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Report of the Workshop on Civic Education for Women Journalists

Organised by Sancharika Samuha Nepal (SSN)

6-7 April 2011


Background

There are good reasons why the media is vital to civic education. Media plays a crucial role in constructing or deconstructing people's perception and belief system. Similarly, studies show that media reporting of civic and political events can influence the ways through which people perceive, and participate in, political life. In addition media can be an important bridge to fill the gap between state mechanisms and public providing important information on basic civic education as well as better coverage of public policy news. It is an important gap to fill, because limited public understanding makes it difficult not only for policymakers to serve effectively but also for citizens to hold them accountable for fulfilling (or not) their responsibilities. At the same time, in a democratic rule of governance it is essential that media realizes its role of a 'watchdog' as well as the fourth estate in order to function effectively. Therefore, enabling and empowering media itself on various tenets of civic education and democracy is must.

On the other hand, most of the times women journalists have been sidelined from covering civil and political issues due to gender discrimination prevailing in media sector. They are mostly given the work of covering soft issues related to entertainment, glamour and the like. Therefore, this hampers their knowledge and competence as informed and aware media professionals as well as limits their understanding on the democratic role of media.

Considering the above, Sancharika Samuha in support of FES held two days workshop programme to orient women journalists of western region on the topic to generate greater understanding and awareness. This initiation is the first step where the women journalists are informed about the concept of civic education, civic education in media and the role of media in civic education.

Objectives

The program aimed that it would contribute towards meeting following objectives:

  • Enhance the civic competence of women journalists to aid them in their analysis and reporting of civic affairs
  • Raise greater civic consciousness among women journalists about the democratic role of the media; and
  • Encourage greater prioritization of civic news among media institutions


Programme Proceedings

DAY I
Session I: Inaugural session

The program started with an inaugural session. The distinguished guests present in the session were:
Mr Deepak Gyawali, Chairperson FNJ, Rupandehi
Mr Hari Lamsal, Central Member FNJ
Mr D.R. Ghimire, Advisor, FNJ, Rupandehi
Mr Pradeep Acharya, Vice President,Press Chautari, Rupandehi
Mr Rudra Hari Kunwar, Secretary of Association of Revolutionary Journalists
Mr T.P. Bhusal, Press Union, Rupandehi

Welcome Remarks

The program began with remarks by Ms. Amrita Anmol, a local coordinator. Ms Anmol welcomed distinguished guests and all the participants of the programme. She expressed her gratitude to FES and Sancharika for selecting Rupandehi to organize the programme. Besides she highlighted the importance of holding this program by stating that the purpose of this program is to draw everyone's attention and to orient participants on civic education, to do discussion, collect suggestions and acquire commitments to build future strategies in order to highlight civic education in media. She concluded her remarks by asking Ms. Babita Basnet to highlight on the objective of the programme.

Highlight on the Programme Objectives

Ms Babita Basnet, President of Sancharika Samuha stated that the programme basically aims to shift journalism towards citizen journalism from politically centered journalism. Civic education would make the women journalists even more professional. According to her, the situation of women journalists in media is such that the pace of women joining and leaving the profession is quite frequent. Therefore, the workshop like today plays an important role in preventing women journalists from abandoning the job. She furthered that it is good to see more qualified women coming into media sector. But the factor to consider is how long they sustain themselves in the same sector. Stating this, Ms Basnet said that to sustain in this sector one has to keep updating on contemporary issues where programme like today's workshop tends to be important. Finally she opined that the programme intends to orient the participants on the basic concepts of civic education, initiate discussion on related women's issues and incorporate role of media.

Remarks from the Guests

Mr Hari Lamsal, Central Member, FNJ started his remarks by offering greetings to all the participants, organizers and other distinguished guests of the programme. He stated that he has been contributing in his own way to uplift the situation of women journalists of Nepal. He said that the most important factor to be considered is women journalists need to unite themselves to improve their situation. They need to share their problems and issues among themselves which seem to be lacking at present. Moreover, they must not limit themselves in women issues. Rather involve in other hard issues such as politics and current affairs.

