were filled with workshops, presentations and debates. They included: “The Crisis of Impunity,” “Embedded Journalism and its Implications,” and “Gender and Media,” presented by women from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The number of women and young people in attendance was impressive. I gave a presentation on “Media Governance Reforms.”
We were treated to another feast on Saturday night, this one sponsored by ARY News and the ARY Digital network, and hosted by founder and president Salman Iqbal.
I can’t overstate how warmly our Pakistani colleagues welcomed and embraced the international delegation. We reassured them that they are not alone, and they inspired us with their bravery and camaraderie. They certainly deepened my commitment to international solidarity. Since my return, I have been in regular touch with a number of our colleagues through email and FB.
A couple of the PFUJ members live and work in the US. One publishes a paper in the Urdu language, which is distributed in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Another works for Voice of America in Washington, DC. At least one colleague plans to visit New York over the summer, and I invited him to attend our Delegate Assembly. A woman sportswriter is hoping to cover the US Open in September.
I’m grateful to PFUJ President Rana Muhammad Azeem, Secretary General Muhammad Amin Yousuf, KUJ President G.M. Jamali, and General Secretary Wajid Raza Isfahani, for extending the generous invitation for me to attend the conference in Karachi, and for taking great care of me while I was there. I’m also thankful for Mazhar Abbas, Farooq, Tahir and Jawaid, who all got me everywhere I needed to be. And of course all the brothers and sisters who made me feel at home. I intend to work even harder to convey the urgent message of the more than 10,000 members of PFUJ to our members and the broader community here in the US.
Pakistan photo: Top and bottom, Karachi, Pakistan; center, Larry Goldbetter with Iqbal Jaffri; Fouzia Dahar; banner of fallen comrades; Nasir Zaidi.
NWU SPONSORS SCRATCH ISSUE
In its first official act, the new National Executive Committee (NEC) voted to move forward with a strategic partnership with Scratch Magazine (scratch.net). This was a follow-up to the original presentation by the magazine’s co-founder and editor, Manjula Martin, at the National Executive Board meeting last November, at which the leadership expressed support for developing a closer relationship between the two entities.
Scratch is about the business of our craft. The readers are all types of independent writers trying to earn a living doing what we love. NWU and Scratch share a general mission around empowering writers, while holding accountable the businesses that pay us.
Who Pays Writers, Scratch’s non-profit project, compiles data on pay rates and other economic issues directly from working freelancers—the NWU’s target audience.
Our next step will be to sponsor the Summer 2015 issue of Scratch, which will include:
NWU logo and custom text at the end of each individual article
A mention of NWU in the body of the editor’s letter
Social media cross-promotion (Twitter once a day for the first week of the issue’s release. Stand-alone full-page ad in digital, PDF, and ePub editions)
Every NWU logo will be a live link to our new website. The summer issue will be entirely free to read, which means far more people will see it than when it is pay-walled. Free-to-read articles get, on average, about 7,000 page views per week, most commonly on iPhone/iPad apps, but also on the web. Vice presidents David Hill and Pamela K. Johnson will work with Manjula Martin on the logistics of our sponsorship.