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Training/Seminar on Initiatives for Democracy Building: Roles & Responsibilities of Journalists in Voters and Civic Education

Organised by National Media Development Center (NMDC)

26-27 July 2007, Surkhet, Mid-West Nepal


Background

It has been found out that Nepali people are more concerned with the democratization process of the country. Political imbalance, their disgusting activities at different regions and thin sight of the political leaders, the Terai, Bhabar Pradesh and Janajati issue is getting intertwined. Nepali people are a dozen steps ahead of than the leaders of eight political parties. The single voice of the participant journalists and people of the Mid-west region is that the parties should be above than their petty political and individual interest and the journalists people should be more responsible to inform the people and set a concrete idea in relation with the CA poll.

Large parts of the population including media people are not yet clear about the difference between CA Election and parliamentary election. For the first time in history the people of Nepal are expecting to be involved to make their own Constitution through Constituent Assembly (CA) election. Political parties are not clear enough or they do not like to tell the truth to the people. But, CA election is vibrantly important for the institutionalization of democracy, maintaining rule of law and good governance including economic development of the country. Journalists always remained in forefront in democratic movement of Nepal and it is the only wide reach and effective means in educating the people to make CA election happen. Therefore, journalists must be well informed on CA issue and its aspects being responsible and accountable before informing the people through their respective media.

National Media Development Center (NMDC) a media management and journalism training, and research center established for the empowerment of provincial media has been involved in various activities. One of the major current 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.

As per the NMDC's strategic plan to organize 14 zonal level media training program on: Democracy building: Roles and Responsibilities of journalists in voters and civic education, it has organized 3-zonal level programs at Palpa, Kathmandu and Surkhet in cooperation with Department of Information (DOI) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). The two programs at Kathmandu and Surkhet was supported by the Foreign Ministry of Germany in coordination with FES Nepal office. So far, in total, 138 editors and reporters of 16 districts participated in our program and got an opportunity to learn more about CA and their role in election reporting.

In this Surkhet program editors and journalists of all districts of the proposed zone were invited and made them involved in a group work to discuss on democracy, CA, CA procedures, electoral process and system, state mechanism, federal system and, voters rights and roles and responsibilities of journalists. The objective of the training is to widen participant's knowledge on democracy, CA election issues and make them able to disseminate content-wise information fairly and impartially to the people.

This is the progress report of the two-day Training/seminar organized in SURKHET mid-west in co-operation with FES Nepal on 26-27 July 2007.

Rational of the two-day program

Surkhet is the headquarter of Bheri zone that lies in mid-west Nepal which has 5 districts belonging 2 districts in Terai and 3 in remote hills. Except Nepalgunj, all other district are backwad and remote in terms of media as well as in education and development. Most of the journalist participants from Bardia, Dailekh and Jajarkot had participated first time in such a program which they found was inspiring. Their voice justifies on the importance of such programs. 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. How can they deliver the message unless they get inhaled on the issue? This program therefore was planned and intended to make the journalists well informed on democracy, CA, civic education and their roles and duties so that they will be able to inform the people true information.

The journalists of this region do get far less opportunity to learn from seniors and experts and also to expose what they have learnt. NMDC in cooperation with FES organized this program giving high priority for the participation from the remotest districts as well as women. The program found so impressive when 15 journalists-(girls)out of 49 actively participated from all districts. This two-day program become able to make journalists understand on democracy, CA, CA election and voters rights including roles and duties of media, so that they become able to report it fairly, honestly, impartially and responsibly to readers, viewers and listeners. The program was successful enough to think about analytical news rather than the old political stories.

Overall Objective

The overall objective of the training/seminar was

a) To empower district journalists to strengthen the national response in building 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. The major contents of the program were:

  1. Role of Press in Democracy" and "Fears for Nepali Press"
  2. Democracy, Constituent Assembly and International practices and experiences
  3. Structure and procedure of CA, Sources of information, Interim constitution and Electoral process of CA, Federalism
  4. Level of understanding regarding CA and role of media in promoting the level of awareness,
  5. What should be done to strengthen media and journalists regarding CA?
  6. Development of Journalism and its changing role,
  7. Importance of Accountability of the Press,
  8. What makes the Press accountable?
  9. Role and responsibilities of free press in democracy,
  10. CA, Election, Press Freedom and responsible media,
  11. Challenges of Nepali Media in the coming CA election and how to cope with them?
  12. Group Work and presentation on 'Problems and Challenges of Nepali Media in relation to the CA Election.'
  13. Strengths and weaknesses of local media, Practices and trends of reporting in local media, particularly FM radio, Origin of journalistic ethics and code of conduct,
  14. Securities measures on election reporting

Strategies/Approaches

As per the strategic plan of NMDC, this is the third program organized in Surkhet in cooperation with FES Nepal.