Supporting the statement of Mr Lamsal, Mr D.R. Ghimire, Advisor of FNJ, Rupandehi said that women need to keep themselves updated with emerging issues including concept of civic journalism. Likewise, there must be clear understanding on difference between civic education and civic journalism among them. Beside, concentrating on women related subject, they should focus on other issues related to citizen as and when required.

Following this, Mr Deepak Gyawali, Chairperson FNJ, Rupandehi, shared that the current picture of women in Nepalese media is discouraging rather than heartening. In order to motivate them, such kind of training and workshop programmes are really fruitful and necessary. He furthered that the learning of workshop has to be converted into action as well.

Mr Pradeep Acharya, Vice Chairperson, Press Chautari, Rupandehi expressed that Sancharika has been providing training programmes for enhancing the capability of women journalists from time to time which has been a real support for women in media. He also wishes Sancharika to give continuity in this initiation. He shared that his association too has prioritized skill enhancement of women journalists. According to him, women journalists are not less than their male counterparts. Therefore, they need to be motivated to continue their work in the field of media.

Mr Rudra Hari Kunwar, Secretary of Association of Revolutionary Journalists furthered that the institutions should not push women towards the media, rather the willing women should be given necessary support and encouragement to enter media. Moreover, the institutions should not direct them for party journalism. For enhancing the capacity of women journalists, Sancharika should continue to organize such kind of district level programme.

In addition to this, Mr T.P. Bhusal of Press Union, Rupandehi said that perspective to view women journalists has been improving. If the state increases facilities, they shall definitely retain in the field too. With the increment in means of media, the quantity of women journalists has also been increasing. But simply increment in quantity is not enough if there is no sustainability of women journalist in media.

Remarks from the Representative of FES

Initiating the presentation, Mr Chandra Dev Bhatta, a representative from FES said that in order to educate citizen through media, such kind of training/workshop programme is necessary. He stated that journalism is a medium that alerts all the actors of society including policy makers and general public. And as media can facilitate in changing even the national policy, civic education for journalists is essential.

Session II: Workshop Session
Introduction and Sharing of expectations of participants

The session started with an introduction between and among the participants, the resource persons and management team. The session was formally conducted with introduction of participants. The participants were asked to share their understanding on civic education and what are their expectations from the workshop. While asking level of understanding and expectation, a link was created with previous training. This session made the participants comfortable in proceeding the session ahead.

For most of the participants, the topic was quite new. They said that they have just heard about civic education but unknown about what actually it is and what would be its use in their profession. Few of them said that there is lack of civic knowledge even in their male counterparts. They expected that the workshop would help them in going beyond political issues in their work of journalism. During the session, the participants were asked to express their understanding on the subject as per their own knowledge and information. The summary of which are mentioned below:

  • Civic education means to bring out all social activities.
  • It is a social activity.
  • It is an activity of bringing out anti social issues.
  • It is an act of being informed on citizen rights.
  • It is information about one's own responsibilities to attain rights.
  • Everything related to citizen is civic education. For example, health, education, social environment, economic environment, gender issue, political environment and the like.
  • An education necessary for a citizen to move ahead in life is known as civic education.
  • The primary education of human life is civic education.
  • Civic education is a reflection of society.
  • Education that gives identity to an individual is civic education.
  • Education that should be given to all uneducated individuals of society is civic education.
  • It is an education that encourages individual towards their work.
  • This is an education that basically changes society and obsolete belief.
  • An education for human development is civic education.
  • It is a human oriented issue.
  • An education obtained on various issues is civic education.
  • An education to aware and educate to be a successful and efficient person is civic education.
  • In the globalised world, civic education is an utmost factor to bring unity, and peace among people from different parts of the world.

Meanwhile, facilitating the session, Ms Babita Basnet said that as resource persons, they would try to meet the expectations of participants. Then she requested Mr Chandra D. Bhatta for paper presentation.

