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Media and development organisaitons: allies to fight injustice, discrimination

Farah Kabir | December 07, 2022 00:00:00

People read newspapers at a newspaper stand in Dhaka

As this edition marks the 29th founding anniversary of The Financial Express, I, on behalf of ActionAid Bangladesh, congratulate the esteemed English daily for its courageous reporting and practice of modern journalism. Today's world is heavily reliant on media like it has been in the past, but with newer dimensions now. These days, clicks on news denote interest or engagement, short bites and timely information are the needs of the time. A strengthened relationship between development organisations and the media has therefore become even more crucial than before.

Media enables the telling of lesser known and ensures voices for the people from the marginalised communities. Media highlights stories from the grassroots - these are stories of resilience, stories of innovation and stories of courage to fight social injustices. In my opinion, media is a powerful tool to shape people's minds and thereby to influence policies for the greater good of the community.

In the past, for example, when Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haq was lagging on the political front, it was a newspaper, The Azad, that helped him gain a firm standing and quick following amongst the people.

In the development course of Bangladesh, media has played crucial role many a time, especially in highlighting development concerns backed up by field insights. For instance, the issue of arsenic contamination in Bangladesh was first picked by print media in the mid-1990s. News coverage drove both the national government and the international community to pay attention to the issue. In 2017, media played a pivotal role in attracting international attention, assistance, and aid during the sudden influx of almost a million Rohingya people into Bangladesh. We have seen some megaprojects of Bangladesh, such as the second phase of Matarbari Coal Power Plant, getting cancelled amid widespread protest by development organisations and multiple media reports.

In all our work in ActionAid, media has always been an instrumental partner. Our journey goes back a long way where we always found newspapers like The Financial Express as our ally in the fight to build a just and poverty-free world for all. We have worked together in the area of strengthening human rights and advocate for a wide array of social issues, covering gender equality, climate justice, rights for young people, social-safety net, inclusion of persons with disabilities and more.

Among the various works that we did with the media, one that tops my mind is from 2018 when we partnered The Financial Express to advocate for a progressive tax system to reduce burden on the poor people. Through a series of news coverage, we gathered the attention of the government and relevant stakeholders on the issue.

Following the Rana Plaza incident, for the last nine years we have been closely working with the media to continue advocating for the rights of the people affected in the mishap. Media's role in advocating for effective implementation of labour law, safe and women-friendly workplace, injury scheme for workers etc is also highly appreciated. These are prime examples of how development organisations and media support each other for strong policy-advocacy.The most vital aspect of these collaborations is ensuring concerted efforts for an effective outcome.

Currently, we are amid myriad of crises. The change in geopolitical context due to the Russia-Ukraine war, climate crisis, rising inequalities and injustices, all are increasingly making developing countries like Bangladesh vulnerable to new challenges. In the development sector we already are seeing the implication-there's a declining trend in foreign funds, despite the development needs being stark, and protracted crisis like Rohingya repatriation. In such a context, our media needs to amplify the voices and solutions from the global south to influence the global leaders and their actions.

The media can also play a significant role with in-depth and authentic reporting on the existing national issues to keep the system and the actors accountable. This will help curb the spread of misinformation in the country. To do so, however, the environment needs to be conducive for the journalists to be able to work fearlessly.

To build a bridge between the policymakers and the mass people, media can be a key actor. Our initiatives like fellowship for young journalists and developing community journalists' groups to encourage participation of young people for their community's development are some of the examples of how such bridges can be facilitated.

As we embark in our 40th year in 2023, we thank The Financial Express for their continued support on our journey. I expect the legacy will continue and we will be partners for achieving the just and green transition globally and nationally in the future, too.

The writer is the Country Director ofActionAid Bangladesh. She can be reached at [email protected]

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