Local government officials’, contractors’, and user committees’ inauspicious behavior is the major challenge for PublicInterest Reporting (PIR) at local level. This is the common impression of participants in PIR workshop. Thealoofness of political representatives and officials of local government is the principal obstacle to unveilthe public interest issues through reporting. Limited access of proper information, as well as the contradictory views of local politicians about public concern bothersthe way towards in-depth reporting. Participant journalists expressed their fear and impediments of PIR along with future areas and strategies in the two-day workshop on ‘Public Interest Reporting’ held on 13-14 January 2020 in Bhaktapur. The event was organized by Freedom Forum.
Project Manager Sanjeeb Ghimire highlighted the major objectives of the workshop on PIR. Bringing members of previously formed Public Interest Reporting Group (PIRG) on a boardto explore and identify different public interest issuesand assessing the challenges and future strategy of PIR. The workshop also aimed for developinginformation-sharingculture and easing joint effort among participants.
The participants assessed and analyzed the impact of previous reporting on reconstruction and rehabilitation. The active reporting at that time helped to disclose the real picture about victim of earthquake, which further helped government agencies to plan their program accordingly. The reporting about the government plan and policies of reconstruction also facilitated stakeholders of earthquakevictim to get proper services on time. The PIR stories also abetted to reveal the malpractice and corruption at local level alongside it embedded as a catalyst to change the government policies and priorities.
Furthermore, theworkshop identified prospective issues of PIR. Consumer group and their work, local budget and expanses, health service and community school performance, excessive exploitation of local natural resources, performance of local representatives, problem related to retrofitting and reconstruction, performance and accountability of judicial committee, effectiveness of agricultural program and fund, audit and accountability measure of local government are the major issues among varied.
Concerning on the skills and capacity building of the PIR group; Cheif Executive of Freedom Forum: Taranath Dahal focused on the impact of PIR reporting. He stressed about their learning way forward and their visible performance that can lead the participants to a higher level.To broaden the understanding on PIR atgrass-root level self-engaged reporting is necessary, stated mentor and facilitator Dharmendra Jha. He also shared the reporting tools, techniques, and strategies based on identified issues.
Besides, the PIR participants highlighted the future strategies for collaborative effort. Following are few of those strategies.
- Engage group members via different meetings and communication means; both virtual and other forms in routine manner,
- Explore the opportunities for capacity enhancement, training,and mentoring on public interest reporting,
- Expand PIR group and network as per the need, and share different issues and ideas, angles about PIR issues in social media platform and group.
The workshop, held as part of the program “Civil Society Mutual Accountability Project (CS: MAP)” with the support of FHI360, was attended by 16 participants. Out of 16 participants, there were 3 females in the event.