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Journalists & Stakeholders In Disaster Management Meet To Achieve Better Role Of Media During Calamities In Odisha


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24 June 2019

Snigdha Chandan Das


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Bhubaneswar: Media has a pivotal role in dissipating information in times of crisis. For states like Odisha which are prone to natural calamities, the role and scope of mainstream media becomes immense, Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) of Odisha, Bishnupada Sethi said.

Addressing a State level conference on 'Role of Media in Humanitarian Crisis' held here on Monday, Sethi said, media has a very important role in a democratic nation. "At times of humanitarian crisis, the surveillance of media on preventive measures, actionables, post-disaster scenarios, relief and restoration acts as a check and balance for the administration," he said.

Sethi who is also the Managing Director of Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA) said that media coverage triggered enough traction for Government agencies and the people in distress to minimise losses during cyclone FANI. "It is only through such extensive coverage people in one part of the world get informed about a calamity hitting another part," he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Editor-in-Chief of OMMCOM NEWS, Jajati Karan said, given its vulnerability to tropical cyclones, Odisha has come a long way in making itself self-sustained to combat calamities. “The east-Indian state has witnessed some of the worst cyclones in the past two to three decades. And in this course, Odisha has established itself as a bellweather in mitigating disasters,” he said.

Karan stressed on four points to improve dissipation of news during calamities: Strengthening media relationship and having a separate media cell; Ensuring connectivity and functional networks; Establishing an emergency alert system (EAS) as in the United States and designate trained reporters as Disaster (beat) Journalists.

Recalling an anecdote from the year 1999 when the super cyclone hit Odisha, Karan said, the then SRC had given him a call barely four hours prior to the calamity. “The administrative machinery as well the media were informed that it was going to be a ‘Super Cyclone’, hardly three to four hours before the system hit Odisha coast.”

The entire disaster management mechanism in Odisha has undergone a paradigm shift over the past 20 years. In 2013, when Phailin hit Odisha, I was informed about the cyclone’s intensity four days earlier. This was the difference. Technology allows us a lot of time for preparedness to face such a crisis,” he said.

Addressing the forum, Editor of Kanak News Manoranjan Mishra stressed on empowering media personnel who are based in villages, blocks and districts. “It is the local journalists who are the best informed and can educate the ‘urban journalists’ based in the cities. The local journalists play a very vital role in such situations and their efforts must be widely acknowledged and rewarded,” said Mishra.

Monika Nielsen, UNICEF's Odisha chief said that the role of media in humanitarian crisis has changed a lot. "Particularly when we talk about vulnerable people, children, women, disabled and the elderly, here the media has to play a critical role to play. Both before, during and after the crisis."

Among others, Akshaya Kumar Biswal, Chairperson IAG Odisha, Tushar Kanti Dash, Head of Emergency Plan India, Aurobindo Behera, Former Board of Revenue Member, Alka Gupta, Communication Specialist UNICEF, Jatin Dash, Senior Journalist, Reuters, Sahil Menghani, Principal Correspondent, CNN News 18, Rajaram Satpathy, Senior Journalist, Gita Lama, Advocacy and Communication Coordinator, Ashok Pradhan, Senior Journalist, Times of India and Priyaranjan Sahu, Senior Journalist were present on the occasion.

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Bishnupada Sethi, SRC, Odisha

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Monika Nielsen, Odisha Chief, UNICEF

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Jajati Karan, Editor-in-Chief, OMMCOM NEWS

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Manoranjan Mishra, Editor, Kanak News