25 Aug 2018

Journalism must provide space for all voices: Shubhranshu Choudhary

The aim of journalism must be to tell stories, both positive and negative, said Shubhranshu Choudhary, the founder of CGnet Swara, which is the world’s first community radio on mobile phone.  The objective, he said, must be to provide a medium to those whose voices have no way of being heard.

Speaking at IIJNM on August 25, 2018, Mr. Choudhary drew a parallel between the Media and systems of government. “On August 15th nearly 72 years ago, we decided to move from aristocracy to democracy”, he said, and went on to draw a distinction between an aristocratic and a democratic form of journalism.  The former is only representative of a specific segment of society, he said, while the latter lends a medium for each voice no matter how meek it may be.

Mr. Choudhary’s latest initiative is Bultoo radio, a medium that enables citizens to access the news from remote areas. It those areas that have no network connectivity, and facilitates the sharing of audio and video files via Bluetooth.

Mr Choudhary narrated an anecdote to shed light on what inspired this initiative. Quoting a tribal woman, he said, “Your media doesn’t give us space. You fight with a pen, we fight with arms.” Through CGnet Swara however, he aims to create a ‘voicebook’ for those who wish to narrate their stories from remote parts of the country.

“We have a caste system even in communication,” he said while drawing a distinction between those who have access to the internet, those who have mobile phones but have no internet and those who have mobile phones but do not receive network.  CGnet Swara brings together mobile phones and the internet to provide a medium for the disenfranchised to tell their stories. Access points are set up in remote areas thereby enabling people to reach the media. The stories are fact-checked, edited and then published.

A medium like CGnet Swara is much called for in a country where scope for news radio is limited, he said. He placed emphasis on the role of journalism in fostering peace.  “Journalism can be carried out in various ways”, he said. “You can either walk along the road that has already been laid or you could make new roads.”

Formerly a producer with the British Broadcasting Company ( BBC), Mr Choudhary works on the democratization of forests in Central tribal India.

Ajay Ramanathan

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