Citizen Media Resources

Your Guide to Citizen Journalism : MediaShift at PBS, by  Mark Glaser

“The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others. For example, you might write about a city council meeting on your blog or in an online forum. Or you could fact-check a newspaper article from the mainstream media and point out factual errors or bias on your blog. Or you might snap a digital photo of a newsworthy event happening in your town and post it online. Or you might videotape a similar event and post it on a site such as YouTube.”

The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism: Poynter, by Steve Outing

DIGITAL MEDIA ETHICS : University of Wisconsin-Madison, by Stephen J.A. Ward

The ethical and real hazards of citizen journalism: London School of Economics, by  Charlie Beckett

Citizen Jane, and Other Volunteer Journalists: Why Do They Do It? : HuffPo, by Laura Paull

The New Age of Citizen Journalism: Columbia Journalism Review (Audio)

Monsanto Mania

Short break from discussing Asian American issues, here to share background information on Monsanto-the global biotech giant which is a hot media commodity in Kathmandu right now because  (Nepali Times)

“In a USAID press release last month announcing a partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and Monsanto on a pilot maize production project in Nepal, we heard the same tired arguments of more nutritious food, increased yields and food security, and the requirement of less chemicals.”

What could go wrong? A global giant wants to partner with Nepal and help the “poor” produce more and earn more. Well, this gentle giant is not so gentle and the outrage is valid.

According to SourceWatch, Monsanto is a rabid anti-organic farming, pesticide loving, lobbying genius of a company.They are also very much into harvesting fear, as this Vanity Fair investigation shows (May 2008), treating their seeds as patented software-never to be stored or shared. Use it and pay again if you want it for next year-thus altering what farmers have been doing for generations-saving seeds for next season.

It has been named in 50 cancer lawsuits and India has filed bio-piracy lawsuit against the company.Monsanto has filed numerous lawsuits against US farmers. In 2005 alone the company has $10 million budget and 75 staff members “devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers” (Center for Food Safety).

They have good friends  in Washington.

“If GMOs are indeed responsible for massive sickness and death, then the individual who oversaw the FDA policy that facilitated their introduction holds a uniquely infamous role in human history. That person is Michael Taylor. He had been Monsanto’s attorney before becoming policy chief at the FDA. Soon after, he became Monsanto’s vice president and chief lobbyist.

This month Michael Taylor became the senior advisor to the commissioner of the FDA. He is now America’s food safety czar. What have we done?” (Jeffery Smith, Huffington Post, July 23,2009)

And Monsanto is serious about lobbying, this year they have spent almost $6 million pushing their case ($8 million last year).

controversy has pushed USAID to play cat and mouse.

“In the wake of media reports that the hybrid maize seeds produced by Monsanto, a U.S.-based giant seed company, are being introduced in Nepal and a subsequent protest campaign, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said that it has not made any decision about the matter yet though the options were discussed with the Nepal government.

In its Facebook page, USAID Nepal wrote on Friday that no new programmes have been entered into by the US government with the government of Nepal to introduce hybrid maize seed as some media articles have suggested. “We have discussed options with the government, but no decisions have been made yet…” (The Himalayan Times, November 19,2011)

Well, good then. Lets keep it under consideration until the giants change their ways.

Militant Unions and Sinful Profits

Terror of militant labor organizations is nothing new in Nepal. In a country suffering from chronic unemployment, almost all of the major political parties are heavily invested in nurturing and boosting militant labor unions whose sole goal is to shut down factories and businesses-not worker welfare and labor reform.

Surya Nepal Garment’s factory was forced to shut down after the workers, instigated by Maoist affiliated labor union, put forward unreasonable demands and hindered company operations. Unable to bear escalating losses, the factory-largest garment manufacturer in the country, closed shop. Surath Giri has a great post on this incident.

What did the union gain from this? About 700 workers lost their job and the country lost a good revenue source. But for the Maoists it was a serious coup. They were, once again, able to instill fear among the business owners and industrialists in the country. It is the Mao way or the highway.

And to make the matters worse, Maoists and their sympathizers have successfully changed the message. Now it is  sinful to make profit in Nepal-you are automatically termed bourgeois oppressor and have to be punished. Even if you are an honest entrepreneur, by virtue of making a profit, you have committed grave sin against the people of Nepal.

By demoralizing the business community and equating industrialists with profit hungry monsters, Maoists and their supporters have created an environment of fear and uncertainty in Nepal where no sane person would ever want to invest.

How are the other great pillars of Nepali democracy responding to this Mao style? By copying them, of course. Organizations affiliated with Nepali Congress and UML are equally responsible creating anti-business, anti-profit environment in the country. It is sad though that only the Maoists get criticized publicly and most loudly while the others largely escape the blame.

Cutting off the hand that feeds, seems counter intuitive but put the cynical glasses on and it makes prefect sense.

A prosperous, upwardly mobile and educated mass is the worst nightmare for Nepali political leadership. Then they would not be able to play their childish games- fear mongering, degrading a certain section of population to gain sympathy from the other, accusing one community of being anti-national etc. They need to keep the people poor, angry and hungry to succeed and that is what they are doing now.

Nepali Children Trafficked to Work in Indian Circuses

While Nepali leadership is busy with its own circus, serious social issues are being ignored. Human Trafficking is a black smear on the country’s face and yet it continues, the government and law enforcement have failed to make any serious dent in curbing it. Social organizations and citizens are trying their best but the traffickers are much too powerful.

Now entire villages are being emptied of women and girls, and children are being trafficked to work in India circuses.

