Community Radio for Information Communities Summit


“Visioning round table that brings together leading Community Radio Practitioners and domain experts to design a roadmap for using Community Radio stations in building bridges of peace and enhancing communal harmony and community empowerment”
Community Radio for Information Communities Summit was organized jointly by Digital Empowerment Foundation, UNESCO and Open Knowledge Community (OKC) on 6th December, 2013 in the 10th Manthan Award Asia Pacific. The Summit focused on developing agenda and methodologies to work towards the goal of peace building and maintaining communal harmony using community radio as a tool. The discussion was driven to provide inputs on formation of a strategy and approach for implementation of the vision.


Keynote: Iskra Panevska, Advisor for Communication and Information, UNESCO
Moderator: Rajen Varada, Founder, Technology for the People
Round Table Discussants:

    • Ms Moe Chiba, UNESCO
    • Dr Usha Rani, University of Mysore
    • Mr N Shah Ansari, Radio Namaskar
    • Ms Geeta Malhotra, READ India
    • Dr Ravina Aggarwal, FORD Foundation
    • Mr Ali Asghar, Development Consultant
    • Ms Vineeta Dixit, NeGP, GoI
    • Mr Asif Syed, Current Newspaper
    • Dr Amir Ullah Khan, Glocal University
    • Mr R Shreedhar, CEMCA
    • Ms. Mridula, Health and Social Development Research Center
    • Ms. Seema, Station Head, Voice of Azamgarh
    • Mr. Sharad Sharma, Cartoonist
    • Mr. Ramakrishnan, IdeoSync Media Combine
    • Mr. Kulwant Singh, UN Habitat
    • Prof. Kashyap, Pantnagar Janvani, Pantnagar University
    • Mr. Deshraj, Radio Mewat Community Radio
    • Mr. Pradip Dixit, Communication Foundation Support, Pune

Summit Bytes

Mr. Rajen Varada, Founder, Technology for the People
The Summit was inducted and introduced by Mr. Rajen Varada, Founder; Technology for the People & Board of Directors- Open Knowledge Community, where he mentioned and highlighted the agenda for the summit: “Strengthening Communal Harmony, Peace and Local Environment through Community Radio”.
Adding to this, he narrated about the establishment of Open Knowledge Community, which is an amalgamation of the ICT4D communities and Education Communities. OKC has been an initiative of the DeitY, Government of India; UNESCO and various civil societies.

The proposition of OKC, primarily, was discussed as a platform to CONNECT, EMPOWER and CHANGE the people, communities, civil societies, industries and government, with the vision of an open, transparent, inclusive and sustainable knowledge community in the country.
Furthermore, Mr Varada added that the utmost mission of creating such a society is to address the “need of various specific social groups such as differently-abled, marginalized and underserviced communities.
The profound highlights of the OKC involves

  • Open Membership based virtual platform
  • Physical platform for face-to-face interaction
  • Support of “Anchor Organizations”
  • Collaboration with Educational Institutions
  • Connecting national and state government agencies with communities for enhanced governance

Mr. Varada concluded the inaugural talk of the summit with specifying the vital importance of Community Radios for communal harmony and invited various round table discussants for their inputs on the subject.
Mr. Anirban Sarma, Director, UNESCO-Delhi discussed about the importance of the Community radio stations in spreading communal harmony in the underserved regions and suffice it with UNESCO’s motives of educational, social and cultural developments.

Having realized that “Youth, Women, Local Developers and Communities, and Media” are the major sectors of impact in any country, he adds that there is an urgent need to create a network that will enhance the communities through Community Radios that are a direct link to the local communities in bridging the gap between the local residents and global agendas.
Iskra Panevska, Adviser for Communication and Information, UNESCO initiated the discussion with the mention of the honorable first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his thoughts on communal harmony and secularism as the base of the foundation of the India. Ms. Panevska’s agreed with Ramachandra Guha on communal conflicts pertaining to caste, language, religion and class tremendously aligned with UNESCO’s initiative.
Ms. Panevska explained the OKC project, that is a 3 years initiative to mobilize local communities and media in three Indian states to build peace and communal harmony. The states will be specifically selected, where any of the 3 major reasons i.e. Social, Religious and Territorial issues can be exclusively targeted for depicting impact.
The Project Activities would be as follows:

  • Baseline Survey to identify target states, with profound research on specific needs of targeted communities
  • Stakeholders Consultation
  • Research into shared spaces
  • Capacity building of local mainstream media
  • Using Community Radios to promote peace

She states that the initiative aspires to be started with association of CR practitioners, as CR would definitely prove to be an effective tool for communal mobilization.
More on this project can be read here:
Panel was invited by Mr Rajen Varada to bring their valuable inputs in the discussion & provide recommendation points so that this roundtable can come out with a mix of suggestions & any further initiative in this area can be implemented impactful.

