Heather Gilberds

Heather Gilberds (Jagaran Media Center – JMC): Heather has always been a strong advocate for independent media development and activism. Her interest in grassroots media and development stemmed from travel in South-East Asia and extensive involvement in community radio. On return to Canada Heather worked in radio at the University of Alberta’s campus station. At the time of her fellowship, she was studying for a Master’s degree in communications at Carleton University.

08 Jul

Jagaran Media Center Hosts Radio Training Workshop

JMC Dalit Issues Radio Training

Last week, twenty Dalit journalists from across Nepal traveled to Kathmandu to attend a 5-day radio training workshop hosted by JMC. The journalists, who came from a wide variety of FM stations from across the country, are involved in producing news programs that aim to lobby for the inclusion of marginalized groups in spheres related to media, policy-making, and cultural representation. On the roster to present were some of the most prominent Dalit activists, journalists, and radio producers in the country, including Ahuti, a near-legendary Dalit poet and activist, the president of the Nepal Journalism Federation, and Ragu Mainali, a renowned radio scholar and member of the South Asian branch of AMARC. I was also on the agenda to present and ran a three-hour session on advocacy journalism and the power of grassroots media. I was surprised to find that most of the participants were women, which speaks more about my own bias than anything.

It was unfortunate that all of the sessions other than mine were in Nepali and that I was unable to understand them. I could tell from the reactions of the participants that the lectures were absolutely fascinating. They ranged from the history of caste discrimination, to human rights reporting, to radio journalism techniques. I required a translator for my session which unfortunately left me out of most of the discussions that were spawned. One discussion that was translated for me arose out of the notion of fair and balanced reporting. I was lecturing about advocacy journalism and discussing that it is different than ordinary reporting in that journalists explicitly locate themselves on one side of an issue, but that they, nonetheless, should strive for balanced reporting by still presenting both sides. One of the participants raised the question of how it is possible to present the other side when people from that perspective refuse to be interviewed. For example, a Dalit journalist reporting on a human rights abuse against a member of the Dalit community may have a difficult time interviewing non-Dalits about the incident, even those who were not involved in it. Many people, especially in the villages, refuse to speak with Dalit journalists. Last month the JMC ebulletin reported about an incident wherein a Dalit family’s home was set on fire after members from the village discovered an inter-caste marriage had occurred. Dalit journalists tried to follow up on this story, but non-Dalits from the village refused to speak with them.

Participants also raised another complication that journalists confront when reporting about communities that face social exclusion. Often Dalits themselves refuse to be interviewed. Some would rather remain silent because they fear further persecution and discrimination if they speak out. Also, some are ashamed of being Dalit and do not want to identify themselves as such. I thought this second point was particularly interesting because it expresses the way that marginalization, racism, and discrimination can become internalized by members of a community whereby these forces no longer emanate from an external force but have become a part of an individual’s own self-definition.

Given the language barrier, I am unable to tell whether or not the journalists benefitted from the session that I led. However, a session that was scheduled for two hours ended up being four, so at the very least, it stimulated a great deal of discussion and debate. I definitely felt enriched by having the opportunity to meet journalists involved in grassroots radio in Nepal and learned a great deal about the challenges they face, specifically with regards to the issue of caste.

Posted By Heather Gilberds

Posted Jul 8th, 2008

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