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Two-day conference on reporting on conflict kicks off at CEJ-IBA

Karachi, June 25, 2022: If you ever wondered how veteran journalist and TV host Mir got into journalism, it was very straight-forward. He saw an advertisement for a sub-editor in a newspaper and applied. He gave a test and was hired.

“I joined the newsroom after I had graduated. After sometime I realized that I wanted to do my Masters but the question was: in what,” he shared while giving the keynote speech at a two-day conference on ‘Extreme Reporting: Conflict and Peace in the Digital Age’ held at the Centre of Excellence in Journalism at the Institute of Business Administration (CEJ-IBA) on Saturday morning.

“My father, who had passed away at this point, had been a journalism professor at Punjab University and had been pushing them to change the syllabus but nothing had happened. So I based my decision on this: I wanted to do an easy MA degree and knew that if I did it in journalism I wouldn’t have to study much and I didn’t,” he added.

Later, Mr Mir said that when he became an editor he would throw away CVs of anyone who had done a Masters in Journalism. Why? Because he knew what they had learnt in school.

It became such an issue that his boss started asking questions and so did the universities. “I told them they need to change their syllabus and they did. They started enrolling working journalists as well and this really made a difference,” he said.

And this is why, Mr Mir said, institutions and schools like the CEJ-IBA are important for the survival of journalism in Pakistan.

Mr Mir’s story really emphasized on what IBA’s executive director Dr S. Akbar Zaidi had mentioned earlier regarding the CEJ-IBA’s decision to discontinue their MS Journalism degree.

According to Dr Zaidi, this was done after the Higher Education Commission claimed that the MS Journalism course could only continue if the CEJ had at least two teaching journalists with PhDs. He shared examples of various journalism schools in the US where the professors do not have PhDs. He hoped that the HEC would reconsider its decision.

Dr Zaidi shared that this discussion about MS Journalism degree had been going on for a while. “My friends, who are editors used to say that there’s no need for a degree in journalism because you learn on the job. They would say, ‘you send someone to us, and we can make them into journalists’,” he said.

Dr Zaidi said that he was delighted to be part of the conference which brings together Pakistan’s best and bravest journalists talking peace and about the challenges they face in an age of growing conflict, from those related to control and regulations, to outright intimidation and threats.

Talking about conflict as a social scientist, Dr Zaidi said that in the social sciences, there is conflict in everything including the family – the hierarchy creates conflict and conflict can also have many forms.

Welcoming the participants to the two-day conference, Dr Zaidi said: “I hope there’s a lot of conflict in your discussion and some resolution too.”

The conference opened with CEJ-IBA’s director Amber Rahim Shamsi welcoming participants and speakers to the conference.

“The CEJ-IBA has been fortunate to gather the best and brightest in Pakistan — the participants, the mentors, the trainers. Over the next two days, we will be debating and directing the direction of journalism in Pakistan,” she said.

She compared the current situation of the country/journalism to a pressure cooker – “if you don’t remove the value, it will explode and this is why we need freedom of expression, journalism and political satire.”

When talking about journalism and this conference in particular, Ms Shamsi said: “Journalists do not broker peace, that is politician’s job. Journalists help those who seek justice — that is their fundamental job. I am hoping some of the questions in this conference will shock you, surprise you and answer one fundamental question: why do we need journalism?”

She thanked the CEJ-IBA team for putting the conference together and the US consulate in Karachi for their help and support. A moment of silence was taken to remember the journalists who passed away recently — Talat Aslam, M. Ziauddin, I. A. Rehamn, Rahimullah Yusufzai, Mehdi Hasan, Farhad Ziaiidi, Arif Nizami and Khurram Baig.

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