Voice of Tibet 1
Training underway in the VoT newsroom with Fojo consultant, Petra Quiding. (Photo: Sonam Wangdue)

Hardship meeting ethical journalism goals

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-Being a Tibetan, with the struggle going on, sometimes when you hear news of self-immolations and writers and singers being imprisoned coming out of your country, you cannot help being affected as an individual.

-But for a journalist it is imperative that such news does not change the way you work, says Mr Sonam Wangdue.

He works as a video editor at Voice of Tibet (VoT) here in Dharamsala in northern India and we are discussing specific problems of being an exile media outlet; about allowing ourselves to have emotions and take responsibility for the people affected while making sure at the same time, to treat the topic fairly.

-What you can do, Sonam says, is to track the source of the news, find the reasons, the historical background, not just on a superficial level but by trying to dig deeper for the real causes. And then try to just put the truth out there. That's the contribution I can make as a journalist, to my people and their sufferings.

We are sitting in the new offices of the Voice of Tibet. It is cold outside and a heater is trying to warm up the newsroom. The independent radio station broadcasts shortwave daily programmes in both Tibetan and Chinese language with the help of their Norwegian NGO sponsors. The programmes can be heard in Tibet and China, as well as India, Bhutan and Nepal, and it is put together here, in Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan exile community and the residence of his holiness the Dalai Lama. 

VoT pic03VoT produces both radio for their shortwave transmission and video for their website. (Photo: Petra Quiding)

This week we are all engaged in how to use digital media more in our reporting, how to produce our stories in different formats over time and how to interact more with the audience. But engaging with the audience is not easy when the audience sits behind closely watched Chinese Internet censorship.

-I think the biggest problem we face is living up to the ethical standards of journalism because of that, says Tenzin Norsang, senior reporter in the Tibetan section of Voice of Tibet.

Next to Norsang sits the Editor of the Chinese section, Mr Gurbum Gyal and he thinks one way out of this problem is finding new ways to contact the audience, using all the new digital tools available, both to spread the VoT's content, but also to find and use other material, so called user-generated content.

-We don't have a nation, so we have to take our responsibility when we get news from inside Tibet. We have to think about the security and welfare of our sources. If we don't, it will cause problems for them. So new ways need to be found, says Gyal.

-If we get retweeted in China where there are millions of users, and they share on Weibo, the most popular Chinese social media, then we will have succeeded because they cannot ban Weibo, he says.

-So being updated on digital journalism is very useful for us and helps us work around the Chinese government ban.

His colleague, Norsang gives an example of today's news, when the Chinese news services suggested that a Tibetan person could be behind an attack on a Chinese embassy in San Francisco, USA.

-We managed to get the information out that the FBI had said it was a Chinese, not Tibetan citizen that was arrested. This way we got the truth out. If that is spread throughout China it helps work against false accusations and stereotyping of Tibetans, he explains.

And he is hoping the VoT story reaches Chinese authorities.

-That would be a good day, smiles Gyal.

Petra Quiding


VoT pic02During the week we concentrated on producing different versions of our material in order to get the most out of it, and reach a broader audience, in the format they prefer. (Photo: Petra Quiding)

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