Reporting on forced labour and fair recruitment in Pakistan

In collaboration with Centre for Excellence for Journalism (CEJ), the ILO through European Union funded project, Global Action to Improve the Recruitment Framework of Labour Migration (REFRAME) hosted advocacy sessions with 24 media influential including Editors, Bureau Chief and senior reporters and training for 47 journalists from media organizations across the country.

Press release | Lahore, Pakistan | 21 September 2020
ISLAMABAD (ILO News): “Pakistani media does not highlight the issues of overseas Pakistani workers, their only priority is politics,” said Haroon Rashid, Editor Independent Urdu, while speaking at an online roundtable discussion on “Reporting on Fair Recruitment of Migrant Workers in Pakistan”.

In collaboration with Center for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ), the International Labour Organization (ILO) through European Commission funded project, Global Action to Improve the Recruitment Framework of Labour Migration (REFRAME) organized the two-day discussions with a group of 24 media influential including Editors, Bureau Chief and senior reporters from media organizations across the country. Since 1971, more than 11.11 million Pakistanis moved abroad for employment and have been making notable contribution to the country’s economy, however their challenges during the recruitment process, remain under reported in the mainstream media, stated Kamal Siddiqui, Director, CEJ-IBA, Karachi. He urged the media influential to extend support to journalists, investigate, produce and publish reports on labour migration from Pakistan. He emphasized on developing networks with media associations and journalists in Gulf Corporation Countries to get access to migrant workers. The participants were oriented on the significance of international labour migration from Pakistan, major challenges related to fair recruitment, the role of media influential in supporting the journalists to investigate and report these issues in a balanced and ethical way.

The REFRAME project aims at reducing abusive practices and violations of human and labour rights during the recruitment process and has engaged with the media globally and locally to improve media coverage and enhance access to reliable information and awareness on fair recruitment and promote a more balanced narrative on labour migration. The media has a key role to play in creating awareness, mobilizing and changing public perceptions, and driving policy changes, said Ms Eliza Marks, at the training workshop on “Reporting on Forced Labour and Fair Recruitment”, organized by the ILO and CEJ from September 2 to 12, 2020. The training workshops brought together a mix of 47 (6 women) media professionals from all regions of Pakistan, representing print, electronic, social media and multimedia.

Building on the ILO’s media toolkit, the trainings equipped the professional journalists with tools of right-based reporting on forced labour and fair recruitment, and to support them in producing balanced reports, adhering with ethical standards.

Migrant workers are the most vulnerable to situations of forced labour, and many are at risk during the recruitment stage. Lack of effective labour recruitment laws and practices leads to inadequate protection for migrant workers, which can translate into workers’ exploitation, including in situations of forced labour, discrimination and inequalities at the workplace and decent work deficits as well as skills underutilization and job mismatches. Freedom from all forms of forced labour – as well as freedom from child labour, discrimination and freedom to organize and bargain collectively - are fundamental principles and rights at work and the keystones of social justice and peace, stated Ms Munawar Sultana.

Ms Toppa presented key findings of the report, commissioned by ILO and CEJ on how the mainstream media in Pakistan reports on labour migration and forced labour. “The stories I came across were mostly event oriented, and required in-depth research, gender sensitive language and appropriate follow ups”. Mr Sahi used real world examples and award winning videos to help the participants understand, find, get and tell the stories, using rights based and gender sensitive approaches. Emphasizing the importance of personal and digital safety during the process of getting stories, Mr Irfan shared important sources and safety measures while getting data for developing the story.

"I belong to Southern Punjab, large number of people proceed for overseas work from my region. I never realized the significance of labour migration, challenges migrant workers experience, and value of fair recruitment. It was great experience for me to learn the new tools and rules for reporting the issues of migrant workers. After attending the training, I feel empowered to guide intending migrant workers to take regular channels for securing overseas employment and protect them against scams. This training will help me, fill the vacuum of quality reports on the issues of hundreds of thousands of Pakistani migrant workers, who end up in forced labour and exploitative working conditions due to unfair recruitment process. I thank the ILO and CEJ for providing this opportunity to learn, fulfil my journalistic responsibility with enhanced reporting skills on this important topic.” Mr Ayaz Morris, Chief Executive Officer, Master TV, Karachi.

The training will lead to a six-week mentoring to support trained journalists investigate, produce and publish their stories and submit entries for awards.