Saturday April 14, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- It's a long way from Pakistan to the United States -- physically, emotionally, culturally and spiritually.

But Adnan Rashid has made the journey to learn more about journalism so that he can report more thoroughly about the area he lives in to the rest of the world.

A 31-year-old radio journalist, Rashid joined The Berkshire Eagle last week as a Daniel Pearl-Saleem Shahzad Fellow, selected through the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship in Washington, D.C. He will be based in Pittsfield until the fellowship ends in late August. Rashid's tasks at The Eagle will include reporting on news events, writing op-ed pieces and blogging.

Besides his journalism work, Rashid said he also plans to be involved in the community. He's interested in clearing up misperceptions that Americans have about Pakistanis and vice versa.

"We need to focus on our similarities so we have a better understanding" of each other, Rashid said. "We're always looking for the differences, and that creates more of a gap between the [two countries]."

Pearl, who began his journalism career at The Eagle and North Adams Transcript in the late 1980s, was serving as the Wall Street Journal's South Asia bureau chief in 2002 when he was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan while researching a story.

Pearl fellowships are underwritten by the Daniel Pearl Foundation and are offered to journalists from the Muslim countries that Pearl reported from.


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This year, Rashid's fellowship also honors Shahzad, the Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online who was killed in Pakistan last year. Rashid is one of two journalists who are serving Pearl Fellowships in the United States in 2012. The other is based at the Los Angeles Times.

Rashid is from Saidu Sharif, the capital of the Swat District, which is located in northwest Pakistan in a province near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

A radio team leader and producer for IMEDIA UK in Islamabad, he has also worked as a freelancer for BBC Out look. He holds a master's in journalism and mass communications from the University of Peshawar.

Rashid was selected to be a Pearl Fellow after participating in a training sessions with 15 other journalists in Karachi, Pakistan, last year.

Katie Rudolph, the program director for the Alfred Friend ly Press Fellowship, said Rashid was selected based on his experience, his recommendations, his understanding of English, and his personality.

"He was just very easy to talk to and very likable," Rudolph said. "It was interesting for us to have a radio journalist. We've never had one before."

For as much as Adnan's fellowship at The Eagle is a journalistic pursuit, it also serves to foster understanding between cultures, said Kevin Moran, The Eagle's managing editor and a mentor for Rashid's fellowship.

"Adnan has the passion required of dedicated journalists and the spirit to build bridges between cultures," Moran said.

Rashid decided to apply to be a Pearl Fellow after participating in a one-month U.S.-Pakistan journalist exchange program in Chicago last year.

"Last year I came to the United States and saw how the international media works," he said. "I found that I would need to improve my skills if I wanted to compete and represent my country in the international media."

Rashid said Swat is located a few hours from the tribal lands of Pakistan where major fighting between the Taliban and the coalition forces in the War on Terror has taken place. He has seen the conflict firsthand.

In March 2009, Swat came under Taliban rule as part of a peace agreement with the Pakistani government. But the pact quickly collapsed, and in May 2009, government forces entered the area to drive the Taliban back out.

Rashid said the government ordered everyone living in Swat to leave the area so that the military operation could take place.

His parents left the area, along with his three brothers and three sisters, but Rashid stayed behind, partly to keep an eye on his father's pharmacy, and partly to report for the BBC on the conflict between the Taliban and the government. 

"It was a really tough time," he said. "There was a shortage of food and medicine. I couldn't file my reports because there was no electricity, and we had no contact with the outside world. I just observed everything. When I came out of the area, I shared it with the rest of the journalists."

Rashid's reporting during the government occupation earned praise from his superiors.

"Adnan is an exceptionally talented and courageous journalist," stated Deinoil Buxton, a BBC producer, in his letter recommending Rashid as a Daniel Pearl Fellow. "His dedication to telling the world about the people in northwest Pakistan has been inspirational. Even when the situation became too dangerous, and Adnan was forced to leave his beloved city, he still filed reports on what it was like to be a refugee."

Rashid is the second foreign journalist chosen as a Daniel Pearl Fellow to be assigned to The Eagle. The first was Ghan ashyam Ojha from Nepal in 2006.

To reach Rashid, email him at arashid@berkshireeagle.com or follow him on Twitter at @Adnan
Swat. His blog is www.berkshireeagleblogs.com/OnTheGround.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.
On Twitter: @tonydobrow