As he and his cameraman fled a Pakistani militant firefight in 2008, Pervez Khan could think of only one thing to do to save both of their lives: wave the logo of his news organization out the window of their car at the checkpoint towers, hoping they would not be mistaken for suicide bombers.
The logo saved their lives. More than 50 journalists in Pakistan – considered one of the world’s most dangerous countries for news media – have been murdered in the past two decades, according to international press monitors.
“This shows how difficult the circumstances are,” Khan said in an interview at Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. “Even the journalists working for organizations are targeted. We are working on educating the masses.”
Khan is one of 13 Pakistani journalists and academics who are visiting American universities to study journalism and media education. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the group has examined curriculums, observed classes and met with American journalism students.
Lawrence E. Pintak, dean of the Murrow College, has worked as a consultant for two years to help develop college curriculums in Pakistan, which has seen a dramatic increase in media outlets in the past decade.
The program also allows Pakistani educators and American journalism students the chance to discuss press issues here and abroad.
Syed Shaukat Ali, head of the department of communication and media studies at Hazara University, said the primary issue to battle in Pakistan for media students is the technology to report stories effectively.
“I don’t think we have much difference in teaching methodologies in teaching in Pakistan and teaching in the U.S.,” Ali said. “The only difference we have is the availability of resources, how to teach and support the theoretical requirements with technology.”
Although universities in Pakistan have begun to close the digital divide by purchasing new equipment, educators there must also prepare students to deal with the dangers of working in the country, said Sareer Ahmad, a TV journalism trainer from Internews, a nongovernmental organization in northern Pakistan.
Some areas are more dangerous to report in than others, Khan said. Pakistani journalists face pressure from both militant groups and the government, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“I tell my students what matters the most is the truth,” Khan said. “At the end of the day, we are looking for journalism that serves humanity, not governments. Even if you die doing journalism, it’s your legacy that stays behind.”