Rabia Mehmood, a journalist in the Lahore bureau of Express 24/7 Television in Pakistan, has received the 2010-11 Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship. Mehmood is the sixth recipient of the annual fellowship, which gives a woman journalist working in print, broadcast or online media the opportunity to focus exclusively on human rights journalism and social justice issues. The award is offered through the International Women's Media Foundation and is sponsored in part by MIT’s Center for International Studies.
Beginning this month, Mehmood will spend the nine-month fellowship as a research associate in residence at CIS. She will also spend time at The Boston Globe and The New York Times.
The fellowship is named for Elizabeth Neuffer, a Globe reporter and IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner who was killed while on assignment in Iraq in 2003. Neuffer’s life mission was to promote international understanding of human rights and social justice.
As a reporter for Express 24/7 Television, Mehmood, 27, creates news features and special reports on courts, crime, human rights, politics, socio-economic issues, health, environment and culture.
Based on what she observes in her coverage, Mehmood believes that the core issues behind the lack of social justice in her country include incompetence, nepotism, police negligence and corruption.
She wrote in her fellowship application: "It seemed like destiny to become a part of the news media at a time when Pakistan is going through the most volatile phase of its history."
Throughout her career, Mehmood has reported on topics such as women’s rights, freedom of speech and political unrest. She has covered the survivors and victims of terrorist attacks, suicide bombings and hostage sieges carried out by militants in Lahore. Mehmood has also reported on internally displaced people who left Northwest Pakistan as a result of insurgency by terrorists and military offensives.
From December 2008 to April 2009, Mehmood covered the detention, court case and release of Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Jamat-ud-Dawa, the charitable wing of Lashkar-e-Toiba, a militant organization. Jamat-ud-Dawa was banned by the United Nations’ Security Council due to its links with terrorist attacks in India. After the organization was banned, the Pakistani government put Saeed and three other officials under house arrest and subsequently tried them in court.
During the Neuffer Fellowship, Mehmood hopes to explore topics such as the failure of the Pakistani government to support human-rights protection and the use of religion by extremist groups seeking power and political control. For example, in Pakistan’s Northwestern province Khayber-Pakhtunkhwa, conservative extremist groups have blown up schools, halted polio vaccination campaigns and banned cultural activities, Mehmood says. These groups are adamant that women’s roles should be restricted. Mehmood hopes to investigate the groups’ use of violence and advocacy of rigid boundaries and their impact on the political system of Pakistan.
Mehmood holds a master’s degree in mass communication and media studies from Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore and a bachelor's degree in mass communication and English literature from Lahore College for Women University.
"Rabia’s work in Pakistan demonstrates a dedicated and brave pursuit to expose the dark underbelly of social injustices. We look forward to her time at MIT and are honored to have her among us," said Richard Samuels, director of CIS and Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT.
The Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship is a project of the Elizabeth Neuffer IWMF Fund, which is generously supported by Peter Canellos, Mark Neuffer, Carolyn Lee, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Boston Globe Foundation, The New York Times Company Foundation, Boston Scientific, MIT Center for International Studies and friends and family of Elizabeth Neuffer. For further information about the fellowship, visit www.iwmf.org/ neuffer or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded in 1990, the International Women’s Media Foundation is a vibrant global network dedicated to strengthening the role of women in the news media worldwide as a means to further freedom of the press. The IWMF network includes women and men in the media in more than 130 countries worldwide. For more information, visit www.iwmf.org.