Paper Presentation: Conceptual clarity about Civic Education. Initiating the paper, Mr Chandra Dev Bhatta mainly highlighted on conceptual clarity on civic education, role of citizen in civic life, media as public sphere, link between democracy and civic education, connection between media and democracy, role of media in civic life and source of civic education. The speaker gave several examples in support of concept of civic education during his presentation. This made the participants easily understand the subject. Participants asked for clarifications as and when required to Mr Bhatta during the session. His paper is attached in the annex.

Paper Presentation : Civic Education for Women Journalists
Ms Babita Basnet

Supporting the statement of Mr Chandra Bhatta, Babita Basnet said that civic education can be linked with everything including with our responsibility. As per her opinion:

  • Civic education is a part of education that informs individual about how to make effective participation in public life of democratic environment.
  • It provides necessary knowledge, skill and makes a person responsible.
  • It is an indispensible part of democratic practice.
  • It is a long process which creates realization of responsibility towards nation, society and family. Additionally, it helps in generating sense of respect for one another.
  • It informs about duties and responsibilities of citizen.
  • There are talking on rights rather than duties and responsibilities in out context.
  • Civic education protects and enhances freedom, therefore, it is associated with democracy.
  • Civic education is an ongoing process.
  • The main objective of civic education is to unite the country into a single entity enhancing democracy. People have their own personal and collective desires which may be different but the feeling of nationalism is parallel in all. Civic education aims to make all the citizens responsible towards their nation by providing this message of nationalism.
  • Civic education enhances the courage in citizen, educates about sacrifice and dedication for nation.
  • It creates a thinking of what have I given to nation rather than thinking what has nation given to me.
  • It teaches to be accountable towards the nation.
  • Civic education teaches which values and norms to pursue while performing responsibilities in social life.
  • Besides, it also educates on various issues such as participation in electoral system for selecting representative for state formation, political knowledge, respect towards law, support in national activities, help in gathering necessary resources, respect the right of others, being informed about happening incidents, respect human rights, courtesy for all, responsible towards family and so on.
  • It is not necessary to have a formal school or college for civic education. Various institutions and informal sectors could initiate civic education.
  • There is no age bar. Individuals of any age could acquire civic education.
  • The subject lists and subjective perspective of civic education may vary from nation to nation. (citizenship, perspective towards nationality, security sector, foreign policy )
  • As per time and situation, the issue could be varied. For instance, the current issue of CA, self determination rights, federalism, national census etc.
  • All the issues comprising of social, economy, politics, tradition, gender and region are issues of civic education.
  • During the time of election of CA, substantial civic education was provided in countries like South Africa, Fiji, Ethiopia and Uganda.
  • Civic education must be attached or is attached with civic activities.
  • Basically, it is associated with common welfare.
  • There is close connection between democracy and civic education. This encompasses the sense of responsibility with the value for rights by respecting each other's necessity.
  • Civic education is not an emerging subject. Long time back in the history of Nepal, King Jay Prithivi Bahadur Singh of Bajhang had talked about civic education. He even started a campaign stating that civic education must be useful in life and help in making earning for life. Beside this, the King, who is the first editor of Gorkhapatra Daily, had published book on civic education as per which he is supposed to be the first writer to write book on the issue of civic education.
  • Furthermore, in the year 2008, Laxmi Prasad Devkota with an aim to provide civic education, wrote book which was published by Ratna Book Publication many years later.

Additionally, Ms Basnet briefly highlighted on challenges of civic education in Nepal that are mentioned below:

  • The prevailing trend of thinking among people is such that personal benefit dominates common benefit.
  • There is dissatisfaction in youth concerning current situation of nation and politics. Those whoever have interest in politics, they too are guided by party thoughts.
  • There is lack of cooperation.

Open Floor Discussion

After hearing presentation of both the resource persons, the participants shared that although people are aware about the issues of civic education, it is very difficult to covert it into action. It is basically the gap between various stakeholders of society including difference between the perspective of reporter and editor towards civic education and difference in their objective due to which there are obstacles in implementing civic education in their work. They opined that even in media sector, the people at decisive level are party oriented. They are guided by political ideology. Therefore, it is hard to bring out the issues of civic education.

