On November 09, 2007, the public testified to the Federal Communications Commission at Seattle’s Town Hall on a hearing regarding media ownership. Although most American media companies advocate limiting or eliminating media consolidation restrictions, the crowd at the hearing and all that they represent did not; in fact, “almost all of them [were] opposed to the [FCC’s] proposed rules” according to Seattle Times staff reporter Eric Pryne and Stuart Eskenazi in their article “Seattle Crowd Blasts FCC on Big Media.” Huge conglomerates that seek media domination are eliminating the chance for local independent voices, women and minorities to thrive in American media; thus limiting the public to less diverse, low quality media content.
According to www.freepress.net, the reason why female and minority views and opinions are disappearing is because they “have been systematically shut out of ownership of our country's broadcast media.” While organizations such as Free Press continue to advocate and fight for media diversity, big businesses are instigating the elimination of media rules such as cross ownership-- which serves to protect media diversity and create competition among the media market-- to the FCC. Specifically, women in the news media carry the heaviest burden, most especially those who are not white skinned.
Though women take up about 51% of America’s population, they only own 5% of television stations and 6% of radio stations. Women like Carol Jenkins, President of The Women’s Media Center in New York City, are doing their best to “make sure women participate in all media at all levels—at the top as owners, inside as professionals, and outside as experts and informed consumers.” Still, only one out of four positions in communications/media jobs are given to women; and even then, they are unequally paid compared to men who receive about 29% more in salary—46% more if compared to women who are not white.
Similar to other forms of media, the news is a realm where women are unrepresented and mistreated: “Nearly 90 percent of reporters/writers and newsroom supervisors are white and about two-thirds are male” according to www.now.org. Also, about 33% of the top 100 syndicated opinion columnist in the United States are women. For those reasons and more, many are taking action. In other countries, women are experiencing similar situations but in a much more extreme magnitude. In Kabul, Afghanistan, under the Taliban rule, “women had been squeezed out of nearly all visible roles in society” says Peggy Simpson, an International Women’s Media Foundation writer as she reports about Farida Nekzad; there were no independent news agency until Nekzad’s work for the IWPR led to the creation of one—the Pajhwok Afgan News.
Nekzad’s passion for reporting was realized in high school before the Taliban rule; she wanted to be “a window for other women” in Afghanistan. As a teenager, she participated in the production of school papers and volunteered in other various publications. Her sole influence in reporting, a neighbor who was a reporter, further encouraged her to go into the field. Even when she had to withdraw from studying journalism at Kabul University to take refuge with her family in Pakistan, Nekzad pushed through and continued her study at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in New Delhi where she wrote articles for Pakistani and Afghan publications.
Her return to Afghanistan in late 2001 surprised and encouraged her greatly; women were working once again, they were out in the public without burkas, some were even going into the journalism profession. The kind of freedom which she saw gave her opportunity to report and further train in media among other Afghans. She started freelancing for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, moved on to AINA radio which she hosted, edited and reported on problems in an array from sports to women’s issues and politics; she furthered her reporting with publications aimed for women until she returned to IWPR working as a part time editor and trainer. Throughout her career, never once did she stop encouraging women to fight for their rights.
Along with five other colleagues, Nekzad was inspired to publish stories written by IWPR writers, especially the women. Since there were not any independent news agencies in Kabul they can count on for an outlet to these stories, they themselves went and published them. In 2004, the Pajhwok Afghan News of Kabul published news in Dari, Pashto and English. At the time, they only had “35 reporters and photographers, including eight women” according to Simpson; now, they are working with a network of reporters nation-wide and overseas.
The Pajhwok Afghan News is a web based news archive that ranges in the disciplines it reports on: politics & government; business, economics & reconstruction; education & culture; society, health & environment; security, crime & accidents; sports & entertainment. On their website, www.pajhwok.com is a bar that features a real time feed of the latest news. Along with their photo service, which features young talented Afghan photojournalists, is an up and coming audio service. Their publications are very straight forward, user friendly, and not surrounded by much advertisements or imagery.
Since their subscribers do not only include daily and weekly publications, but Afghanistan’s major television and radio stations as well, it is obvious how impactful their coverage really is and the importance of independent journalism. The Pajhwok Afghan News remains to be a successful and necessary media source since it is not afraid to report on corruption, even within death threats of those who they report on. With women not accepted as journalists and are threaten with guns, it is especially difficult to thrive; but it does not mean they are going to be weak and shrink away passively about it. The women of the Pajhwok Afghan News are especially brave and unwilling to give up their rights, even when more and more of them are being murdered and continuously threatened.