Children make the news in Bangladesh
Children are generating, writing, shooting – and headlining – a popular primetime television news programme in Bangladesh.
DHAKA, Bangladesh – “This is Shampa Islam reporting from the slums of Geneva Camp, Mirpur, Dhaka, for ATN Bangla.”
With that, the journalist signs off her television news report on the unhealthy and unsanitary living conditions of children in Geneva Camp, a low-income housing area.
It has been a good piece of television reporting. But what grabs the viewer’s attention is that the reporter is only 16 years old.
Part of a unique initiative
Shampa is one of six young reporters who cover children’s issues for the news segment Shishuder Chokhe (in the eyes of children), a part of primetime national news coverage that is broadcast every Friday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on ATN Bangla, a popular satellite television channel.
Shishuder Chokhe is a unique initiative that brings to the fore pressing issues of children in the country. News items include stories about the lack of playing fields in the city, child labour and how power failures hamper studies. Since the segment first went on air in December, 21 stories have been broadcast.
Fahmidul Islam of local NGO Children’s Television Foundation of Bangladesh explains that the young journalists went through a rigorous selection process. Then, he says, they were “… trained and tutored extensively for eight months on news production, how to research story ideas, write scripts, how to shoot, how to interview, how to present the news and even on correct pronunciation.”
Anatomy of a story
The journalists meet during the weekend and after school to discuss the week’s assignments and generate story ideas. These ideas are run past head of the news division at ATN Bangla Z.I. Mamun.
Mohammad Mamun Bokaul, 16, explains how news is then made: “After an idea has been selected, we prepare the news script, re-check with our office, then we shoot and edit – which is done by an editor but in our presence – before the news is finally on air.” Each story is a team effort, with everyone pitching in to help out on different aspects of production.
Reporting on the streets of Dhaka is not easy. The young journalists face hindrances, from logistical issues to verbal harassment and threats. But, at the end of the day, they always get their story.
“While reporting on food that is left over at weddings and sold to underprivileged children for 10 Bangladeshi taka [US$0.13] a plate, we were threatened and asked to leave the premises. For fear of repercussions, no one wanted to give us an interview, but we have learned to cope with such situations,” said Mohammad Hasan Mahmud Nabil, 15.
The team persevered, and the story aired.
“Passionate about our work”
Most of the young journalists come from underprivileged backgrounds. Their parents work as messengers or office help or live in a UNICEF-supported drop-in centre.
“When they first started the programme, they were shy, confused and hesitant. But, after their training, and with the more stories they report, they have become confident and self-assured. Their school results have improved. They feel, because of their experience on Shishuder Chokhe, they can become journalists when they grow up,” says Mr. Islam.
“We are very passionate about our work, and we would like to continue,” says Shampa. “This experience has given us an exposure and an insight into the real world, and it helps boost our image at school, too. We have earned extra credit for our school records.”
Promoting children’s voices
“Promoting children’s voices through the national news is a noteworthy achievement, because children’s issues are often undermined,” says UNICEF Communication Specialist Arifa S. Sharmin. “Here, it is different, as children, themselves, are generating the story idea, shooting, directing and supervising the edit. They are making their own news by themselves.”
According to Mr. Mamun, the experiment has paid off. “The feedback on this segment has been nothing but positive,” he says. “People are really impressed that such young schoolchildren can take up such challenging subjects and report successfully on them.”
Initiated by UNICEF in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the programme is a result of a joint partnership with Children’s Television Foundation of Bangladesh and ATN Bangla.
“We all want to grow up and be journalists and help society change for the betterment of children at large,” says Mohammad (Mamun Bokaul). “Now, we have a platform – and I believe many other children like us will avail this opportunity and help change their lives.”
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