Kailali journalists engage in self diagnosis on their crisis role

04 Jul 2013

imageMedia leaders discussing during the workshop. Photo: UNDP Nepal

Dhangadhi -- For the first time since the adversarial events of May 2012 that saw Kailali district shutdown for over a month, key media leaders from Kailali were brought together to reflect on the role media played during the crisis.

Last year tensions had flared up when rival protests took to the streets with conflicting call for an undivided Far West and a Tharuhat state respectively. Divisions were entrenched in the society and protesters were only prevented from clashing by negotiating a demarcated line in the middle of the city.

In the polarizing environment journalists themselves became deeply entangled in the conflict dynamics. Often they were unable to maintain their independent journalistic view – either de facto or they were being accused thereof. In some cases, the work had to be stopped entirely during this time.

Brought together in the third week of June by UNDP’s Conflict Prevention Programme for a Collaborative Leadership and Dialogue workshop, the media leaders became sensitized to the central role the media play in conflict situations. Based on their own experiences, they reflected on the divisive role the media had played during last year’s events and discussed how to strengthen the space for responsible journalism, even in times of heightened tensions.

Through the use of storytelling, role plays and short movies, the journalists considered their own responsibilities to report issues in a conflict-sensitive and non-divisive manner in order to contribute to an environment conducive for dialogue.

The feedback from the workshop was overwhelmingly positive. “The workshop raised hopes that the media, if we work carefully, can be a bridge-builder in the future and can bring the communities together”, said Matrika Timilsena, from Kailalihotline. Participants, who enjoyed the experiential format of the workshop, left with some clear ideas on ways forward towards responsible and conflict-sensitive journalism in Kailali.

Unnati Chaudhary, another participant from News Paschimeli, shared that this was the largest gathering of key journalists she had ever attended and urged fellow journalists to demonstrate high morale during crisis. Bharat Shah, chairperson of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), said that the safe space created to share stories from their personal and professional lives was the most wonderful experience he had ever had. He stressed the need for developing journalists’ skills as mediators and facilitators in the future.

UNDP’s CLD programme has been bringing together leaders and representatives from various political parties, government bodies and civil society who represent diverse opinions and support them explore common grounds. It promotes a culture of dialogue towards preventing conflict and building social cohesion.