Citizen journalists discuss Dhaka polls, expectations of voters

Citizen journalists of bdnews24.com have given their take on the recent elections to the two Dhaka city corporations and what the electorates expect of the new leadership.

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 11 Feb 2020, 09:46 PM
Updated : 12 Feb 2020, 01:49 PM

They gathered for a discussion at the news publisher’s offices on Tuesday marking the ninth anniversary of blog.bdnews24.com, the first Bangladeshi platform of citizen journalists.

Ten citizen journalists took part in the discussion – ‘What Kind of City We Want’ - conducted by Ireen Sultana, who moderates the blog as well.

They discussed e-voting, among other issues, as the elections in Dhaka were held exclusively on electronic voting machines or EVMs.

The senior citizens faced problems with fingerprint matching despite the voters being enthusiastic about the EVMs, Borhan Biswas pointed out.

Shadnan Mahmud Nirjhor pointed out some other limitations of EVMs, one being that there is no way to recheck a vote once it is cast while the option is available in paper ballots.

The citizen journalists also spoke about incidents where voters were forced to leave following identification so that their votes can be cast for other candidates.

The residents of the capital suffered immensely due to some reasons like the use of mikes during the campaign.

“Such a mode of campaign gives us an idea about the public representatives’ sincerity,” said Rodela Nila, describing the use of mikes in the campaign as “extremely annoying” in a city already struggling with noise pollution.

“The candidates did not even care to follow many guidelines set out in the electoral code of conduct. They used mikes even until midnight on full volume,” she said.

Monem Opu, a resident of Uttara, described the campaign through SMS as positive. The posters hung during the campaign were also removed after the vote, he said.

Nurunnahar Shirin from Gulshan said children were used in the campaign like in the past.

“It’s totally wrong. There has be some codes to keep little children away from election activities,” she said, urging the mainstream media to raise their voice along with the citizen journalists to stop the practice.

Children suffer from a lack of security in the handful of playing grounds in the city, she said and asked the mayors and councillors to ensure the child safety in the parks.

Aminur Rahman Hridoy raised old issues like traffic congestion, rundown streets and waterlogging.

The authorities dug a street in his neighbourhood, Dhanmondi, six months ago but have not repaired it, he said.

“Water gathers on many streets after a little rain. We want the mayors and councillors to prioritise these problems for solution,” he said.

Nahid Dipa said it was the authorities’ job to ensure good health for all the citizens – from children to the elderly – but problems in this sector continue to linger on, especially for women.

A lack of public toilets in the city forces every woman to be anxious whenever she goes out, she said.

“The mayors and councillors can win some hearts by resolving the drinking water and public toilet problems, even to some degree, instead of advertising their profiles on huge billboards,” she said.   

Civic amenities of a modern city can be ensured only if sustainable development is ensured and city governance system launched, RN Toma said. The city corporation can coordinate the jobs between different agencies to ensure civic facilities in that case, she said.

Shafiq Mitul said the idea of city government cannot take hold because many of the 28 agencies that provide the residents with civic facilities do not want to hand their powers to the mayor, which creates a disconnect.

Monem Opu said the policymakers should work to bring changes towards installing a city government system little by little since it is a complicated system.

Shahin Reja said all the mayors pledge to develop an environmentally friendly city. “But the reality is no one other than late Annisul Huq could offer something tangible towards that goal,” he said.

“And the candidates’ indifference towards environment was clearly visible in the campaign. How will a city be friendly to environment if they themselves are not conscious?” he asked.

ACCURACY

After the discussion, the citizen journalists met bdnews24.com Editor-in-Chief Toufique Imrose Khalidi.

The mainstream media cannot cover all the injustices that happens in society and that is where the citizen journalists can come into play, he said.

There are differences between mainstream journalism and citizen journalism, but the accountability in writing and the accuracy of information must be protected in all cases, he added.

Citizen journalists must confirm information by verifying them through repeated checks before they make allegations against someone. Because an incorrect report can cause huge damage to someone, he said.

“That can't be done. You have to be very conscious about every part of what is being written,” Khalidi said.

Regular news is published only after it is crosschecked in several steps. Since blogs don’t run all these steps to verify information, they need more carefulness, he said.

“The responsibility to ensure accuracy lies on the author."

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher