Humphrey Alumnus Delivers News in Rural Pakistan

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Humphrey Alumnus Delivers News in Rural Pakistan

Said Nazir interviews a resident in Pakistan.

Humphrey alumnus and journalist, Said Nazir, spent his Humphrey year at the University of Maryland, College Park. He interned with National Public Radio (NPR) and Radio Free Europe, while taking graduate level courses and interacting with his Humphrey cohort. Now that he has returned home he is striving to address the lack of media access in northwest Pakistan.

In reference to his time on the Humphrey Program, Said stated, “Before, I did not know how to produce a 90 second or 2-minute news bulletin for radio. But I learned at NPR and I am using those skills to produce two-minute news segments for delivery via mobile phone in tribal areas of Pakistan. The Fellowship helped me learn about the use of modern technology in dissemination of news and information.”

Said returned to the organization he co-founded, the Tribal News Network (TNN), and resumed his role as managing editor. His latest project initially provided a free mobile news service in rural areas of Pakistan, where mobile internet services are unavailable. Many people do not have smartphones, but through TNN’s service they are able to use their phone’s regular calling feature to listen to the news. The news is updated every hour and each segment includes a minimum of three news stories. It was such a great success that TNN received 631,000 calls in the first month. Due to the limited budget to support calling costs, TNN converted the programming into a paid service in October of this year. Still on average 6,000 people call the news service per day. Said added, “I realized in the US that traditional media is dying and as a media organization we should know how to survive in the digital world.”

Working with over 40 reporters, TNN produces and broadcasts a 7-minute local news bulletin from 11 partner radio stations in Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, three times a day. TNN is not a radio station itself but provides quality news and programs to partner radio stations. In addition, TNN provides news on its website in three languages, Pashtu, Urdu and English.

In addition to learning new skills and information about the use of media during his Humphrey year, Said mentioned, “[The Humphrey Program] also broadened my view about women’s participation in media and the public sphere without which a society cannot make progress. This is why now I am trying to [promote] gender equity both at the office and at home.”  The Tribal News Network is one of the only news networks in Pakistan that hires Pashtu speaking female journalists. To promote female journalists in the conservative Pashtun society, TNN has trained 22 female journalism students during its paid internship program in the last three years. Al Jazeera’s 101 East series recently released a documentary covering TNN, their methods of reporting in the tribal areas, as well as their struggle to promote gender equity in journalism.

Said credits much of his success during and after the program to networking and added, “The Fellowship experience boosted my confidence level and made me more independent and committed to my cause.” Through this newfound network, Said was able to secure funding from USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives in 2016 for his project. Said was also able to negotiate a deal with the DC based AudioNow company to set up a mobile news server. Now Pashtun Diaspora in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia can obtain the same information as their fellow citizens, through the call in service.

When asked about advice he would give future Humphrey Fellows, Said answered, “The Fellowship is a rare and unique opportunity of personal and professional growth. The new Fellows should not take it as vacation rather they should make full use of the year. They should have clear thoughts and practical goals to achieve during the fellowship.”

Since his Humphrey year Said has devoted his time to meeting important needs within his community and is representing the Humphrey spirit well in his work.  

In the photo: Said Nazir interviews a resident in Pakistan.