World Federation of
Science Journalists

Pakistan spotlights polio reporting

August 11, 2009 posted in Sci.Journalism 1 comment >>
Early in July Ashfaq Yusufzai looked down at his new “shiny and beautiful” Gold Medal from Pakistan’s Ministry of Health and UNICEF then spoke to about 100 medical and science reporters in a high-end Islamabad hotel conference room.

He told them that “health and science stories should be flashed by editors the same way they do with stories about Islamic militancy and the U.S.-led war against terrorism in Pakistan.

Ashfaq Yusufzai
“I also expressed concern about why science stories are overlooked in our newspapers and stressed the need for the training of the reporters so they could cover science stories with better angles,” he said.

Yusufzai was just one of many winners recognized July 7 in the Serena Hotel, and was chosen by health ministry officials to speak on behalf of all his colleagues. He has himself been working for better science reporting in his country by trying to organize a Pakistan association to join WFSJ “with a view to broaden coverage of science-related events in this country.”

He won his medal for a story on a polio victim in Australia in which the infection was traced back to its Pakistan origins. He has been covering efforts by the World Health Organization to eradicate the disease in his country.

Like the WHO doctors and nurses themselves, he has been doing it despite war in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, Northwest Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and despite efforts by extremists to convince a largely uneducated population that anti-polio vaccinations are a Western plot to sterilize Muslims.

His editor at Dawn in Peshawar, Abbas Nasir, says, “If there was a beat with the name of polio beat, Ashfaq would be the best polio beat reporter of the country.” Yusufzai also has been freelancing his stories to Inter Press Service, BBC and a host of international publications and broadcast outlets.

He and his colleagues were being recognized in the first National Health Media Awards; this year’s theme was “taking polio to the headlines.”

Pakistan is one of only five countries in the world where the polio virus still exists.

Winners were selected by editor Mohammed Mallick of The News, Ihtesham-ul-Haq, news director for Sama TV and Amir Ahmed Khan, head of the BBC’s Urdu service. They had to look at more than 2,500 print stories and 3,000 from electronic media, according to a news release from the Ministry.

Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded in each category.

posted on August 19, 2009 by  Jawad Ali
Excellent to see that Pakistan is now encourging science reporters by giving them medals. I congrat Ashfaq Yusufzai for doing wonderfully well about polio reporting but would advise him to cover other health problems such hepatitis B and C that have become a big problem for the poor people.

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