Voicing the voiceless : Swara 1

swaracover-smallNews is being re-defined in India where citizen journalists use mobile phones  to create a grass roots news gathering network.

To seek accuracy and foster credibility, their stories were fact checked by professional journalists employed to review submitted material.

In Australia, community radio which was introduced in 1975, has always been hampered by its ability to gather stories beyond the reach of mainstream media. This led some Australian stations to merely put an alternative spin of stories already featured in corporate outlets.

India’s CGNet Swara is a voice-based portal, freely accessible via mobile phone, that allows anyone to report and listen to stories of local interest. Reported stories are moderated by journalists and become available for playback online as well as over the phone, the Swara site said.

Many of the estimated 80 million members of India’s tribal communities lack access to any mainstream media outlets. This often poses serious barriers to their socio-economic development, as their grievances about government neglect and economic exploitation remain unvoiced. In addition, certain factions (such as the Maoist insurgency) can exploit their frustration and isolation to violent ends…Swara

Swara stories might be ignored by journalists operating within city based agendas and corporate priorities. They included interviews with villagers upset that their locally sacred river had been turned into a polluted drain. Another story complained of lack of compensation for dam construction in a farming area.

Shubhranshu Choudhary

Shubhranshu Choudhary

Founder of CGNet Swara, Shubhranshu Choudhary told a TEDx Talk in Bangalore that when he was a journalist, he traveled from trouble spot to trouble spot “like a vulture”. He said he could tell people “the size of the bullet”  but couldn’t explain why things were happening. He said that after ceasing to be a journalist, he had more time to sit and talk to people about their problems. “The kind of answers I got made me very surprised”.

Choudhary said Swara was based on the traditional idea of villagers sitting under a banyan tree to discuss their problems. “We need to democratise media,” he said. “We did something revolutionary. We started a Yahoo group…internet has a very limited reach [in rural India]…but most people have a mobile phone”

Anyone with a phone could report and tell their story, he said. “Most people in this world are oral; they are more used to speaking and listening than reading and writing”. “The news is coming from the people, via some people like you and I,and then back to the people” Choudhary said.

CGNet Swara was launched as part of the Knight International Journalism Fellowships (no relation), in a program of the International Center for Journalists.


One comment

  1. I’m aboriginal from Australia. This could work well with our people.
    How do I find out more information about the phone in set up?


    Les Schultz
    Ngadju Conservation Coordinator

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