Al Jazeera has a great documentary on the trafficked children and working condition at the circuses.

“The children are often sold to traffickers by their parents who need the money and want them to have a better life in India, where opportunities are plentiful. Children as young as five get sold for as little as 1,000 rupees ($13), sent across the border and sometimes never seen again, the report states. Many end up working in circuses.

“Once in the circuses, these children often live in squalor and are never allowed to leave the circus compound. They are routinely beaten in order to teach them the difficult and dangerous tricks, and sexual abuse is commonplace. In effect, these children have been totally at the mercy of circus management who treat them as they please,” it reports. It states that this is common practice but does not happen in every circus.”

If you find yourself asking, how can a parent send their child away to work in circus? Let me share my personal experience. In my mom’s hometown of Biratnagar, their neighbor’s son was sent away to work in a circus in Mumbai,India. The boy’s sister later became my good friend and used to tell me stories about this brother she had never seen but heard so much. He was about 10 went he left and used send money to the parents every year. The family wasn’t very poor but the still the opportunity to make things better was too strong. From that same neighborhood more than 5-6 kids were sent away to work in a circus, some were very poor and probably saw the opportunity as their only way  to survive.

Traffickers take advantage of poverty and ignorance to take these kids away. Weak law enforcement also betrays these children, as most of the traffickers are never caught or punished. And the cycle continues..

Nepal’s New Prime Minister

So, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is Nepal’s new Prime Minister.A quick glance at Nepali bloggers’ reaction:

Pradeep Kumar Singh at Nepali Blogger, ” He is the fourth Prime Minister in last three years since the country has (sic) turned republic. ”

Aakar Post has compiled Twitter reaction to Bhattarai’s victory.

XNepali has a short post on Bhattarai and a photo blog.

It is quite clear that the Dr. has revived hope for a better country. Series of failed experiments had pushed the people to the limit and they were beginning to question the validity of the constituent assembly and also the entire political system.

Bhattarai’s days are not going to be painless. His party has struck up a deal with the Terai based parties to ensure majority in the Constituent Assembly. Failure to fulfill their demands will cripple his administration, possibly take his government down. He will also have to delicately manage Nepal’s minefield of a foreign policy, which is bound to get messier following the Lumbini debacle.

His biggest challenge, though, will be bring back supremacy of law in the country, and his own party may turn out to be the biggest hurdle.

Nepali Women and their Place in Society

Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is doing a commendable job by putting a spotlight on Nepali women and their place in post conflict society. Global Post correspondent Hanna Ingber Win and student fellow Anna Tomasulo are sharing stories from Nepal, focusing on maternal health, child marriage, and women’s rights.

Hanna is now on her way back to Mumbai, and will share more from her reporting trip to Nepal. Please visit Global Pulse (Global Posts’s blog on health issues) for more. In her post on maternal health and rural development, Hanna discusses her meeting with a health and social justice activist Asmani Chaudhary, and the struggle to provide rural women access to health care, especially maternal and postnatal care.

Her most recent post is on Nepal’s political turmoil and how it affects health care programs.

“The political situation affects Nepal’s healthcare system in a number of ways. First, the frequent turn over of ministers creates a situation where little progress can be made because much time is devoted to convincing each new minister of a particular program or approach, Bidhan Acharya, an associate professor in the department of population studies at Tribhuvan University, told GlobalPost.

The political system also exerts great influence on the health sector as some politicians put people from their own party, whether the most qualified or not, to fill top positions.

There is a strong feeling of frustration with the government in Nepal, and critics argue that the politicians are so busy fighting among themselves they have little time to work on the nation’s development”

Meanwhile, student fellow Anna has shared post on child marriage and maternal health care in Nepal’s remote Dolakha district. Her recent post is on Nepali women and their place in society, where he discusses relevant issues with women’s rights activist Rita Thapa.

Aid Transparency BarCamp Kathmandu 2011

Foreign aid plays a vital role in Nepal’s economy and development process. Blogger Chandan Sapkota discussed aid coming into the country and its impact on various sectors. He notes that the money has supported Nepal’s health and education initiatives. Unfortunately, large sum is also spent on writing loads of reports and recommendations, few of which are ever implemented.

“In other sectors such as promoting trade, assistance has been restricted to writing reports on how best to implement a given agenda or a product. Most of the money is spent on studies, seminars, and conferences—all of which will involve personnel and capital from the donor countries at some stage. Some of the money goes back. Some stays back in the form of short term employment and reports that detail how best to implement a strategy or tackle constraints.”

Aid wastage has fueled a sentiment of detachment among the public, who see the whole process as futile and a way for the well-connected to get ahead at the expense of the poor.Lack of transparency further extends the gap  between the public’s expectations and how the money is actually used.

So, to discuss aid transparency issues in Nepal, BarCamp was organized in Kathmandu on August 4.

Tim Davies has compiled a Storify report on tweets (#nepalaid) related to the event. Aman Shakya discussed Linked data and Semantic Web Technologies for Aid Transparency, at the BarCamp and remarked that,

” …we still need small concrete example applications (in aid transparency) to really convince people (at different levels) to provide (linked) open data, not just demos or visualizations. Agree.
Perhaps the developers/industry can build something really useful for some stakeholder to prove the potential of linked open data.”

 

Open data concept is still a novelty in Nepal, but its significance in providing transparency to various processes-not only aid, cannot be denied.What is now needed is a way for the technical experts and the stakeholders and decision makers to come up with applications that demonstrate the benefit of open linked data in promoting transparency and accountability.