The programme is designed as an interface between media and the theme of forced migration and the activists working on this theme. It is also about an interface between the media and victim communities of forced migrants.
The Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG), an internationally acclaimed research institution working on displacement and forced migration, has been organising annually an Orientation Course on Forced Migration in Kolkata for the last one decade. The programme is presently supported by the UNHCR, the Government of Finland and the Brookings Institution. A great chunk of course-participants comes from various South Asian countries. Some participants beyond the South Asian region (mostly from Europe, Africa and Americas) also attend the Course each year.
The participants are exposed to a vast and variegated research material published by CRG and others in this field through a three-month-long distance education programme before the commencement of the Course. During the course a high quality group of academics, experts and activists from India and abroad engages the participants in lively interactive sessions for 15 days. The participants are given research assignments and are also encouraged to compose creative pieces on forced migration. They also learn how to sensitise the public on the issue of forced migration using media spaces. Each year a few renowned journalists also attend and interact with the participants. Every year, during the Course, CRG organises a field visit for the participants to facilitate a first-hand interaction with displaced persons/communities.
This year (2012), CRG remodelled the Field Visit schedule to launch a three-day “Workshop on Media and Forced Migration” as part of the Tenth Orientation Course. The role and importance of media can hardly be overemphasised in modern world. From print to audiovisual, and now to social media – the world of media is passing through a never-ending metamorphosis. The present-day media is also diverse and each form has its own specific dimension, problems, and prospects too. And perhaps everybody will agree that sensitive and knowledgeable representation of the theme of forced migration in this era of ever-changing media is a challenging task.
In their journalistic career, media persons have to face or experience the phenomenon of forced migration in its multiple forms. Often they are caught in situations of conflict, particularly in the wake of implementation of massive development projects or natural disasters that displace a wide number of people both within the national boundaries of a state and also beyond. However, often these situations, which result in immense human tragedy and tension, occupy the front pages of big newspapers or prime-times of big news channels mostly as spectacles and/or simply as ‘problems’. Very often the media persons do not possess necessary skill and knowledge to deal with these complex situations and in many cases they do not have the sufficient motivation to report on the humanitarian and human rights dimension of forced migration. The commercial/political interests of the owners of big media, often valorised as ‘editorial policy’, also hinder an efficient and committed news person to publish sensitive reports on forced migration.
On the other hand, the activists and field researchers engaged in this field although possessing considerable expertise and motivation also lack, to a less or great extent, proper acumen and communicating skill to make good news-contents to attract wider public attention and sensitise people about this phenomenon. The victims also need to communicate. They require, more than anyone else, that the policy-experts of the government and the non-government and international organisations, also the public in general should know properly their sufferings and get to hear their voices. They need a proper and sensitive media-representation because any sharing of sorrow gives the sufferer a kind of psychological relief (how much little that might be); it helps to prepare a ground of ‘acceptance’ for the displaced persons among the ‘host’ communities, which often feel threatened by the existence/settlement of the displaced communities; it also helps to form a favourable public opinion and influence government policies.
The Media Workshop on Forced Migration, therefore, promised to act as a bridge between media persons and researchers/activists working in the field of forced migration. The three-day workshop also promised to provide a free and open ground for sincere exchange of ideas and concepts among the two sets of people, coming from two distinct walks of life. It also offered a chance to work together as a ‘team’ (comprising media persons and field researchers/activists) to represent properly a complex, delicate, yet routine and the all-pervasive mass tragedy of our times, namely, forced migration.The purpose of the project was thus to strengthen the media component of the orientation programme on forced migration, give hands on training to young media activists, produce media outputs in form of reports and original coverage, and create through all these a network of media activists working on issues of protection of the victims of forced migration.
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Media fellowships and creative media workshop
Till date two Media and Human Rights programmes have been held.
First was on "Media & Displacement";
The second was on "Media and Women in Conflict situation".
The programme consists of three components:
Each fellowship carries a total Rs. 30,000/ for the fellowship period. In both research and reporting segments, at least half of the fellowships will be awarded to women applicants if they are of standard. The reports will have to be original, based on first hand coverage, and will have to be published in newspapers or magazines, or in audio-visual forums. In the research segment, the articles have to be well researched. They will be first evaluated, and later published by CRG. All writings will be subsequently put on CRG website.
Recipients of the both types of fellowships (reporting and research) will be expected to participate in the media workshop with which the programme will conclude. Participants and the resource persons of the workshop will discuss the reports and the research writings. In this way the products of the research and reporting segments will become resource material for future work in this area, and will become available for all engaged in similar work. The workshop discusses themes of creativity and objectivity, reporting on conflicts and human rights abuses, techniques of creative writing, preparing scripts and their significance, editing norms and skills, and other related issues. The workshop results in reports, research publications, and an anthology of creative writings of a victim community or group.
The programme was supported by WACC (London).
For details of the two programmes:
Media Programme I
Media Programme II