Shubhranshu Choudhary, a Knight International Journalism Fellow, wants to utilize his democratic media model, CGNet Swara, to increase communication across underserved communities.
Choudhary spoke Monday about his experience in democratic journalism and his work with disenfranchised villagers in the central tribal region of India.
CGNet Swara is an experimental platform that facilitates discussions on issues related to the Central Gondwana region. Through this program, ordinary citizens can submit phone calls to a website. Volunteers then translate the messages from local dialects to English and connect the citizens with resources to bring about change. Choudhary said the idea for CGNet Swara came to him while reporting on warfare and conflicts in India.
“I was reporting and started talking to these ‘terrorists,’ and the whole idea came from them,” Choudhary said. “If we create a democratic model of media and communication, then it helps solve more problems. So we started trying radio, mobile and Internet, this and that. What works is different for different areas.”
Journalism graduate student Paromita Pain worked with CGNet Swara for three months in India.
“The people we are talking about here are so poor that sometimes they don’t even have a concept of money,” Pain said. “They live in communities where even the barter system is alive, so it is a very disempowered population.”
Laura Stein, associate professor in the radio-television-film department, worked in India on grassroots media and said she thinks more can be done to address inequality stemming from a lack of access to modern technology.
“There hasn’t been a lot of attention about how new media and technology can be used to help groups that have been disenfranchised, and this is one of those projects trying to think through how to do this,” Stein said.
Choudhary said he is looking forward to finding ways to expand his model of democratic media in order to make it duplicable and sustainable to communities internationally in the future.
“We have to make this sustainable, otherwise there is no point in doing it,” Choudhary said. “We need to make people understand the importance of free media. So if you want peace, if you want a better future, we need to volunteer, put money in and educate societies. As politics has democratized, we think journalism should also democratize.”