Indian journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary, who launched a unique grassroots communication platform in 2004 in Chhattisgarh called CGNet Swara to give voice to millions of tribals, was awarded a prestigious award for digital activism at the Barbican in London Thursday evening.
Choudhary was one of four nominees for the award given by Index on Censorship, a prominent London-based campaigning organisation for freedom of expression, which gives awards every year to “recognize the bravest journalists, artists, campaigners and digital innovators from around the world”.
Besides Choudhary, the other three nominees for the ‘Digital Activism Award’ (decided by public vote) were former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, Chinese social network FreeWeibo and operation system TAILS.
CGNet Swara is a mobile-phone service that allows people to upload and listen to hyper-local reports in their local language, providing a communication outlet for tribals and others that usually do not find space in the mainstream media. Reported stories are moderated by journalists and become available for playback online as well as over the phone.
Choudhary told HT: “We now want to take this further and integrate the existing mobile and internet-based platform with radio. It will further address the breakdown of communication between the mainstream media and the adivasis”.
“This will not only democratize communication but also ensure that small problems of advisasis are redressed and do not accumulate to become big ones, such as what is called the ‘Maoist problem’. We want to approach the government with this model”, he said.
Addressing a large gathering of media experts, human rights lawyers, journalists and members of media-watch groups, Choudhary said mass communication was still controlled by a small group of people, a situation that needed to change.
“We need to democratize journalism, to allow for a journalism of concern, so that ordinary people can tell their own stories and enrich democracy further. If we want a better future, we cannot afford to leave communication in the hands of a few people”, he said.
Other award winners included Shahzad Ahmad, for his campaign against online censorship in Pakistan. He has sued the Pakistani government over the suspected use of surveillance software, FinFisher. He is also suing the government over its ongoing blocking of YouTube.
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Shubhranshu Choudhary, the man behind CGNet Swara