SALT LAKE CITY — When explosions or gunfire ring through Pakistani cities, local journalists must cover the conflict knowing their homes are among those in danger.
"Recently there was a tragic incident where militants attacked a school, and journalists are always at the front line of this, out there reporting it," said Kausar Awan, a broadcast reporter from Pakistan among a group of journalists visiting the United States.
"We think this is an integral part of journalism. You have to be brave, you have to be the one that goes out there and cover the story. We can't parcel it out and separate the danger that comes with the job," Awan, who speaks Urdu, said through an interpreter.
The group of seven Pakistani journalists stopped in Utah as part of a 21-day trip, made possible by the U.S. State Department and the International Visitor's Leadership Program. So far they have visited newsrooms and journalism organizations in Washington, D.C. and Tampa Bay, and they will finish their trip in New York City.
Hosted in Utah by the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy, the group met Thursday with journalists at KSL and the Deseret News.
Reporting in Pakistan, the journalists cover militant fighting, U.S. drone strikes, and the areas where the War on Terror has reached into their country. Together they are striving to establish ethical reporting practices and learn how to best report important stories without creating undue alarm.
"One of the things we want to learn is how to report on incidents without creating panic," said Saadia Sehar, speaking through a translator. "There seems to be an understanding in Pakistan that words need to be chosen carefully, and we feel the same needs to be done here because the media in both countries often plays a role in dividing the two countries, especially when they report on conflict situations."
Kiran Khan was pleased to see similarities in the day-to-day work of American journalists and herself, but she can't deny that the reporting conditions can vary drastically.
"In Pakistan we have to work in so many conflict situations, we have to face so many conflict situations," Khan said. "Today when I was talking to an investigative journalist, she was agreeing with us that (she) had never worked in that kind of environment but we have the same passion for journalism and we are doing the best we can."
Shazia Hasan, a newspaper reporter, hopes the group has also been able to create bonds with the Americans they have met, introducing themselves as Pakistani citizens as well as journalists.
"This is an opportunity to come to the U.S. and, through interaction, learn more about the people here and tell them about ourselves and what we do," Hasan said. "It's a way to understand them better and a way for them to understand us just as people, understanding how people are here and what they think about our country, and they can ask us what we think about them."
Hasan said she was nervous to come to the U.S., having been told she may be treated poorly for wearing Hijab. She chose to wear "western clothes" instead, but soon realized that her colleagues who wore Hijab for the trip didn't encounter any problems.
"These are all experiences that are counter to what I reported, and so when I go back, these are things that I will personally write and report on and that will hopefully change perceptions," Hasan said.
Approaching the end of her trip, Aimen Tahir shared her appreciation for the kindness she has felt in the U.S.
"I've been overwhelemed with the love I have (felt) from American people and I am taking back that memory," Tahir said. "I hope that Pakistan and American relations will get stronger and I am hoping we will continue to help each other. Our message is love and peace, we don't want war or extremism, in our country or our borders."
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