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'Mashaal' Marshals On Through Floods

Pakistan -- the floods have created extreme conditions for Radio Mashaal's reporters to deal with.
Radio Mashaal’s Ghilzai Amanullah describes some of the difficulties of reporting during the massive floods in Pakistan.

We have seen the dramatic images of the floods and the difficulty in getting aid to the people. How has Radio Mashaal been able to reach the affected areas?

Of course the floods have made things difficult for our reporters. Some reporters in the mountains of the Northwest have walked one or even two hours to get their story. This is not as abnormal as it may sound, as people who live in the mountains are used to walking a lot. Many wear special shoes made of leather and tires called sapi, like the Spanish zapato. But needless to say, the current conditions are especially challenging. In other places reporters had to get out and push their cars through the water. Sometimes locals helped them push their vehicles.

Despite these efforts, our reporters could not physically reach some areas. In some cases we just talked to stranded people on their cellphones, and we put some of them live on the air. Some callers had gone three days without food or water and were asking for help.
We are deeply invested in the people of this region, so deep its like we are sitting in their living rooms.

Does Radio Mashaal’s coverage differ from that of other media outlets?

We differ from the local media in two aspects: balance and depth. We cover stories from the region that are often ignored by others. Few in the Pakistani media mentioned, for example, that the U.S deployed helicopters to the crisis early on.

Secondly we do more in-depth coverage of the Northwest region, Radio Mashaal's area of focus. On a typical day the national news will put out a single story on this area, while we average 25 stories from the region per day. Also, much of Radio Mashaal's work focuses on investigative pieces.

We are deeply invested in the people of this region, so deep its like we are sitting in their living rooms. We have now launched a daily one-hour show focused on the reconstruction of Pakistan, where we plan to focus on a different community everyday so that we can get the views, worries and opinions of the people whose lives were changed by this disaster.

Were any of your reporters effected by the floods?

We had many reporters whose homes were flooded and whose families were forced to flee. Yet, most of our reporters worked non-stop when the story broke. Only after a few days did they ask for a day off to check on the damage to their own homes.

-- Joseph Hammond