Training on human rights journalism ends

Prof Dr. Mizanur Rahman

Dhaka, March 3, 2014: Following a training session organised by SoMaSHTe, Tofael Ahmed, staff reporter of Maasranga TV, a Dhaka-based television channel said, ‘Many of us had a wrong perspective of human rights. The training helped us comprehend the correct concept as the practical exercises and activity based sessions that were conducted during the sessions provided me with the necessary learning that will assist me to achieve professional excellence.’

The training session was a part of four such trainings for journalists, working on human rights journalism. The sessions were held from May 12 to June 3, 2014 in Dhaka. 81 journalists from print, electronic, radio and television attended the different sessions.

UNDP’s the Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission Capacity Development Project (BNHRC-CDP) supported SoMaSHTe in organising the trainings in order to improve journalism monitoring and reporting on human rights.

In this regard, Mona M’Bikay Boin, Project Manager, UNDP BNHRC-CDP said that the media in Bangladesh is diverse and are engaged in reporting on access to justice and human rights issues. However, reporting is not very systematic and the quality of reports varies.

Prof Dr. Mizanur Rahman

Prof Dr. Mizanur Rahman delivers his speech in the inaugural session.

Reports often contain inaccurate information due to unfamiliarity of journalists with concepts of access to justice and human rights as well as the legal system in Bangladesh. Violations of the right to privacy also occur in particular in relation to criminal justice reporting by disclosing the identity of the offender, victim or witness. Access of the poor and disadvantaged groups to express their voice in the media remains limited and continues to be a challenge.

This initiative was taken toward capacity building of journalists on human rights reporting that will lead to an increased awareness about human rights, a better monitoring and reporting of the human rights situation in Bangladesh. It was felt that a public and civil society better informed about their rights and human rights issues affecting different segments of the society will support democracy building and the promotion of rule of law.

The training aimed to:
• Increase understanding of journalists on human rights and governance issues;
• Increase skills of journalists on how to cover human rights issues while telling the story from an in-depth perspective;
• Increase skill of journalists on transforming human rights issues from event-based to process-based;
• Establish, maintain and employing strong sources for collecting information;
• Ensuring gender sensitivity and ethical standards while reporting.

At the inauguration of the training, NHRC’s Chairman Professor Dr. Mizanur Rahman stressed that media plays a pivotal role to educate people on human rights issues. Referring to the survey finding on Attitude, Perception and Understanding on Human Rights Issues conducted in 2011 by the NHRC, he mentioned that half of the total respondents did not hear the term human rights. The role of media in informing people about their rights is therefore crucial. He urged the media to follow ethical principles for human rights based journalism.

Experts from the Society for Media and Suitable Human-communication Techniques-SoMaSHTe facilitated the sessions. As a chief facilitator of the training, senior journalist Afsan Chowdhury highlighted that this training is very important because it’s one of the first attempts to introduce journalists to human rights issues in a structured manner. Apart from learning about the principles and process, the participants learnt through practical exercises to address human rights issues.

Afsan Chowdhury

Afsan Chowdhury conducts a session on human rights journalism.

Mir Masrurzaman, Director of SoMaSHTe and a facilitator of the training session, shared, ‘In the reports, assuring the dignity and protection of human rights violation survivor is of paramount importance. At the same time, dignity and rights of the accused should also get equal importance. This is one of the areas in human rights reporting where reporters need to focus more. Journalists should be aware of justice principles while reporting on human rights issues.’

Jhora Moni, Reporter of Bhorer Kagoj, expressed her satisfaction after attending the training sessions, as she said: ‘It was well organised, structured and brilliantly delivered. Though the duration of the training was short, I think that it was one of the best trainings I have ever participated. I feel better capacitated to address human rights issues in my reporting’.

SoMaSHTe also carried out systematic training need assessment based on which the course was developed and delivered. SoMaSHTe will also conduct three thematic workshops on child and women rights and rights of minorities for these journalists.