Bangladesh Minister for Information & Communication Technologies Hasanul Haq Inu addresses the delegates (Courtesy: ACORAB)

Bangladesh Minister for Information & Communication Technologies Hasanul Haq Inu addresses the delegates (Courtesy: ACORAB)

CR activists, stations and associations from Nepal, Bangladesh and India recently convened in Kathmandu, Nepal, for the ‘South Asian Conference on Community Radio’. The high point of the meeting was the adoption of the Kathmandu Declaration, a roadmap for the development of regional networks and coordination mechanisms for community media across South Asia.

The conference, visualized as the first of regular biannual gatherings, was held on August 9 & 10, 2016. It was organized by Nepal’s Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Nepal, (ACORAB), in partnership with Bangladesh’s Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) and Sri Lanka’s Sri Lank Development Journalist Forum (SDJF). Other contributors included Asian Institute of Broadcast Development (AIBD), Asian Broadcasters Union (ABU) and Centre for International Studies and Cooperation (CECI).

The conference was inaugurated by Nepal’s Vice President, Mr. Nanda Bahadur Pun, and Bangladesh’s Minister for Information, Mr. Hasanul Haq Inu. Other significant speakers at the inauguration included the Vice President of AMARC (World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters), Mr. Min Bahadur Shahi; ACORAB President, Mr. Mohan Chapagain; and the Nepal National Information Commission Chief, Mr. Krishnahari Baskota.

The two-day meeting included a variety of sessions of practical importance to community radio stations across the region, ranging from sustainability issues and the role of CR in social empowerment, to the importance of community radio in encouraging better governance and participatory democracy. The sessions included presentations by CR stations from Bangladesh, Nepal and India, as well as by agencies working with CR on a variety of development issues.

From India, Ideosync’s N. Ramakrishnan made presentations at the conference on Ideosync’s 3-country CR sustainability research, and its current FREE/DEM initiative on democracy, active citizenship and Right to Information, in which more than 65 Indian CR stations are involved. Other Indian participants included Dr. Sebastian Verghese from Radio Mattoli (Kerala) and Mr. K.V. Rao from Radio MGIRI (Maharashtra), who presented their stations’ initiatives.

In the light of the earthquake in Nepal in 2015, a key focus was the importance of community radio in disaster mitigation and prevention. Representatives of ACORAB and individual CR stations from Nepal discussed the challenges they faced after the earthquake, and how they brought the community radio process in many badly damaged stations back on track in the months that followed.

Group work during the conference focused on the capacity building needs of CRs across the region, and processes to ensure improved community engagement and feedback as well as opportunities for regional sharing and collaborations, especially in regard to creating a unified policy advocacy process across South Asia.

The conference sparked several interesting discussions on the need for a formal South Asian regional coordination body for community media. Readers of CR News will remember previous articles on the establishment of the South Asia Network for Community Media (SANCOM). Community radio activists from all three countries called for the strengthening and formalization of the network as a framework for regional coordination and cooperation between community media practitioners and advocates in countries that have enacted community media related policies (India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan). At the same time, it advocated the active encouragement of community media processes in other South Asian countries yet to travel that path (Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka).

The Kathmandu Declaration, presented formally to the delegates during the concluding session of the conference, was drafted by a committee selected from the participants, and included A.H.M. Bazlur Rahman (CEO, BNNRC, Bangladesh), N. Ramakrishnan (Director, Ideosync, India), Parveen Nahar (CR Jhenuk, Bangladesh) and K. V. Rao (Radio MGIRI, India). The full text of the Kathmandu Declaration may be seen online at: bit.ly/2b94x0c.

N.Ramakrishnan
Executive Director
Ideosync Media Combine

 

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