An interaction with mediapersons on 'Role of media against modern-day slavery' was held here today under the Community Led Action against Modern Slavery and Poverty project, Shakti Samuha.

According to Shakti Samuha's legal advisor and training coordinator Dilip Koirala, the objective of the programme was to seek increased media role in making all three tiers of government - federal, provincial and local - more sensitive and responsible towards the modern-day slavery issues.

He said, just the rescue of likely survivors and the survivors, and apprehending perpetrators was not enough to address the root cause of modern day slavery.

"More awareness, broader media coverage and follow-up stories are necessary to stem this long-standing problem.'' There were reports that women were transported to India keeping them in containers even during the lockdown and it suggested that women were always vulnerable to trafficking, he added.

He took time to urge media to give more priority to issues concerning modern-day slavery and contribute to fight against it which as he said was also their social responsibility.

Shakti Samuha's advisor and senior journalist Tanka Panta recalled the moment when a group of women (survivors of human trafficking), who were rescued from India in 1996, were looked down as disease-carriers and greeted unwelcomingly and with disdain back to their home.

At the time, 60-70 per cent Nepali media were negative towards them, but now the trend has changed positively which is indeed a point to be noted. According to him, public awareness against human trafficking has increased and cases related to this are getting better media coverage. ''Forms of human trafficking have changed over the course of time.'' Giving presentation on the role of media and human trafficking, journalist Pabitra Guragain pointed out the need of investigative reporting, training and orientation, beat specialisation, and media houses according more priority to issues concerning human trafficking.

"Only legal justice is not sufficient for survivors to live a dignified life, they need social justice as well so that they could easily adjust in society and live a dignified life. Mediapersons are expected to advocate for social justice to the survivors of modern-day slavery.'' Other participants of the programme stressed the need of data and evidence on the issues and support from the state mechanism to make the media coverage credible and more effective.

Programme facilitator journalist Matrika Poudel said forms of modern-day slavery were varied and it was prevalent in every sector of society.

Any behaviour which was against the consent of woman was violence against woman and it could push the survivor to modern-day slavery, he said, highlighting the need of an extended discourse on human trafficking issues/modern-day slavery in the Parliament.

CLAMP project manager Sarala Tamang spoke of the need of collective efforts among all stakeholders to combat human trafficking.

Shakti Samuha founder and Chair Charimaya Tamang, who chaired the programme, described human trafficking as one of the dimensions of modern-slavery, underlining the need of realisation of its sensitivity by all including the media.

As she shared, human trafficking survivors, who are mostly girls and women, are socially stigmatised and as a result survivors have not dared to break the silence and come forward. She thanked mediahouses for what they have done so far in creating awareness about the issue, bringing the human trafficking cases to the public and establishing the identity of Shakti Samuha as the organisation fighting against human trafficking and to empowering the survivors.

Shakti Samuha, an organisation established by the survivors of human trafficking works against human trafficking since 1996. Thirty-five people, including 30 journalists participated, in the interaction.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 23, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.