The participants furthered that the matter of hierarchy is also an obstacle in implementing or mainstreaming civic issues in media. According to them, the person at policy making tends to have limited knowledge about civic education. Now the question arises which level of media needs to be informed about the issue. Is it the reporter level or the policy making level? Even if the reporter level know about the issue, at the time of publishing or broadcasting the issue, the decision lies in the hands of policy makers. Therefore, the participants recommended the organizer to organize similar training/ workshop on civic education for decision makers in media too. Moreover, the one who knows about the issue has a tendency to ignore the fact.

At the same time they said that even at executing level, information on civic education is required. As per the participants experience, the educated people is more likely to ignore concern for civic education as compared to uneducated people.

They suggested that in order to raise awareness concerning civic education, firstly it is the media that needs to be trained. Moreover, the participants viewed that unless the country is strong, people cannot be strong. Therefore, the country policy needs to be strong at first.

Presentation by Mr Mahendra Bista, Journalist on Conceptual Clarity on Civic Journalism
Mr Mahendra Bista made paper presentation on civic education in media highlighting conceptual difference between civic journalism and citizen journalism, current trend in Nepalese media, the present requirement and prevailing scenario of civic education in media.

Proceeding the presentation, Mr Bista gave brief review on concept of civic journalism. According to the speaker, in general term, civic journalism means journalism done with attention on civic. Here, the issue of civic is directly incorporated at the time of reporting. If reporting is done considering the way the people presents their problem and the way they resolve it, then the news, feature or report prepared is called civic journalism.

This type of journalism is practiced in various countries. Moreover, its practice is increasing in developing countries along with developed countries like USA and UK.

The speaker opined that civic journalism is also a participatory journalism. Few perceive it as common journalism. It can also be called a public journalism. It also comprises of development journalism and rural journalism. It is known as democratic journalism too. As the basis of democracy is people, the basis of civic journalism is also people. As democracy sees the role of people as indispensible factor in policy making and implementation process, civic journalism too recognizes importance of people participation beside subject of news at the time of making news. Correlating people with democracy and driving democracy towards people is the task of journalism. But since professional journalism could not conduct this task, the necessity of civic journalism has emerged.

Highlighting on the difference between civic journalism and citizen journalism, Mr Bista said that there is always a query regarding difference between civic journalism and citizen journalism. As the same word Nagarik Patrakarita is used to denote both types of journalism in Nepali, there is always confusion between the two. As per the subject matter, there are many similarities between the two. But, there are some fundamental differences between them. The major difference is that there is involvement of professional journalist in the process of information and news collection, reporting, analysis, writing and presentation in civic journalism. On the other hand, in citizen journalism, there is involvement of individual oneself in entire process of developing news. As such, citizen journalism is known as voice of citizen as well.

Yet another difference between civic journalism and citizen journalism is civic journalism is practiced by professional journalists in mainstream media whereas citizen journalism is practised in alternative media.

Furthermore, the presentation also talked about present situation of journalism in Nepalese media. The speaker sited that although media is considered to be the voice of voiceless, a watchdog and reflection of society. Has it been really doing this function or not? The speaker has a doubt whether journalism has become an obstacle for change or unable to raise the voice of voiceless. He requested all the participants to analyze their own activities from civic perspective and recognize whether they have really been the watchdog of society or voice of voiceless. As such civic journalism teaches to ask this question to oneself.

Talking about the current trend, the speaker said that there has been a drastic shift in medium and technology in media sector at present. Along with print media, there has been drastic shift in radio, television and digital medium. Not only in the key board of a computer set, the entire world could be reached even in mobile screen today. The quantity, outreach and effect of media have increased too. At the same time, the number of journalists has also increased. There is fame as well as livelihood in the field of media. There is an attraction of investment as well. However, there is no space for satisfaction in the trend of news yet.

