Journalists, media gatekeepers, representatives of Civil Society Organisation(CSOs) and non-government organisations(NGOs) based in Barisal have expressed their opinion to take multiple effective measures to ensure fundamental needs of rural poor. Many of those affected by devastating cyclone Sidar are yet to recover their losses. Besides, continuous river erosion and impact of climate change have compounded the plight of people. The number of displaced people is greater than before. They have also mentioned that most rural people have little access to justice, freedom of expression and information.The ordinary people in the region are trapped in a vicious cycle of corruption. On the other hand, the participation of local people in development activities is not good enough. Even public service deliveries in rural areas have the lack of transparency.
Media people and the CSOs representatives believe that the government alone cannot address all these issues. Integrated efforts are needed to ensure the maximum benefits to local people. So, programmes should be taken on priority basis considering public needs where the participation of targeted people must be granted. They have mentioned it in a News Network media development programme on democracy and human rights issues, supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).
A ten-day-long programme was organised from 10 to 20 January 2016 at Barisal divisional headquarters to improve the professional capacity to promote and defend democracy and human rights issues. It included five-day training for local journalists; day-long networking meeting with media gatekeepers, including editors, executive editors and news policy planners of local media houses, and four-day media training for CSO and NGO representatives. The initiative was the first of its kind in this region. All the participants found the programme effective and useful. This initiative has given them a better understanding on democracy and human rights issues, and helped increase their capacity to highlight the issues publicly with more confidence.
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Barisal district Md Abul Kalam Azad attended the closing session of journalists training and distributed certificates among the participants. Mr Kalam highly appreciated the initiative and said media is the fourth estate in a democratic society and there was a necessity to further strengthen its role. He urged the journalists to practise fair journalism and report accurately without distorting information.
The gatekeepers of local media houses expressed their dissatisfaction over the distribution of government advertisements. In fact, public advertisements are the main sources of local media’s income but these days most advertisements go to national media houses. They urged the government to revise the distribution policy so local media can play their due role for public welfare. They voiced concern that many of the local media houses may be shut down for lack of advertisement revenue. Editors also proposed raising funds for local and community newspapers to enable them to effectively address social issues.
Speaking on the occasion, the newly-trained journalists and editors raised the issue of their professional safety. They said they often receive threats on their lives. Dozens of journalists fell victims to attacks and torture by miscreants, vested interest groups and law enforcement agencies.The attackers resort to various types of methods to try to silence journalists. For example, a few months ago miscreants tried to kill a journalist by injecting poison into him. He survived as local residents took him to a hospital quickly. Representative of civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-government organisations (NGOs) said local government bodies should not be used to serve political purpose. Instead, these bodies should be motivated to work for society independently, which will provide more benefits to grassroots people.
News Network has trained them to improve their ability to highlight rights-based issues through incident reporting, success stories in relevant fields, conducting case studies and sharing those to mainstream media and in social media for wider coverage, advocacy and campaign. News Network