Vineeta Dixit, Principal Consultant, NeGP–DeitY
starts the discussion on recommending the importance of interaction in the national language and subsequently, explains the entire project agenda, and the initiative of OKC in Hindi for a favorable understanding of the local community participants in the summit.
Ms. Dixit majorly draws the outline onto the activities of OKC and its mission to connect the grassroots level organizations with the bigger organizations for the purpose of advocacy, utilizing their knowledge.
She also adheres with the fact that Community Radios at grassroots level play an important role in escalating communal harmony, and in effective dealing with communal riots.
“Mobilize Community Radios to increase Communal Harmony”, quotes Ms. Dixit as the prime objective of the summit.
Following this, Mr. Varada invited other panelists to put their thoughts on the subject & consolidate the points as objective of the summit as-

  • Build a network of Community Radio Practitioners
  • Initiate a community of practice
  • Develop a strategic plan
  • Formulate a methodology
  • Set Timelines
  • Form a core group of collaborating partners

The Moderator also mentioned some of the expected outcomes from the summit, which primarily included; developing a manifesto, methodology, and work-plan to move forward. To compliment this, a research agenda needed to be developed, and a core group of collaborative partners for the proper and smooth take-off was mentioned as a necessity.

Mr. Ali Asghar, Development Consultant,
put the entire agenda and the expected outcomes in Hindi for the ease of community radio representatives in the discussion, focusing on the following major points of discussion:

  • Communal Harmony through Community Radios
  • Strategy, timeframe and road-map
  • Collaborative organizations

With Mr. Asghar’s remarks, a quick round of inputs from the panelists, and community radio practitioners happened to realize the various ongoing initiatives, their impact, potential inductions in near future, and to devise and formulate the strategy of implementation.

Mr. R Shreedhar, Director, CEMCA,
significantly highlights and insisted on the urgency to involve all the active Community Radio stations present in the country and not just to focus on some handful resources to fulfill the aspirations of attaining communal harmony through community broadcasting.
According to Mr. Shreedhar, not even 30% of the community radio stations are being actively involved in such implementations, which ultimately lead to less outreach and lesser impact. He recommended that in order to attain influential results from the project, community radio stations from across the nation should be invited for participation and contribution.

Ms. Geeta Malhotra, Country Director, READ India
, discusses on her initiative, Open Knowledge Network, which is a similar movement to the Open Knowledge Community (OKC). She mentions that OKN utilizes audio, video and digital modes to reach out to the communities and bring the grassroots voices to the policy advocates.
She also mentioned her firm belief that access of ICT education to women and youth has played a significant role in the community radio outreach, impact and influence. This education equipped them with the necessary skills to apply for the community radio station license and thereby utilizing CRs for promoting community secularism, and eliminating knowledge and information gap among the local communities.

Ms. Mridula, Health and Social Development Research Center,
highlighted two major issues in involving Community radios for community development, stressing majorly on:

  • Material/content for broadcasting
  • Financial sustainability of Community Radio

She mentioned a very specific concern that community radios must not restrict themselves only as a source of entertainment, but their power channelization for the community focused programs should also be realized.
On this Mr. Ali Asghar added a very crucial aspect to the discussion with his clear statement that most of the communal conflicts, be it religious or social, are influenced and promoted through targeted rumors, intentionally ignited for political agendas and benefits.
He states that these rumors prove to be the utmost fuel in ignition of such communal riots and community radios can definitely play a vital role in creating awareness and thereby curbing any such false information. The local radios can also help the government agencies and local administrations to reach out to the people, directly and efficiently, in time of such emergencies.

Dr. Amir Ullah Khan, President, Glocal University,
highlighted the aspect of communal harmony and showed his concern on the current situation and sources of communal conflicts. He clearly stated that in present scenario, most communal conflicts are state sponsored and the power of community radios should be utilized to pressurize state governments, rather than the local administrations.

Ms. Moe Chiba, UNESCO,
howed her concern on two major issues in her viewpoint to implement community radios for communal harmony.

  • What are the necessary skills and what is the correct platform to impart the relevant information to promote community radios as a medium of communal peace.
  • How shall the CR practitioners mitigate the danger that community radios do not fall in trap of the local government?

