When people got curious about journalist Meena Menon‘s experiences of reporting in Pakistan, she decided to write a book about her stint there. A compilation of the good, the bad, and the ugly. A detailed account of what stared back at her face while reporting in what is possibly amongst the world’s most dangerous territories for a journalist. It takes guts to report in terrorism-torn areas and it takes even more gumption to pen it all down.
During her stay in Islamabad, Meena experienced two bomb blasts, one right behind her house
Meena was with The Hindu in 2013, when she was stationed in Islamabad for nine months — from August 2013 till May 2014 — as its Pakistan correspondent. In May 2014, she had to return to India as the Pakistani government did not renew her visa to stay on.
When Meena got back from Pakistan, a lot of her friends and family asked her about her experience there as a reporter – and that’s when the thought of writing a book germinated. She says, “People were curious about my life in Islamabad, and I realised that there are just two other books by an Indian living in Islamabad, so I thought it might be a good idea.”
Meena’s book Reporting Pakistan was released on 22nd May, this year. She said, “The purpose of the book was to narrate a lived experience and purely to write down my experiences, so that people could read it.”
While Meena was in Pakistan, she experienced two bomb blasts in Islamabad, one right behind her house. She said that even though Islamabad was much better in terms of safety, there were unsettling events. She also had a range of other experiences, including covering protests, interviewing victims of bomb blasts, speaking to Partition survivors, visiting the sprawling, crowded Afghan refugee camp on the outskirts of the capital and more. Her book chronicles all these in detail and also includes her coverage with the high treason trial of Pervez Musharraf.
When we asked her about the people in Islamabad, she told us that the people she met there were nice to her. She said, “People in Pakistan were very hospitable. It made a difference because I was a complete stranger there. Not just my correspondent friends but even the new people that I met on a regular basis like government officials and the police were very helpful.”
“In this time and age, there is a lot of fake news. So, I would tell the young journalists to do what journalism is meant for. To write good stories and base it on fact and research.”
While there is a lot to learn from Meena’s experiences about journalism and reporting in different or difficult situations, we asked her if she had a few words of advice for the younger journalists who are working their way into the field. She made a very valid point, “In this time and age, there is a lot of fake news. So, I would tell the young journalists to do what journalism is meant for. To write good stories and base it on fact and research. I think a lot of young journalists are conscientious about it, they want to write the truth and that takes courage.”