Geographical Coverage:

NMDC has planned to organize this type of training in 14 zones. This is a program of Bheri zone in which there are 5 districts namely- Banke, Bardia, Dailekh, Jajarkot and Surkhet. Editors and reporters from these 5 districts were invited in the program. While inviting participants special attention was given to the districts such as Barida, Jarjarkot and Dailekh. Even though Bardia lies in Terai, it is often neglected, so we have invited one representative from each media from these districts. An, only 4 journalists were invited from Banke. Similarly, Jajrakot and Dailekh are the remotest mountain districts. It took two-days to arrive at Surkhet from Jajarkot. There was an encouraging participation from women journalists also from these two districts. It is proved that as far and as we organize programs in the remotest regions/districts there is large number of participation with great learning intuition.

Inclusive Policy:

NMDC in consultation with FES adopted a clear, inclusive policy while selecting the participants. For this particular region, special attention was too given for the participation of women and ethnic minorities. NMDC invited media trainers, women journalists, and journalists from ethnic minorities and marginalized and disadvantaged groups. Special attention was given to women journalists working in FM radio stations.

Target Group

The target members of this two-day training/seminar program were the editors and reporters of print and electronic media. NMDC in consultation with FES and FNJ Surkhet branch had invited journalists/editors/reporters from each media outlets. However, all journalists were invited from Surkhet as it being the organizing district.

Outputs

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

1. Capacity of 49 editors and reporters of 5 districts of Bheri 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 their roles and responsibilities during CA election reporting;
4. News coverage increased.

Participation

On the basis of the developed criterion, NMDC sent written invitation letters to the journalists of dailies, weeklies, and FM radios stations and reporters of mainstream media as well as foreign media including BBC-Nepali reporter.

The number of the participants from 5 districts was 49 including 15 women and 11 from ethnic minorities. The participant journalists were from print- daily, weekly, and FM radio stations and TV reporters. The list of the participant journalists is attached in Annex 'A'. Apart from Bheri zone there were two participants from Kalikot. The details of the participants on the basis of Media, Gender and Ethnicity and Districts are given below.

a. Media Representation:

Media Daily Weekly Radio/online TV FNJ/Media Organization Total
Total Number 10 7 19 3 10 49

b. Gender:

Detail Women Male Total
Total Number 15 34 49

c. Ethnicity:

Detail Janajati Others Total
Total Number 11 38 49

d. Participation on the basis of Districts:

District Banke Bardia Dailek Jajarkot Surkhet Total

Total Number

4 5 6 5 29 49

Highlights of the Program

Opening Session

Before starting a formal training seminar an informal inaugural program was also organized about an hour. Mr. Moti Paudel, President of the FNJ Surkhet welcomed all the participants of five different districts. He stressed on the need of training to the journalists.

Mr. Kanchan Bharati, President, Revolutionary Journalists Association, Ms. Illa Bhandari, Press Chautari, Mr. Dev Kumar Subedi, Press Union, Krishna Bahadur Hamal, Layer and Krishna Bahadur Bashyal, Vice -President FNJ Center highlighted on different political issues, constituent assembly and media role. Resource person and Journalists Mr. Vinaya Kumar Kasajoo highlighted on the role of journalists to make the people aware on forth coming election.

In a closing session from the Chair, Mr. Bishnu Prasad Sharma, President, National Media Development Center (NMDC) highlighted on the need of responsible media for democracy. He said without strong and independent media democracy could not be institutionalized. Welcoming to all, he requested the participants to participate actively and get benefit digging out knowledge from experts on different aspects during the program.

Training /Seminar Session

This two-day training/seminar program was divided into 7 different sessions. Mr. Motilal Paudel Chaired the second session, in this session discussion was held on challenges to the local journalists while reporting on CA election. In third and fourth session discussion was held on media responsibilities, role of media in democracy building and CA.

At the end of the first day, the participants were divided into 6 different groups and assigned to present next day on the given two issues. The issues were:

i) What are the threats and challenges while reporting on CA and what are the recommendations?
ii) What are the challenges of local media in respective at their resources, manpower and capacity building opportunities and what could be the solutions?

In the second day's session, discussion was held on different aspect of CA, need of CA in Nepali context and role of journalists, media accountability, and basic rules of election reporting. The leader of the 6 groups presented their findings. The detail of the program and recommendations is below.

The resource persons of the two-day program were Mr. Dev Raj Dahal, Head FES, Kashi Raj Dahal, Constitutional expert and Chief of Administrative court, 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, 6 participants independently expressed their experience of the two-day program. Most of them have requested to organize this type of program at district level; facilities from Department of Information and Press Council should easily be made available in the remotest districts. Participants from Dailekh and Jajarkot made special request for basic journalism training as no one training yet has been organized in these districts.

Recommendations from Surkhet

Budget

The financial support for this program was supported by Foreign Ministry of Germany in coordination with FES Nepal Office. The financial statement of the program has already been submitted at the FES office, Sanepa.

 
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