World's first children video news service
In an innovative move aimed at raising awareness about children's issues in the South Asian nation, Bangladesh's leading online media outlet bdnews24.com - together with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) - recently launched the world's first-ever children's video news service.
The online platform, named "Prism," is part of an attempt to strengthen the voices of vulnerable and marginalized Bangladeshi children and air their concerns.
It features stories and videos produced by child reporters, on issues they deem important for the welfare of children in the country.
In the videos (like the one below), children talk about their problems and reflect on their rights.
Over 100 children have been trained by professionals to work as video journalists for the project. While they mainly publish their video reports on a website, some TV channels in the country also broadcast the reports. This helps ensure that the issues reach policymakers and prompt them to take steps to tackle the problems.
Onindyo Paul Chowdhury, a child journalist at Prism, hopes that the platform will help children to raise awareness about their problems both nationally and internationally, thus spurring action to resolve them.
"Many children face torture in Bangladesh," the 15-year-old journalist told DW, listing a slew of abuses they constantly encounter in their daily lives: child labor, child marriage, unbearable pressure from the education system and a lack of proper medical facilities for children, among other forms of exploitation.
Arju Mony Dristy, another child journalist of the news service, shares a similar view. Talking about child labor in the country, she stresses that even though there are laws against the practice, they are seldom effectively implemented, resulting in many children being left vulnerable to exploitation.
"Children are forced to take risky and objectionable jobs. At the same time, girls don't have equal educational opportunities," she told DW.
Skills and ethics
Journalism is a risky profession in Bangladesh, which remains one of the world's most graft-prone nations. It was the 13th most corrupt country in the world in 2015, according to the global corruption index of Transparency International, a Berlin-based NGO.
Toufique Imrose Khalidi, editor-in-chief of bdnews24.com, believes it is important to teach the child reporters not only journalistic skills, but also ethics.
His media company is responsible for selecting young journalists for Prism and organizing their training. "We try to teach them journalistic ethics as well as reporting skills. We have a handbook for child journalists that helps them learn what journalism is as well as what makes news," Khalidi said.
"Children are better than us in many ways. They learn faster than us. And they are more committed,'' Khalidi added.
An acute need
The necessity for a TV channel for children, by children, is reflected by the fact that not even one of Bangladesh's 20 TV channels is dedicated to children's programming.
That's why, young journalist Chowdhury says, there's a strong need for Prism, highlighting that more than 30 percent of the country's population are less than 14 years old. "A TV channel for children could teach us many things including proper behavior and responsibilities. It could also make them aware of themselves,'' he underlined.
Prism's reporter Dristy agrees, arguing that there is a need for a TV channel on which educational and entertainment programs will be aired only for children.
But Khalidi, who says he is running Prism as part of his company's corporate social responsibility, notes that such a TV channel requires a huge amount of investment.
"We are working on creating an outlet for children, but the problem is that we are subsidizing our current projects. Still, we are hopeful that we can do better in the future and even start an online TV for children.''