"While reporting on HIV/AIDS and drug abuse issues, the journalists should themselves be free from superstitions, myths and misconception and biased attitude. Media can play a powerful role in leading the battle against drug abuse and HIV/AIDS, currently plaguing the country", stated Mr. Kanak Sen Deka, veteran journalist and editor
Dainik Agrodoot, on the occasion of the one-day media sensitization workshop organized by UNODC at Hotel Bramhaputra Ashok, Guwahati on 22 January 2008. Mr. Kanak Sen Deka is also the President of Assom Xahitya Xabha, the highest socio-literary apex body of Assam.
Mr. Gary Lewis at the inauguralThis workshop was organized by
project G86, one of the lead projects of UNODC dealing with the prevention aspect of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. The G86 team was successful in mobilizing support from key local media bodies such as: Guwahati Press Club, Shillong Press Club and Journalist Forum. Mr. Gary Lewis, Representative UNODC, Mr. Pratik Kumar, Project Coordinator G86 and Pinky Pradhan, Project Associate G86 were the resource persons for this workshop. Senior journalists like Mr. Nava Thakuria from Guwahati Press Club and Mr. Samudra Gupta Kashyap, senior correspondent Indian Express and member of 'Media Coalilition against drugs, HIV/AIDS and human trafficking' were also present as resource persons. The workshop was organized by more than 80 media professionals from Assam and Meghalaya. Students studying in premier mass communication institutions and local NGOs also took part in it.
Media whether newspapers, radio, TV channels or movies, sometimes glamorize drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes-
'3 kg heroin seized' or
'Youth commits suicide with an overdose of drugs' or
'Drug user beaten up in public'. In this context, the project felt the need to share information and sensitize the media regarding prevention approaches, vulnerabilities of youth towards drug abuse and rights based reporting.
The workshop also intended to serve the twin purpose of creating awareness about UNODC and its response to drug abuse and HIV/AIDS and a pool of media advocates. For this, one-on-one meetings were held with editors and senior journalists. Information regarding the workshop was also released in the Assamese media.
During the workshop, Mr. Gary Lewis shared the scenario of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS and UNODC's comprehensive response to it. He called upon the journalists to pay more attention to this problem, which is affecting thousand of lives, posing human security challenges and creating social imbalance. He also drew the attention of the media to the problem of human trafficking in Northeast. He cited examples of young people being trafficked under the pretext of better future.
The following recommendations were proposed by the journalists during the deliberation of the workshop:
Moving beyond reporting on the security issues and focussing on social issues emerging from drug abuse.
The need to talk about gateway drugs like tobacco, alcohol and inhalants especially gutka and other accepted forms of gateway drugs.
Address the issue of stigma against drug users so that the issue does not remain taboo and more people seek counselling/treatment.
Parallel meetings also took place with corporate bodies such as ONGC, Power Grid, Airtel
, NEDFI (Northeatern Development and Financacial institution), FINER ( Federation of Industry & Commerce of North Eastern Region) and OIL with the objective of exploring their corporate social responsibility agenda and possibility of mutual partnerships. UNODC team also met up with Mr. Jayant Madhav, Economic Advisor to the Chief Minister of Assam and Mrs. Babita Sharma, member of Assam Tea Board and spokesperson of the ruling political party of Assam.
As an outcome of the visibility received through this workshop, UNODC has been invited by Assam SACS to be a committee member of the
Donor Coordination Committee