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Asia

Bangladesh: Radio program tackles corruption

While Bangladesh is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, many who live there appear to be indifferent. A new radio program developed with DW Akademie support aims to change that.

During a DW Akademie in-house training for journalists at ABC Radio in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, one comment that was made early on was striking. "I've never come up against corruption," said Shagufta Abid Shari on the workshop's first day. The young news reporter was speaking during a discussion about how corruption affects Bangladeshis' everyday lives. Her comment was especially surprising given that Bangladesh is considered to be one of the world's most corrupt countries.

Her reaction also pointed to an underlying problem in Bangladeshi society: people have become so accustomed to the endemic corruption there, they are no longer even aware of it or the impact it has. "Our worst enemy in the fight against corruption is indifference, particularly among young people," said Sharmeen Shahnaz, another workshop participant.

DW Akademie's in-house training for journalists at ABC Radio in Dhaka (photo: DW Akademie).

Daily brainstorming sessions at ABC Radio in Dhaka

The international NGO Transparency International (TI) ranks Bangladesh close to the bottom of its Corruption Perception Index. TI looks at everything from petty corruption such as the bribing of municipal officials for permits and licenses to big scandals involving high-ranking politicians.

Corruption played a role in the Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013 where more than 1,000 garment workers lost their lives in a building collapse. The owner had apparently bribed officials in order to circumvent building codes.

"Rampant, ubiquitous corruption stifles many good attempts to move the country forward," says Eberhard Sucker, DW Akademie country coordinator for Bangladesh. He points to government offices, for example, which often dip into funding originally meant for development projects. "But journalists can help fight this scourge by uncovering and reporting on corruption cases and by resisting bribes they're offered themselves to provide favorable coverage or to not report on corruption at all."

Combining journalism and "design thinking"

While a new radio program on this deep-seated problem aims to change the status quo, it can be a challenge to develop an informative, engaging show on the topic that also connects with younger listeners. This was the main focus of the two-week workshop for 15 ABC Radio journalists. The project was initiated by the German development organization GIZ with support from Bangladesh's Anti-Corruption Commission. ABC Radio has recently undergone major programming changes and is introducing innovative formats aimed at younger audiences.

In the process of creating a pilot for the new program, the two workshop trainers - local journalist Mainul Islam Khan and DW Akademie trainer Attila Mong - took a creative approach, combining journalism basics with the methods of "design thinking," a process used widely in Silicon Valley for fostering new and innovative concepts.

Daily brainstorming sessions and the testing of new ideas on potential listeners were at the core of the training. At the workshop beginning, participants came up with profiles of two fictional but "typical" Bangladeshi listeners - Afreen, a woman, and Mamoum, a man, both in their early twenties. Participants constantly tested new ideas by asking themselves: "would this appeal to Afreen and Mamoum?"

Holding a mirror up to society

Attila Mong, DW Akademie's trainer, at ABC Radio in Dhaka (photo: DW Akademie).

Attila Mong, DW Akademie trainer

On the eighth day of the workshop, just two days before participants were set to present their pilot idea to station management, they still felt something wasn't quite right. "We want to have another try, make the show even better," they said during the morning session. It was late in the game. They had already produced a pilot program called Anya ("The Mirror"), which included music, news, vox pops, interviews and clips from celebrities commenting on corruption and prevention.

But the team wanted to make the show even more appealing to young listeners, and they set about doing just that. In two hectic days, they added new elements, more music, and fine-tuned the style of the show, making it more entertaining and, hopefully, inspiring. They even rewrote and rerecorded the lyrics to an anti-corruption song that had originally been on a Bollywood film soundtrack.

"We wanted to produce a pilot but also make sure the team would take ownership of the show and make it part of the programming," says Attila Mong. "When after the workshop we saw the enthusiasm on the faces of the journalists and radio management, we were sure we’d reached our goals."


The pilot show concludes a series of workshops conducted by DW Akademie which were part of the "Good Governance and Democracy" project of the German development organization GIZ and the Bangladeshi Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). The project also included training for press spokespeople at ACC and investigative research workshops for journalists reporting on corruption. In addition, five winners of a journalism prize for outstanding reporting on corruption were invited to take part in DW's Global Media Forum 2014 in Bonn.

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