Diary from Washington DC
WASHINGTON, DC: These are the challenging times the journalists are facing in reporting the unprecedented global health crises, the world is struggling.
Amid COVID-19, reporting on such a virus that has sickened millions, killed hundreds and thousands, requires seriousness and balance, avoiding sensationalism. For this purpose, some news organizations have set up collaborated channels. Such as Associated Press has set up a Slack channel with a large number of journalist members to discuss the coverage issues and contribute to the news stories related to COVID-19.
Aside from mainstream American media, most of the South Asian media houses have appointed their correspondents in Washington, DC, and in other cities of America to report.
The journalists and pressmen of Pakistani descent living in America are a member of the Pakistani America Press Association (PAPA), a media organization with around 40 member journalists reporting to Pakistani media outlets from different States.
PAPA hosted a webinar intended to discuss the challenges faced by Pakistani American journalists in performing their professional duties, as the coronavirus crises escalate.
Twenty-five journalists and media professionals from different States and Canada participated in the discussion. The discussants lauded the efforts of Pakistani American journalists, especially those reporting from New York, the city once again Ground Zero after 9/11. “The reporters are performing their professional duties with extraordinarily limited resources,” says a journalist from New York.
The participants found it distressing that their channels in coronavirus crisis do not financially or otherwise support the reporters who are reporting from hospitals, morgues, and funeral homes for Pakistani channels. One of the reporters from a Pakistani channel caught the virus during his reporting.
Pakistani American journalists, apart from their professional duties, are also performing as a social worker and helping to provide food, medicines, and other necessities of life to people in need. They are even keeping records of the deaths caused by coronavirus to Pakistani Americans. One of the journalists from New York claims that he had buried 73 Pakistani Americans from just one funeral home. “I have provided those numbers of deaths to the Pakistani Consulate in New York,” he added.
Concerns are raised that the Pakistan Embassy and Consulates are not responding as the community has expected during this crisis. One of the participants claimed that the Pakistani students and Pakistani visitors to the US are facing difficulties. Though, Pakistan Embassy’s Press release claims that they, along with their Consulates, are “working closely with the Pakistani American community.” They claim to help Pakistani citizens who are visiting the US and could not go back due to the global air traffic suspension.
The members also discussed the gap between the journalists and science in Pakistan, as people are confused and ill-informed about the risks and threats of coronavirus. Most of the trustworthy news and analysis about the coronavirus is reported and published in English while only a limited social class could read and understand English. One of the participants suggested that authentic stories about COVID-19 require an accurate translation in Urdu for the people of Pakistan and many Pakistani Americans.
Earlier, Khurram Shahzad, President PAPA, in his introductory speech, described the importance and topic of the webinar. General Secretary Yousuf Chaudhry and member Executive Committee Meriam Sabih moderated the webinar.