Parhlo, an online news and media publication, has had some pretty problematic news coverage lately.
The biggest problem we noticed within parhlo’s coverage is their coverage of women. When looking at Parhlo’s feed, you notice a certain viewpoint they are trying to showcase. Nearly every publication has that. Within Parhlo’s feed, you’ll notice that their understanding of women’s issues can be problematic.
The first major problem we noticed was a couple of weeks ago actually. They were covering a viral video of a mother alleging her 15 year old daughter had been raped and nothing had been done about it. Within the video, she named the accused. After the mother’s video went viral, leaked videos of the mother found their way to social media.
In most places, dishonoring a women through any perceived act of sexual behavior is used regularly to discredit allegations of rape. In Pakistan, a more conservative society, this is pretty easy. Instead of understanding that, Parhlo decided to portray the mother and daughter in a certain light that now may hamper their case. Even the title alone is enough to further propagate the narrative that women are at fault for the crimes committed against them.
This isn’t the only time they have done such a thing. They reposted a picture shared by a user, in which it talks about how men and women need to take responsibility for men gazing at women, by relating it to religion. Within the post, it talks about how men need to stop blaming women for their vile behavior, which is true. But they go on to say that women should cover themselves. While it’s not clear how much they mean, this again furthers the idea that women’s clothes defines the treatment they deserves, or that a certain clothing “may be asking for it”.
Get married young
According to Parhlo, we should all get married young. While giving advice to people is completely within their right, to give that advice without understanding the consequences of such statements is a problem. Many women are pressured into marriage at a very young age. For their families, marriage is the way through which their daughters will achieve success and happiness in life. As a result, women are denied access to education and employment opportunity. This is a grim reality of our society. By putting this type of article, and headline, out there, they reinforce the idea that women should marry young. The article does say society should stop putting so much pressure on men, which is true. But have you noticed how Parhlo only gets the understanding of the male point-of-view right?
What about forced conversions?
For one, to use religion to justify nearly any aspect of their articles can be problematic. It makes critique of such stances hard, as religion is a sensitive topic. And for good reason. However, because of this, it should be used appropriately. They biggest problem isn’t even how often they use religion to justify their viewpoint. In the past few months, the Parhlo team had reported on two cases of Hindus converting to Islam willfully, and the difficulties they faced.
The truth is, these type of stories are important. These stories do reflect a part of our society that needs to be seen. However, within these two months, there have been multiple cases of forced marriages and conversions of Hindu women, none of which were reported by them.
None of those stories were covered. This is pretty scary, as this form of one sided view does not showcase the true nature of the situation. Rather than sticking to a one sided perception that reinforces stereotyping, do coverage that showcases the true nature of the situation.
Talking about one-sided views;
The portrayal of Meesha Shafi
The Meesha Shafi and Ali Zafar case has been in the headlines for over a year now. Many publications have taken sides throughout this time, and Parhlo showed theirs.
As you can see, the headline alone is enough to show what side Parhlo is on. The things Parhlo forgets is that the case was dismissed because of a technical situation, that they did not have an employee- employer relationship. By portraying Meesha Shafi has this conniving women who has caused so much damage by coming out with her story, women who have been harassed will be reluctant to do so now.
Did I really read that?
Yup, they literally had a headline like this. A little ton deaf given the stereotyping Pashtun people face in our society. By linking their language, a core part of any culture, to Jinns directly in the headlines, you only propagate this narrative of stereotyping. While reporting on the study is fine and fair play, having clickbait headlines without understanding the consequences of their actions is problematic for a media company.
Does any of this even matter?
Yes! Media organizations have the ability to influence people’s perceptions about reality. By reinforcing problematic views within the digital world, Parhlo becomes part of the problem. Rather than break ground and make people more open-minded, they further feed into society’s problematic nature.
They aren’t all bad
The thing is, they have gotten quite a bit together. Their coverage on taboo topics such as periods is refreshing, especially given the other content we have seen. However, this doesn’t absolve them of anything. It just shows that they are capable of change. Parhlo is a little more complicated than expected, just like the news stories they refuse to properly cover. Maybe it’s time they reevaluate some of their views.