|Pakistan||Bytes for All (B4A)||75,000 EUR||2018-2020|
|Theory of Change||Themes||Donor|
|Intermediate Outcome 1, Intermediate Outcome 2, Intermediate Outcome 3||Access to Information, Accountability, Inclusive content, Trust in media|
Pakistan has one of the most hostile media climates in the world. Freedom of expression continues to be constricted, violence against journalists and media professionals is increasing, and perpetrators of such crimes enjoy a high level of impunity. Independent, critical and reliable media are difficult to find, and Pakistani journalists often risk their lives to do their jobs. The media’s struggle is particularly clear in the remote regions of Pakistan, which are considered media dark zones.
PakVoices is a platform with content from citizen journalists in several regions in Pakistan. It is operated by Bytes for All, which is a Pakistani human rights organization and research think tank with a focus on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). They operate in media dark areas with almost no local journalism and little coverage in national media. Many important social and community issues in rural Pakistan go unreported which often exempts the authorities from taking action. Bytes for All wanted to change this, and so decided to develop a platform for citizen journalists who could generate awareness about the problems facing these underrepresented communities.
Build up a strong network of well-trained citizen journalists, to fill the ‘media dark’ gap and bring attention to underreported areas by calling for action on important social and community issues.
Build enough trust so that citizens engage with local media and feel empowered to voice the needs of their communities and, ultimately, hold local authorities to account.
- Set up and trained three networks of citizen journalists, in southern Punjab, Balochistan, Tharparkar
- Set up and operates the PakVoices platform, where the content produced by these citizen journalists is published
- In 2017, B4A established a citizen journalism centre for PakVoices based in Gwadar. The centre provides internet access (where citizen reporters can file their stories) and a safe space for female citizen journalists. Professional journalists also use the centre’s facilities.
- The centre has emerged as a pivotal source of information and alternative platform for the citizen journalists who would not otherwise have access to press clubs.
- The creation and maintenance of the Pak Voices platform
- B4A selected and trained citizen journalists from rural regions (southern Punjab, Balochistan and Tharparkar)
- The editor of Pak Voices and the countrry director of B4A met with several local organisations along the Makran coast in Balochistan to encourage greater participation in, and cooperation with, the network.
- UNESCO approached B4A for cooperation – possible cooperation on election monitoring, digital security and strengthening citizen journalism
- UNHCR took up recommendations from B4A for the ICCPR – B4A are mentioned 7 times in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights report
- Other regional contributions – citizen journalists from southern Punjab, Balochistan, Tharparkar contribute to their local news via the Pak Voices platform
- Completing an abandoned bridge construction – the issue of the Nishtar Ghat bridge was picked up by national media outlets (Dawn News TV and 92 News TV) and the Punjab authorities were compelled to complete the construction after decades of neglect.
- Reopening Hindu Temples – some B4A trained citizen journalists from minority groups (e.g. Hindus) drew attention to the closing of Temples in Southern Punjab resulting in a police chief order to reopen them for the Hindu communities.
- Renovating a School in Balochistan – higher education authorities took action to make the school functional. Student enrollment has now increased.
- Pak Voices has developed a trustworthy reputation for factual reporting by consistently taking up the local issues that their audience cares about.
- Citizens actively approach Pak Voices with their issues to request them to report on a certain topic.
- Bigger news outlets have shown keen interest in the citizen journalism published on Pak Voices: The Daily Times (national newspaper) and Balochistan Point (local digital news site for Quetta city) now regularly re-publish stories and features from the Pak Voices platform, therefore reaching an even larger audience.
Role of FPU
Free Press Unlimited organised an event on Access to Information day together with UNESCO. During this event, B4A was introduced to several key figures at UNESCO. With the help of FPU, B4A team met with UNESCO to discuss possible future collaborations. It seems there will be opportunities to work together on citizen journalism and election monitoring.
FPU also submitted a joint report with B4A which is now being taken into consideration for GSP+ review. This is a scheme which allows eligible developing countries to not pay export duties to the EU. This can help developing countries work towards alleviating poverty and stimulate better policymaking.
Bytes for All website