By Waleed Khan 

Preetam Das Balach has been highlighting the issues facing his community in Cholistan.

Rahim Yar Khan, a district of South Punjab has a sizeable population of Hindu community residing there but they have a complaint with the mainstream media that their issues and culture are seldom given due space in are seldom given space or coverage. One of the reasons for their complaints is that they do not have fair representation in mainstream media.

Even if any journalist from a minority community makes it to the mainstream media, he is never given the opportunity to raise the issues of his community. PakVoices has talked to Preetam Das Balach, a veteran Hindu journalist from hailing from the Cholistan.

Balach has been associated with media field for the past 20 years. During this period, he has worked with various local newspapers but has been working with Express newspaper and other national newspapers since 2005.

“There is no shortage of issues worth reporting such as a temple caved in or closed. This news never gets published. Journalists send this news but it never makes to the newspaper”

“Few media persons think that giving coverage to injustice faced by minorities can cause riots.”

Like Preetam Balach, many journalists disagree with this opinion and say that the aim of raising issues of minorities in the media is to draw attention to the injustice they are facing.

Sabookh Syed, who has extensive experience of reporting minority issues in-depth, says, “When I report sensitive issues of minorities, some people react inappropriately to such stories. They view the issues in relation with India and America. People often label me “western agent” without thinking.”

“Only that news which is picked up by International medi gets attention in the mainstream media. Due to lack of interest in minority issues, many important stories do not make it to the surface.”

Balach is seen reporting a story from the Cholistan Desert.

He further added, “Sometimes the jargon used in the media about minorities is also inappropriate.” “Due to less representation of non-Muslim communities in national media, use of inappropriate and unfitting words are normal.”

After reporting on minorities issues in mainstream media for over a decade, Syed concluded that until journalists are trained on how to report on minority issues, superficial reporting will continue on media.”

“Many journalists commit such mistakes unintentionally because they have never reported on minorities issues seriously.”

He added that if journalists do serious reporting about the rights of non-Muslim Pakistanis, they are likely to be labeled with the same faith.”

He continued, “If they receive an invitation from any embassy, at times this becomes the evidence of their “crime”. They (the journalists) are blamed in the following words: “People like these are responsible for attempting to pave the way to repeal blasphemy laws in Pakistan. So a soft corner for the rights of a minority group can present you in the society as an agent the very next moment.”

To the extent, Preetam Das Balach is lucky that he has worked as a district reporter for Express Newspaper in Rahim Yar Khan but he never got a chance to progress beyond this mark. “Some people do not want individuals from minorities to come forward because they are biased against them.”

He ended his conversation with PakVoices raising a question for the media saying, ” Can a Hindu become an anchor in Pakistani mainstream media?”

Waleed Khan is a citizen journalist working with PakVoices from Rahim Yar Khan. 

Edited by Hasan Khan 

Translated by Muhammad Arsalan

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