Panos South Asia- UNDP South Asia-Asia Pacific Editors’ Roundtable on Inequality & Hunger
Twenty editors from across the South Asia -Asia Pacific region took part in the two day deliberations organized by Panos South Asia and UNDP in the first week of February 2009 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The objective of the discourse was to frame a better media strategy to deal with more effective coverage of Hunger-related issues; thus minimizing hunger and poverty in the region.
The roundtable followed up research carried out by Panos Sri Lanka to ascertain levels of coverage and importance given to issues of hunger by the English Media across seven Asia Pacific countries. Five English newspapers were selected from the following countries: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Cambodia. A comparative analysis was carried out to analyse which hunger-related issues were given most coverage in the region’s media the most.
Panos South Asia's media audit on Hunger was presented at the Editors’ roundtable. This helped to highlight the lack of focus in almost all Asia Pacific countries on
poverty and hunger issues,in both urban and rural settings.
The morning session of the discussion took up issues pertaining to Inequality and Hunger in the region.The main speakers were Omar Noman, Chief of Policies and Programmes, UNDP Asia Regional Centre, Colombo and other UNDP officials who are part of their hunger eradication campaign, Caitlin Wiesen, Anuradha Rajivan, T. Palanivel, Kirsty Hayes and Marit Gjelten.
A paper on Media trends and Challenges was presented by UNDP Communications Officer, Manisha Mishra . This was followed by the Panos presentation of the media survey on hunger reportage in the seven South Asia-Asia Pacific countries.
The Roundtable discussions that followed looked at issues pertaining to hunger in the region, like targeted interventions against Hunger, International food policy architecture and Media trends and challenges.
Among the points raised by the participants which included senior editors, news editors and mid-career journalists, was the lack of media focus on soaring hunger levels among the urban poor, which is closely related to migration of the rural poor.
The deliberations were moderated by Kunda Dixit, Editor, Nepali Times, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, TV journalist and Pamela Philipose, Director, Women’s Feature Service. The discussions resulted in sharing ideas of how the media initiatives already taken to eradicate hunger, poverty and improve leadership capacities of the public could be used as common measures in the Asia Pacific region.
Lalitha Panicker, Assistant Editor,The Hindustan Times spoke of two highly popular campaigns carried out by The Times of India, India’s largest circulating newspaper, primarily as an effort to boost sales but which also contributed significantly towards social change. Panicker explained that while the paper achieved its primary objective with the two campaigns, Lead India and Teach India, it also created a trend in media initiatives towards development that could be replicated by newspapers in other countries.
The Times of India's Teach India campaign called upon educated Indians to help teach underprivileged children while the “Lead India” campaign provided an opportunity for youth of all strata of life to come forward to display their leadership abilities. Taking this as a positive indicator of initiatives the media can bring out to facilitate social change, the roundtable affirmed the fact that media holds an important role in eradicating inequality and changing the status quo of hunger in South Asia and the Pacific.
Another key thought that emerged from the discussion was emphasised by Kunda Dixit who said that the location was a primary message imparting factor when organising conferences that are held to initiate change in a country or a region. Feizal Samath, the Business Editor of The Sunday Times pointed out that measures to involve media for social change should include all media players such as sub-editors, photographers, junior and mid-career journalists.
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Senior Television presenter pointed out that media should cut itself off from what he described as the ‘junket culture’, ‘the booze culture’, and the ‘handout culture’ and invest in quality reporting.
As Pamela Philipose, Director, Women’s Feature Service in India pointed out, media should learn the art of telling old stories in a new way and not only be obsessed with bad news.
It was agreed that positive stories was a great empowerment of change. As Nurul Kabir, the Editor- in- chief of The New Age in Bangladesh stated , “ true journalism is when one avoids writing anything he is not convinced of and commits himself to the kind of journalism that changes mindset”.
Editors pointed out in their concluding remarks that the event should be followed up to share the long lasting impact of the roundtable.
Participants at the Editors’ Roundtable on Hunger
Kunda Dixit, Editor, The Nepali Times (Nepal)
Paranjoy Guha Thakurtha, Senior TV journalist/Economic writer (India)
Pamela Philipose, Director, Women’s Feature Service (India)
Lalitha Panicker, Assistant Editor, The Hindustan Times, India
Nurul Kabir, Editor in Chief, The New Age, Bangladesh
Qudsia Khan, Editor in Chief, The Financial Post, Pakistan
Ghazi Salahudin, Editorial Director, Geo Television, Pakistan
Manesh Shrestha, Deputy Editor, Kathmandu Post, Nepal
Muditha Bajracharya, Journalist, Himalayan Times, Nepal
Sam Rith, Journalist, Phnom Penh Post. Cambodia
Soy Sophea, Cambodia Weekly , Cambodia
Pravit Rojanaphruk, Journalist ,The Nation, Thailand
Manik De Silva, Chief Editor, Sunday Island, Sri Lanka
Prasad Gunawardena, Senior Associate Editor, Daily News, Sri Lanka
Shakuntala Perera, Deputy Editor – Political Features, Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka
Feizal Samath, Business Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka