US Consulate General Kolkata hosts international media workshop for women journalists

Sikkim Express,  August 14, 2022

With the aim of promoting responsible journalism among women media practitioners from the Indo-Pacific region, the U.S. Consulate General Kolkata hosted an international media workshop titled ‘role of women journalists in countering misinformation and disinformation in the Indo-Pacific region’ at the Lincoln Hall, American Centre at Kolkata on August 11-12.

The initiative was taken in partnership with Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) with the support of South Asian Women in Media (SAWM) and East West Center (EWC).

The workshop was attended by around 60 women journalists from different countries, including the U.S. and countries in the Indo-Pacific region, such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, among others. They will be discussing the threats and challenges they face in their respective countries along with the good practices adopted to counter them.

Sikkim was solely represented by SIKKIM EXPRESS.

The workshop trained the journalists on several aspects of information asymmetry, including countering disinformation, misinformation and mal-information- all of which pose a significant threat to their lives, career as well as the overall society. The workshop also had a broader objective of ensuring peace and stability in the Indi-Pacific region by developing a strong collaboration network of women journalists, equipped with the tools and technique to counter ‘infodemic’ and reinforce positive counter-narratives across borders to create stronger democracies.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the workshop, U.S. Consulate Kolkata Consul General Melinda Pavek emphasized on the role of free and independent media as the cornerstone of a healthy democracy. She cautioned against the adverse impact of information asymmetry with respect to undermining people’s trust in democratic institutions. In this regard, she mentioned the Digital Communication Network (DCN) established by the United States.

The DCN is a network of more than 8,000 journalists, educators, communicators, new media professionals, and public officials who are working to combat disinformation and propaganda. The network develops and shares tools that provide people with accurate information and fact-checking capabilities. She concluded by stating that the United States is working on developing, strengthening, and integrating more such networks across the Indo-Pacific region to promote media literacy, popularize fact checking, and support press freedom.

American Centre Kolkata director Adrian Pratt highlighted the role of digital technology in bolstering people’s access to information in real time from across the globe. However, he also pointed out its misuse by actors to spread misinformation and to harass journalists, especially women journalists.

CUTS executive director Bipul Chatterjee underlined the issue of information literacy among journalists as a critical step for combating mis/disinformation. He underlined the need for disseminating correct information about the U.S.-led initiative of building an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). He mentioned that often the IPEF is viewed solely as a tool for extending market access by the U.S. Such incomplete narratives often overshadow the other pillars of the IPEF namely regional security and climate change, he added. He concluded by highlighting the role of Civil Society Organisation in the Indo-Pacific in creating information literacy among various stakeholder groups, including the media.

SAWM general secretary Nilova Roy Chaudhary shared challenges being faced by women journalists in South Asia. She mentioned that such challenges range from misogyny to trolling to misinformation. She emphasized the need for establishing cross-border collaboration among women journalists in the Indo-Pacific region as a tool for combating the harassment of women journalists in the workplace.

East West Centre media program manager Susan Kreifels advocated that combatting misinformation was not a one-time exercise and required long-term effort and investment. She cited various reports indicating loss of people’s trust in media on account of misinformation and stressed the need to call out and prosecute actors who bombard society with misleading information.

The two-day workshop had various interactive sessions and panel discussions by resource persons from the US, India, Sri Lanka etc.

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