Mr. Asif Syed, Journalist, Current Newspaper,
provided the recommendation points from his experience as a journalist on some significant aspects to be taken care of:

  • Content/Material of the Community Radios should be of highest priority
  • Community Radios should focus on programs that discuss about the how, who, and what of communal riots to make them understand the “behind the scenes” of such conflicts and violence.
  • Legal Advisors and lawyers should be invited to radio programs to make the communities aware of various laws and legalities
  • People should be informed about their rights through CR programs. He truly cited that people in the local communities are hugely deprived of their rights because of their unawareness towards their rights
  • Elected officials from local government and state ministries should also use this medium to reach out to the local communities and discuss about their duties and roles for better administration.
  • Community radios should also realize their duties to disseminate correct information to the local residents on the required action, when such riots are about to emerge.

Ms. Vineeta Dixit,
agreed on the discussed points and raised some major questions pertaining to the role of Community Radios for communal coherence.

  • The role of local journalist in curbing rumors, subsequently preventing communal conflicts
  • The role of community radios in case any riot breaks off
  • The role of community radios in rehabilitation after any riot

Ms. Dixit also raised the important points from Ms. Chiba’s on the training and education of community practitioners for effective handling.

Dr. Ravina Aggarwal, FORD Foundation,
added her experience and belief in the fact that stress shall be focused on not only curbing communal conflicts and promoting communal harmony, but should emphasize on “Peace Building” as a process that shall happen at an individual level as well as the community level. She remarked that community radios should be brought into utilization for this “Peace Building” with support of debating into the recovery models of the past and looking at future prospects together.

Ms. Seema, Station Head, Voice of Azamgarh,
brought the practical perspective to the summit discussion with her experience of tackling communal issues/riots in Azamgarh through the community radio. She recited an incident on how the community radios coverage and its utilization by the local people to disseminate information helped in restraining the conflicts.

Mr. Sharad Sharma, Cartoonist,
brhighlighted the fact that community radio involvement for community peace and harmony depends majorly on genuine information and local radios should give high priority to its validation.

Mr. Ramakrishnan, IdeoSync Media Combine, briefly discussed the two major concerns on the community radio viability for involvement in community concord.

  • CR stations, currently, lack the necessary skills to tackle the issues of rumors and stressed on his concern of imparting Technical Skills and Education to the CR practitioners
  • Attitude of the people within the CR Station, in regards to their passion and motivation in disseminating real information among the local community.

Mr. Kulwant Singh, UN Habitat,
mentioned the UN Habitat involvement in creating awareness among the communities for peace building, and signified his ideology on treating “peace creation” intrinsically and nurturing the communities for communal harmony.

Mr. N Shah Ansari, Radio Namaskar,
shared his experience and his community radio involvement for community harmony citing examples of Radio Namaskar activities towards strengthening Communal solidarity. He also highlighted the issue of “Capacity building of grassroots journalists”.

Prof. Kashyap, Pantnagar Janvani, Pantnagar University,
discussed about Janvani Community Radio and stated that the idea of the project should not only focus on CR programs influenced by communal conflicts and but also should give importance to the aspects where communities unify.

Mr. Deshraj, Radio Mewat Community Radio,
highlighted an incident in Mewat and the role of community radio of Mewat in curbing the riot and re-instating stability. From his experience of having a community radio in a sensitive area such as Mewat, Mr. Deshraj aptly highlighted that community radios can play a very vital role in reaching out to the communities in times of urgency and trouble. He significantly mentioned that local government and police highly utilize the community radio presence in Mewat for reaching out the local communities of Mewat when any conflict arises. Inclusiveness is the mantra here”, Alfaz-e-Mewat Community Radio

Alfaz-e-Mewat representative also mentioned the importance of training women as opinion leaders for his belief that women would be ideal diffusers of information in such communities.

Mr. Pradip Dixit, Communication Foundation Support, Pune,
precisely, highlighted the need of expert script writers for the community radios to ensure quality content for the communities.

Dr. Usha Rani, University of Mysore,
stated her recommendation on the fact that apart from generating programs to aware people about communal conflicts and influence them towards communal harmony, community radios should also involve the local communities to enable them to express opinion on the concerns.

Community Radio Practitioners from Radio Madhuban, Radio Bundelkhand, and Radio 7 also provided the inputs on developing community radios for better and advanced initiatives focused towards “Peace Building”. They united on the necessity of training and skills impartment to community radio stations, thereby targeting the all-round approach for secular, social and territorial upliftment in local communities.
The Summit was concluded by Mr. Varada with the following points:

  • Collaboration of various community radios with OKC and UNESCO for project initiation
  • The core group of people was finalized for project take-off
  • Creating the “Communities of Peace” stated as the common agenda for community development
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