Ansar Ahmed Ullah :Members of the international media gathered at the House of Lords on Wednesday 1 May to mark World Press Freedom Day. The event was organised by the Independent Media Club (IMC) set by members of the Bengali media, but not exclusively Bengalis, working in the UK. The title of the roundtable discussion programme was ‘Challenges and Opportunities of Digital Media’ in relation to traditional journalism. The discussion was hosted and chaired by Lord Robert Eames OM.
A packed audience made of students, media professionals and others from law & business sector listened as guest speakers spoke on the challenges they face in their role as journalists. Masud Hassan Khan, BBC Bangla producer & Chair of IMC introduced the guest speakers who reflected on the impact of social media on their profession and how it’s influencing general public in terms of receiving news. TRT World correspondent Shamim Chowdhury spoke on citizen journalism and how TV news channels frequently turn to platforms such as Facebook or Twitter during unfolding of a big story. Video images from people on the street will be the first pictures to emerge. These materials often play a crucial role in telling us what’s happening on the ground. Journalist & broadcaster questioned the trust public may have on traditional media now that people have access to news from so many sources. For Becky Horsbrugh, a freelance journalist, media professionals can play a crucial role to stem the tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric that has grown with the growth of social media. She suggested broadcasters should use the same terminology when covering attacks such as Christchurch, New Zealand and the recent Sri Lanka bombings.
Panel members agreed digital media is also giving a voice to people who perhaps in past had no avenues to express their views. Anisha Faruque, first Bengali President of Oxford Students Union explained how social media was a lifeline for students studying journalism and the main source of news for the younger generation. She recognised that while fake news on such platforms were of concern digital media is very much the future of journalism. Maksuda Akhter Prioty, a writer & former Ms Ireland added that social media has allowed #Me Too movement and other campaigns to flourish.
Other aspects of press freedom were also covered by panel members including Ruby Dhingara from NDTV India who recounted the pressures journalist particularly women face when reporting, Raisa Wickrematunge, Groundviews from Sri Lanka spoke on how social media was blocked by government following the church bombings and Tanvir Ahmed, Current Affairs Editor at Channel S recounted how he was barred from Bangladesh High Commission because of his reporting of irregularities and service provision. Foreign Minister Lord Ahmad also graced the occasion.