Pakistan: Taneer Ahmed talks about her experience covering COVID-19

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by The Coalition for Women in Journalism

Dr. Taneer Ahmed is a Karachi-based health reporter for Samaa Digital. Ever since COVID-19 cases have surfaced in Pakistan, she has been keeping a close watch on the pandemic. We asked Taneer how she ensures the coverage of coronavirus to be factually correct in the midst of surplus information and misinformation circulating left, right and centre.

“This is my first time covering a rapidly developing pandemic. There is a bit of an information overload – and also misinformation overload. It gets challenging trying to get verified information out when media outlets are competing to break the news first,” Taneer said and added that getting authorities to respond is also another challenge. “We don’t have a proper data collection and surveillance system here, the provinces don’t coordinate with each other and often our state minister for health even quotes incorrect figures because of this lack of coordination.”

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According to Taneer, the safety of journalists amidst on-the-ground reporting in Pakistan is a challenge following a limited supply of testing kits and personal protective equipment.

“I have heard reports of some medical personnel also working without it, so giving it to journalists is out of the question,” she said and added that when she went out looking for masks and sanitisers during the early days of COVID-19 in Pakistan, the products were already sold out. “Right now we are not even sure if the ones available in the market are authentic (or not). As journalists, we still have to come to our office and go into the field which is very risky without the right protective gear,” she said when responding to CFWIJ. As someone who has been constantly consuming information related to the virus and scouring researches to get an in-depth understanding of the disease, Taneer said that she feels mentally exhausted.

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