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Promoting citizen journalism in remote communities

  • By Tshering Dorji, October 14, 2021

With the advancement in technology and expansion of internet, social media has penetrated in every nook and cranny of the country. However, digital literacy among the people, particularly in the remote communities remains low.

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While many social media users in the country use the platform to share news and information, lack of awareness on rules and regulations governing the media and ethical dilemmas have emerged as a challenge in promoting citizen journalism.  

The Journalist Association of Bhutan (JAB) conducted a citizen journalism and social media workshop to encourage people in the far flung rural areas which are least accessed and explored by the mainstream media to share news and information through social media. 

JAB has engaged two senior journalists from OxMedia to conduct the workshop in seven gewogs of Bardo in Zhemgang, Bumdeling and Jamkhar in Trashiyantse, Lingzhi in Thimphu, Mendrelgang and Doonglagang in Tsirang and Lingmukha in Punakha.  

The workshop focused on how individuals and communities can use the various social media platforms to report news and information affecting their communities. 

According to the resource persons from OxMedia, with a smartphone and access to social media channels, every citizen has become a journalist. However, citizen must take the responsibility to report, write and share authentic news and information that can bring about positive change in the society. The workshop is aimed at empowering the people to write, share and voice their issues with due regard to code of ethics, rules and laws.

Participants were first introduced to the concept and then they were introduced to some basic elements of news writing, identifying news worthiness, interviewing techniques and verifying the facts and figures.

The workshop captured several issues across all six places. For instance, in Mendrelgang, Tsirang, participants highlighted the issue of lack of reliable water supply (although the place is recognized often as the organic capital of Bhutan). In Lingzhi, participants shared diverse issues affecting their communities such as human-wildlife conflict, stray dog nuisance, overharvesting of Cordyceps and the spread of yak disease. 

A social media group was created for all the communities to share news, information and happenings in their community. JAB and OxMedia has launched a website, www.meeserlay.com, as a platform to practice citizen journalism. 

Participants were also sensitized on their role in social media as a consumer and content creator.

Participants shared that the workshop had helped them understand social media policies. “I use to post and share unverified information on Facebook and WeChat but I now understand that I should first verify the information,” said a participant from Medrelgang in Tsirang.

OxMedia demonstrated the participants on accessing G2C services like applying and renewing business licenses, applying for security clearances, accessing census-related services, filing land taxes and renewal for vehicle registration certificate. The community center operators were also involved the workshop.

The OxMedia team also created awareness on cyber security, particularly those associated with online banking apps and sharing personal and sensitive information on social media.  

The workshop was conducted between August and September, 2021.

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