He furthered that if we are to analyze the current trend of editorial policy, it is crime and entertainment oriented rather than issue of public interest. As a result media's credibility has been reducing. The power isweakening. The effect has become pathetic. It has been unable to touch human emotion.

The speaker also talked about the current scenario in short. Proceeding the presentation, he said that at present we are in a democratic situation where people have brought great change in the nation. The nation is in a state of transformation. The peace process is going on. Besides, the country is undergoing constitution making process. We are now waiting for the final output. But there are some unanswerable questions such as when, who and how the output is to be generated. In a democratic state, there is right to information for all individuals. There is press freedom as well as freedom of expression. And there is a hope that these issues will be well mentioned in new constitution. But even if it is incorporated in constitution and not implemented in right approach for right reason for right output, it is meaningless.

The meaning of freedom in democracy is not the right to do anything. Along with rights, there is duty. Today, when we are talking so much about our rights, are we really accomplishing our duties effectively? Civic journalism has emerged to make us think this part.

In the meantime, in addition to the statements of Mr Bista, the participants shared that regarding current trend in the field of journalism there are few challenges for reporters while making news. They opined that the major challenge at present is the problem of corruption. Others include problem of skepticism in regard to capacity of reporters, fear of facing embarrassment from coworkers. Another major challenge is threatening to media professionals after reporting. They added that lack of proper rules in the field of media is one of the reasons for making media insensitive.

In support of participants, Mr Bista said that sometimes media persons have to play the role of activist in due course of performing their duties. They must have humanitarian feeling while compiling news and reflect that feeling in their reporting. This would not make media insensitive any more. According to him, media is a tool for social justice with its own challenges; therefore, it must be used in the most effective manner.

Mr Bista also enlightened on current need of Nepalese media. According to him, responsible journalism is a necessity of today which is possible through civic journalism. Actually, civic journalism is not just the new beginning of journalism but a separate idea and step established with development in journalism. It not only treats journalism as a means to present news, incidents and reality, but teaches how to be accountable towards the people. Civic journalism strengthens individual and community. It helps the helpless. It helps in uplifting the marginalized sector of society.

Civic journalism enhances the awareness among general public. It is a campaign for change. It helps in involving people in policy making and implementation phase. It is innovative. It provides the feeling of accomplishment as well as source for satisfaction.

Wrap Up

Finally, Babita Basnet announced the closing of the Day I programme by thanking all the speakers for delivering their wonderful remarks, participants for making active participation and representatives from FES for supporting in conducting the programme.


Day II
Brief Review of Day I Activities

The session of second day started with reporting of whatever the participants learned on the previous day. These participants reported about their conceptual clarity on civic education and the importance of role of media in this concern. The session illustrated various examples on the subject that civic education is vital for local level as well as central level and it is also an international issue.

On the basis of previous day class, the participants were given one common question to answer and make individual presentation of it. They were asked whether civic education is necessary or not. If yes, what would be their initiation in mainstreaming it? The participants were given few times to reply this question. Then various responses came out.

As a reply to the first question, the answer was same, i.e. civic education is necessary. The responses to the second question were as mentioned below:

As a response to the question, the participants conveyed that even a small article related to civic education without violating feeling of anybody could be an initiation to mainstream civic education in media. They supported that civic education is necessary and possible too because whatever news or article they have developed till date, all are human oriented in some way or the other. So information on civic education could be disseminated through media. As per the paper presentation from resource persons of Day I, participants also said that since media is a reflection of society or voice of voiceless, it is a means through with civic voice reach to desired target group. The voice of citizen could be raised through radio programmes, incidents could be developed in news format, feature articles could be created and so on. According to them, at present media is dominated by political issues due to which people are not getting anything novel. In such situation civic journalism or citizen journalism cold be the solution. They furthered that such kind of training needs to be provided to policy makers as well for mainstreaming civic education.

