Independent project reporting
Title: FATA Development Programme – approach: Independent project reporting
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: FATA Secretariat
Overall term: 2009 to 2015
Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) lie on the country's border with Afghanistan. This region is characterised by great need and a whole host of overlapping and often violent conflicts. In the FATA, there are no state structures at municipal level. The population is only involved in decision-making through their traditional tribal representatives. However, the last few years have seen these representatives lose much of their backing from the population or fall victim to targeted attacks by militants. The state is very limited in its ability to provide basic social services. The marginalisation of large swathes of the population, a dearth of opportunities for participation in decision-making processes, and a lack of access to basic services and income-generating activities have all engendered a deep sense of government distrust among the population. The associated sense of powerlessness and deep frustration serves as a breeding ground for extremism. The FATA region is very difficult for outsiders to access, with most of the population cut off from the progress being made within Pakistan generally.
Having received dedicated training at the University of Peshawar, journalists report independently on the project activities of the FATA Development Programme and on public opinion in the FATA region. They help to promote a responsible kind of journalism that encourages dialogue between the state and civil society.
Independent Project Reporting (IPR) is a project run jointly with the University of Peshawar and is a special feature of the FATA Development Programme. Journalism students and young journalists with professional experience complete a three-month certification course in which they study the subject of development journalism and explore the basic values of responsible journalism, such as the separation of opinion and information as the basis for objective reporting. Having completed this training, the teams of students and journalists, most of them from the FATA region, provide coverage of the programme's activities, give updates on the progress of projects and report on the state of public opinion. Owing to the precarious security situation in the FATA region, project staff do not travel to the project region themselves. Hence the implementation of the activities is managed from Peshawar in close cooperation with local non-governmental organisations, specialist institutions and technical experts. IPR journalists fulfil the role of neutral observers and reporters, and play a key part in helping to identify conflicts at an early stage.
With the Development Journalism course, the IPR project is also helping to ensure more professional coverage of living conditions in the FATA region. Through their work, the well-qualified journalists increase transparency in decision-making processes and promote constructive dialogue between the state and civil society.
The jointly developed Development Journalism course has been run six times since it was incorporated into the University of Peshawar's official curriculum in 2013, with 112 students in total, 23 of them women, enrolling in the programme. After the first three cohorts had completed the course, its structure and content were revised in collaboration with high-profile specialists from right across Pakistan. Adjustments were made to the curriculum on the basis of the experience gained and feedback from graduates and IPR teams. Among other things, a new module on conflict area reporting was added, and a module on gender-sensitive reporting of violence against women was introduced in cooperation with the Support to Good Governance programme. The goal of this module is to support journalists in carrying out gender-sensitive reporting and to raise their awareness of the issue of violence against women.
The Development Journalism course makes a key contribution to media discourse in a region whose headlines are dominated by attacks and military conflicts. At a conference in December 2014, representatives of Pakistan's largest media companies declared that they would give greater coverage to FATA development issues in future.