Reporting with nuance, despite restrictions


Reporting with nuance, despite restrictions

Penguin and Mumbai Press Club to host ‘Reporting Pakistan’ by Meena Menon in Mumbai

The recently published book ‘Reporting Pakistan’ by Meena Menon (Penguin, India) launches at the Mumbai Press Club, Glass House, Azad Maidan, on June 14, 2017 at 5 pm, followed by a reading session and discussion.

Dharmendra Jore, Secretary, Mumbai Press Cub, will moderate the discussion. Office bearers of the historic Mumbai Press Club and Karachi Press Club in 2011 signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) declaring each other as sister organisations.

Speakers include activist and journalist Jatin Desai, former editor Loksatta Divya Marathi and President of Mumbai Press Club Kumat Ketkar, columnist, author and director, The Times of India Litfest Bachi Karkaria, Scroll.in editor Naresh Fernandes, and former executive editor of Business​ World Gurbir Singh.

Meena Menon was The Hindu’s correspondent in Islamabad until the Pakistani authorities expelled her along with the other Indian journalist stationed there, Snehesh Alex Philip of the Press Trust of India, in May 2014.

They were the last Indian correspondents to be stationed in Pakistan. Since then, neither country has had any cross-border media correspondents.

Until then, both governments had for some years limited the number of journalists from the other country to work inside their borders to two. In 2011, the last Pakistani correspondent stationed in Delhi left India. He was never replaced.

Factors behind this negligence are said to include finances. News organisations are increasingly reluctant to underwrite the expenses of stationing correspondents in other countries, especially ‘hostile’ ones where their journalists have little mobility.

Indian and Pakistani journalists working in each other’s countries have been further limited by visa restrictions obliging them to live only in the capital cities. They have not been allowed to step outside capital city limits without special permission, which became increasingly difficult to obtain. Neither Philip nor Menon were allowed to travel outside Islamabad during the nine months they were there.

Her truncated stay included being followed by intelligence operatives she humourously calls Beard and Chubby (referring to their most visible physical attributes) and having restrictions placed on her movements. Yet Menon overcomes these obstacles to write on a range of subjects covering swathes of life in Islamabad.

She spoke to people from the persecuted Ahmadi community, covered protests, interviewed bomb blast survivors as well as Partition survivors, visited the sprawling, crowded Afghan refugee camp on the outskirts of the capital, wrote about Pakistan’s alcohol business Murree Brewery and described political events, including the high treason trial of General Musharraf.

Reporting from Pakistan is considered one of the more difficult—though exciting— assignments in journalism, particularly for Indians who come under additional scrutiny.

Despite her many limitations, Meena has produced a probing, incisive portrait of a conflicted society. Her book is nuanced and wide ranging, and most importantly, looks beyond politics to the human realities of Pakistani society that strike a universal chord.

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