The participants shared that civic education could be expressed through reports, vox pop, interview and feature. Civic journalism or citizen journalism could be incorporated in entertainment programmes as well. They opined that civic journalism is utmost in present context. Everyone is in favor of this. But, still the social issues are taken lightly and priority is given to political affairs. As a result, local or social news are always on shadow. The resolution to it is civic education. On the other hand, few participants shared their experience that the preference of audience is also the political issues rather than social affairs. Since, media houses have to sell their papers; they produce what is in demand. As such, media is dominated by political affairs. The participants expressed that the challenges attached to civic education could be reduced through media intervention by massively generating awareness on it.

Presentation and Discussion Session

After hearing the responses of participants, Ms Babita Basnet said that there is one factor related to news delivery. She shared that there are various cases on how the audience view the information they confront. It is not necessary that the news delivered is understood in same manner by the receiver as the news developer wants or expects. There could be deviation in the perception of news between sender and receiver. Therefore, one has to be careful in this regard too.

In addition to this, Mr Bista said that whatever news we develop, all are related to civic in some way or the other. But the thing that is important is to justify that it is civic oriented. Civic journalism is beyond an expression of news collected.

As a concluding remark, Mr Bista shared that there are ones' own possible approaches in practicing journalism. The trend varies with the means of media. The subject matter and priority may vary with nation, time and situation. On the other hand, practices and viewpoints may even be common.

As per his presentation, there are few recommendations in regard to civic journalism as below:

  • Understand one's community and civic life well and reflect it as subject of news.
  • Prioritize subject instead of incident. Focus the effect of information and fact instead of quantity.
  • While selecting subject matter, focus on whether it is change oriented and socially effective.
  • Use critical perspective in reporting without using anti social terminologies.
  • Listen to the problems and their resolution by citizens and covert them into report or news as they are.
  • Generate public awareness concerning civic education.
  • Prioritize public interest while reporting on developmental and business issues.
  • Not only conflict but also the torture and possibility along with conformity to be incorporated while reporting.
  • Journalist to act as a part of society and representative of it.
  • Always keep the discussion open. Rather than increasing disparity, go for the resolution.
  • Guide journalism by new norms and thoughts rather than obsolete values.
  • Adopt bottom up and diagonal approach.

Wrap Up

Finally, Babita Basnet announced the closing of the Day II activities and the training programme by thanking all the participants for making active participation and representatives from FES for supporting in conducting the programme. She opined this programme is just an opening on discussion on civic education and will be continued in future days as the issue raised is a crucial one and expects to receive such kind of positive response from everybody in future too.

According to the speaker, it is necessary to concur role and responsibilities by all and work together for the issue. The speaker noted that issues of civic education need to be addressed at all level i.e. family, societal, national and civil society organizations, government and all stakeholders should join hands in the movement for civic education. Thus, she urged the participants to work jointly to promote the issue. Lastly, Ms Basnet remarked that she has hopes that the programme has motivated the participants enough to work in mainstreaming civic education in media.

Media Coverage

The workshop was highly appreciated by all and there was huge media coverage. All the local television channels of Rupandehi including Radio Lumbini covered the brief news on the programme. Also the local radio and FMs including Radio Lumbini, Rupandehi FM, Siddhartha FM, Radio Mukti, Jagaran FM, Radio Namaste and Tinau FM gave brief news on the programme. Apart from the electronic media, the local daily newspapers including Naya Bhawana, Lumbini Today, Rajdhani Daily and Butwal Today have covered the news of the programme. The paper clippings of the coverage are attached in the annex. It is expected that the media will further write and produce more features, case studies and programs in both print and electronic media.

Conclusion and Recommendation

The programme was highly appreciated by all the participants. They expressed their happiness in getting opportunity to participate in the workshop and showed their commitment to write on civic issues. They provided the organizing committee with few suggestions and recommendations:

  • Training Days should be increased.
  • Training should be organized in other parts of the country too.
  • Training should be provided not only to women journalists but their male counterparts too.
  • Women journalists should be provided with feature writing training to enhance their capability.
 
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