Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Pakistan Open Minds Trainee Gets Big Break

  • Adnan Sami and Sajjad Mubarak, participants in IWPR’s Open Minds youth journalism project.
    Adnan Sami and Sajjad Mubarak, participants in IWPR’s Open Minds youth journalism project.

A 17-year-old participant in IWPR’s Open Minds youth journalism project, Adnan Sami, was offered a full time post as an anchor on Radio Pakistan.

And 15-year-old trainee Sajjad Mubarak, 15, has begun teaching the media skills he has learnt as a project peer educator to children and adults in his community – including his school teachers and his father.

“It’s like I am blessed with a gift to speak.”
Mubarak said of what he’s gained from the IWPR project.

Sami is from the northern Pakistan region of Chitral, where the Open Minds project delivers media training to students in eight schools which then produce bi-weekly radio shows on Chitral radio with the help of two media trainers.

Sami had participated in a number of these programmes when a producer at the station offered him a job as the regular anchor on the weekly children’s magazine show Shaheen (Eagle). The show features poems, jokes, stories and information.

Adnan says he owes his break to the Open Minds project, which gave him “great confidence and knowledge which I can share with my listeners”.

Mubarak, from the Charsada area just north of Peshawar, is employing the skills he acquired with IWPR to teach journalism to members of his village.

“It’s like I am blessed with a gift to speak,” Mubarak said of what he’s gained from the IWPR project. “I learned how to communicate effectively, how to differentiate between right and wrong."

Inspired by Open Minds, Mubarak started imparting his knowledge to the children at his village’s primary school. He found that teachers were also asking him to train them, one of whom is his own father.

Elsewhere, Noor Rehman, 15, a trainee on IWPR’s youth journalism project in Pakistan, Open Minds, was the only journalist in the country to provide first-hand reporting of a suicide bombing in the volatile Swat Valley.

Rehman attributed his quick thinking and action to his IWPR training, “I like to help and to serve my village and my nation, and after the training I am observing every incident around me and I love to do this.”

When a militant blew himself up at the Circuit House in Swat’s main town of Saidu Sharif on on March 13, security forces sealed off the region, and two days later imposed a curfew as they launched an operation against the militant group that was suspected of carrying out the attack.

The security forces prevented local people from going to school and work, and patients were stopped from travelling to hospitals.

The military operation also shut down much of the local telecommunications network, so the national media could not get updates about developments in the area.

But Rehman struck lucky. On March 15, the day the curfew was imposed, he was able to use the only phone in his village that worked to call his Open Minds media trainer, Niaz Ahmad, giving him news about events in Swat. Ahmad was in the country’s capital Islamabad at the time.

Rehman told Ahmad the security forces had arrested three rebel fighters and recovered weapons from them, and described the problems the people were facing due to the curfew.

At around 10 am, following Rehman’s phone call, Ahmad contacted major national TV stations to give them this information, and it was broadcast. By 1 pm, the federal authorities in the capital had ordered a relaxation of the curfew, apparently in response to Rehman’s reports.

Even after the curfew was eased, no other reporters travelled to Swat to investigate the situation. They only took reports from the military’s media wing, Inter Services Public Relations, ISPR. Rehman remained the only civilian reporter covering the aftermath of the incident.

Ahmad is very proud of his trainee. He told IWPR he had informed TV executives that Rehman was a reliable source and a good trainee. “If he had not had any training, he would have ignored the incident like other boys,” he said.