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Seminar report on

Initiatives for Democracy Building: Roles & Responsibilities of Journalists in Voters and Civic Education

Organised by National Media Development Center (NMDC)

13-14 June 2007, Lalitpur


Background

The formation of interim government on first April, 2007 with the involvement of Maoist party inspired the general public to be involved in the peace process. The interim constitution 2007 has been amended for the second time on 13 June 2007 deferring the constituent assembly (CA) poll by November 2007. The legislature parliament passed necessary bills related with CA elections. Election Commission (EC) has been fully involved to prepare necessary bylaws and other election related logistics.

For the first time in history the people of Nepal are making their own Constitution through Constituent Assembly (CA) election. People have to be aware of the role; importance, procedures, mechanism and electoral system of CA and voters rights. Journalists always remained in forefront in democratic movement of Nepal and it is the only wide reach and effective means in educating the people. Journalists must be aware of this issue of CA before informing the people through media. At the same time, they have to be more responsible and accountable in their profession so that people get accurate, balanced and true information.

National Media Development Center (NMDC) media management and journalism training, and research center established for the empowerment of provincial media has been involved in various activities. It is a hard fact that we have to organize various skill development activities to empower the media. Only the responsible media can be the nerve of the citizen. One of the major missions of the NMDC is to empower district media-journalists so that they will be able in bringing the voice of voiceless and campaign for representation of excluded and marginalized in CA elections. This approach ultimately supports to establish and nurture democratic political culture at local level.

Analyzing the existing hard reality NMDC has decided to organize 14 zonal level media training program on: Democracy building: Roles and Responsibilities of journalists in voters and civic education. It will be a zonal level program. Editors and journalists of all districts of the proposed zone will participate and involve in a group work at the program and discuss on democracy, CA, CA procedures, electoral process and system, state mechanism and, voters rights and roles and responsibilities of journalists. The objective of the training is that the participants widen their knowledge on the current issues and become able to disseminate content-wise information fairly and impartially to the people. According to the scheduled plan, it has organized two Zonal level training programs at Palpa other at Katmandu. Another program will be organized at Surkhet, Bheri zone in near future.

This is the progress report of the two-day Training/seminar organized in Katmandu in co-operation with FES Nepal on 13-14 June 2007 at Hotel Himalaya.

Rational of the two-day program

This is the iron-heated time when the Nepali media should embark on a journey that involves work, which has to be done creatively, responsibly and cautiously so that strengthening peace, as well as consolidating participatory and inclusive democracy through drafting a new constitution can be materialized. This, in reality is a very difficult task where media at first should get inhaled and then disseminate it to the people through their respective media outlets in a simple language.

As the country moves on towards the CA electin which will write a new constitution, a sustained and systematic plan has to be put to work for removing hurdles and existing confusion regarding the processes to reach the goal. NMDC, a media training center purposes to run a series of training programs to the district journalists across the country to meet the current demands.

Nepali media do break event stories about government debate, dissatisfaction, political developments, and other news; they seldom go beyond the basics for serious analysis and investigation. As an example, what "constituent assembly is" "what are the electoral process and system" "what are the rights of the citizens" means -- beyond that its product is a new constitution -- has so far not been part of public dialogue. It was therefore necessary to sharpen the understanding of journalists on CA, civic and voters education and their roles and responsibilities.

This two-day program become able to the make journalists understand on democracy, CA, CA election and voters rights including roles and duties of media, so that they partially become able to report it fairly, honestly, impartially and responsibly to readers, viewers and listeners.

Overall Objective

The overall objective of the training seminar was:
a) To empower district journalists to strengthen the national response to build democracy.

Specific Objective

a) The specific objective of the training/ seminar is:
To enhance the capacity of understanding of journalists on democracy, CA election, civic and voter's education and their professional roles and responsibilities.

Focused area of the program

The two-day program was conducted as per the content agreement with FES Nepal. The program focused on transferring of skill, knowledge and expertise on democracy, constitution, constituent assembly, civic and voter's education and the roles and responsibilities of journalists.

Strategies/Approaches

As per the strategic plan of NMDC, this is the second program organized in Kathmandu in cooperation with FES Nepal. (The first program was organized in Palpa in cooperation with Department of Information).

a) Geographical Coverage:
INMDC invited journalists from Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktpur, Nuwakot, Kavre and Sindhupalchowk to participate in the program. Journalists from Dhading, Rasuwa, Dolkha and Ramechhap will be invited in other programs. Journalists of regular (on the basis of Press council report) newspapers and FM radios were invited.

b) Inclusive Policy:
NMDC in consultation with FES adopted a clear, inclusive policy while selecting the participants. NMDC invited media trainers, women journalists, dalit journalists and journalists from ethnic minorities and marginalized and disadvantaged groups. Attention was also given to the senior journalists who usually did not get opportunity to participate in such a program.

Target Group

The target members of this two-day training seminar program were the editors and reporters of newspapers (daily, weekly, fortnightly and monthly research and investigative magazines) and FM radio stations.

This program gave high priority to journalists of reputed weeklies and magazines who usually get less opportunity to participate in such programs. NMDC took suggestions from PCN, FNJ and FES while selecting the representatives. It gave high priority to woman, janajati, madeshi and dalits.

Outputs

The major outputs of the two-day program are as following:

1. Capacity of 57 editors and senior reporters of 6 districts of Bagmati zone on CA , civic and voters education reporting enhanced
2. Understanding of journalists on CA Election, voters and civic education sharpened
3. Journalists sharpened their understanding on the roles and responsibilities during CA election reporting.

Participation

On the basis of the developed criterion, NMDC sent written invitation letters to the journalists of national dailies, weeklies, fortnightlies, investigative and research monthly magazines and FM radios stations. It also invited journalist representatives from women, media training institute, Aadibasi Janajati Journalist Association, Jagaran Media Center, Medhshi Journalists Association, Journalists from Ethnic Minority and dalit.

A total of 57 journalists from print- daily, weekly, fortnightly and monthly magazine and electronic FM radio stations and TV actively participated in this two-day program. They included senior working journalists, editors, and media trainers from 6 different districts including Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Nuwakot, Kavre and Sindhupalchok of Bagmati Zone. Apart from Bagmati zone there were one from Surkhet-Mid west and other from Mahendranagar- Far west. The details of the participants on the basis of Media, Gender and Ethnicity and Districts are given below.

a. Media Representation:

Media Daily Weekly Magazines TV Radio/online Media Trainers/Institute Total
Total number
8
23
11
4
5
7
57

b. Ethnicity and Gender:

Detail Women Dalit Janajati Others Total
Total number
9
4
4
40
57

C. Participation on the basis of Districts:

District Kathmandu Lalitpur Bhaktapur Nuwakot Kavre Sindhu Others Total
Total number
39
8
4
1
1
2
2
57

Highlights of the Program:

Opening Session

Chief Guest Honorable Mr. Subash Nembang Speaker of the Legislature parliament inaugurated the two-day training/seminar program at 09 am on 13 June 2007. Other guests on the inaugural program were Mr. Rajendra Dahal, Chairman, Press Council Nepal, Mr. Bishnu Nishnhuri, President, Federation of Nepali Journalists, Mr. Mukunda Acharya, Director General, Department of Information and Mr. Harihar Birahi, Former Chairman, Press Council Nepal and Mr. Tara Nath Dahal, Chairman, National News Agency.

Inaugurating the session, Mr. Nembang appreciating the program asked the organizer to organize such program across the country. He said that the role of the media is very important for the consolidation of democracy in the country. He further said that media can only be fostered in democracy and similarly without a strong media democracy cannot be institutionalized. Pointing for the need of responsible media he said, media should be stronger and responsible. Nepali media should play a very crucial role in informing the local people about CA. Focusing on CA election, Mr. Nembang said without CA election the achievements of April 2006 movement could not be preserved.

The President of the FNJ Mr. Bishnu Nishthuri criticizing the government's role in supporting the media said that despite government's support Nepali media has been reached in the remotest districts taking their responsibility honestly. Asking to be more responsible to the political parties he said, media's role is to make a linkage between the people and the state. President of the Press Council Nepal questioned about the credibility of Nepali media and stressed that responsible media only can support in fostering democracy. Senior journalists and former Chairman of Press Council Nepal Mr. Harihar Birahi, Chairman of National News Agency, Mr. Taranath Dahal and Director General of Department of Information Mr. Mukunda Acharya also expressed their views on the role of media during CA.

Mr. Dev Raj Dahal, Head FES Nepal welcoming to all dignitaries and participants highlighted the objectives of the two-day program. In a welcome address, he said modern society is largely media mediated as family, religion and schools are becoming weak in the socialization of citizens. Media can contribute to ease the nation's transition process by offering a number of choices that are essential to strengthen the integrative capacity of the political system and its external adaptability and open the citizens' window to cosmopolitanism.

NMDC President Mr. Bishnu Prasad Sharma Chaired the inaugural session. Addressing from the Chair Mr. Sharma said democracy always needed free and independent journalism to get started and media always should absorb the values of democracy being responsible. Nepali journalism is not beyond danger yet. Local media should be strengthened providing them abundance of opportunities. Mr. Sharma repeating the commitment of the Center requested the Nepal Government, Election Commission and donor community to support to carry out such programs at the local level. At the end he thanked all participants, guests, chief guest and FES for their kind address and remarkable support.

The opening session was organized for about an hour and all together 63 participants including the guests participated the program.

Training /Seminar Session

This two-day training/seminar program was divided into 4 different sessions. All sessions were designed with sufficient reference materials, paper presentations and interactions. The papers distributed at the seminar are attached herewith in the annex. All resource persons and Chairpersons of the sessions made clear to the queries raised by the participants. In two-day program the participants spent 15 hours including informal introductory sessions. All journalists got orientation on democracy, different aspects of CA, election procedures and electoral system, and roles and responsibilities of journalists. The participants were actively engaged in an interactions related to the topics in each session. The detailed program of each session is attached in annex 'B'.

The resource persons of the two-day program were Mr. Dev Raj Dahal, Head FES, Kashi Raj Dahal, Constitutional expert and former Secretary of Supreme Court, Mr. Neel Kantha Uprety, Commissioner, Election Commission and election expert, Mr. Vinaya K. Kasajoo, Media Trainer, senior journalists and writer and Bishnu Prasad Sharma, President, NMDC coordinated the program.

Closing and Evaluation Session

In an informal closing session, participants were asked to express their experience of the two-day program. Speaking at the session, Ms. Bishnu Sharma Gyawali said that such programs are very useful however such they should be organized in the districts. Similarly, Bishwamitra Khanal from Nuwakot said that NMDC should also think about the insurance for the journalists during the period of election reporting.

Recommendations:

i) Such programs are useful and should be organized at district level
ii) It should be training focused and should be extended for 3-day
iii) Certificate should be distributed
iv) Organization should work for the management of insurance to the journalists who will be involved in election reporting during CA election.
v) Allocated time should be managed properly

 
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