Coming together to strengthen the anti-trafficking ecosystem in India

by Charlotte Davis and Clementine Overstone
Wednesday, 9 September 2020 14:55 GMT

Reuters/ Mansi Thapliyal

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Last week, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, with support from Laudes Foundation, brought together journalists and NGOs for three virtual round tables to discuss human trafficking in India.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate news channels, competition for attention is greater than ever. Failing to achieve news coverage on an issue can have long-lasting effects on vulnerable communities around the world. For the non-profit sector, its relationship with the media is critical to the success of their mission. It is vital to have their important work covered by journalists to raise public awareness of overlooked issues, to influence policy, and to generate crucial funds. However, the relationship between journalists and NGOs can be complicated, and their objectives are not always aligned.

Sevanti Ninan, a well-known media commentator in India, kicked off the roundtable discussion, giving her insights on the state of media freedom in India and the challenges faced by journalists. Sharing their expertise on the legal implications for organisations working in this space, Sarah Bessell, Deputy Director at The Human Trafficking Legal Centre, Selvi Palani, a lawyer practising in the Madras High Court, and Paramjeet Singh, from the Centre for Post Graduate Legal Studies, led a series of sessions for the participants.

Participants broke out into groups to focus on specific topics, including the amendments to labour laws, litigation strategies in India, as well as international, transnational litigation. These sessions highlighted the need for journalists to have a deeper understanding of workers’ rights in order to better integrate these legal aspects into their stories.

NGOs and journalists discussed how they could work together to bring these issues into the public domain, drive policy change, and reduce the number of victims falling into human trafficking. It was also an opportunity for journalists to share how they had worked to overcome the challenges of carrying out investigations while in lockdown as a result of COVID-19. Journalists also spoke about the constraints created by editor interest and how they believe more sensationalist stories will make it to print, to the detriment of other news stories. Both parties used the roundtables to share best practise and network with one another to improve their respective work in the future.

"At Laudes Foundation it is our endeavour to converge diverse voices and actors in working together. While attending the workshops, it was encouraging to see NGOs and journalists brainstorm on effective pathways to collaborate on stories that highlight the workers' voices and make a concentrated effort to understand challenges on both sides of the table. This was complemented by learning from legal advocates and specialists that can help strengthen the collaborations. We hope that this can lead to a larger movement that brings together the power of civil society, legal expertise and media" said Ipshita Sinha, Programme Manager at Laudes Foundation. 

The Thomson Reuters Foundation will continue to facilitate a dialogue between journalists and NGOs working in the human trafficking space in India with a further roundtable planned in December 2020.

Click here for more information on the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s inclusive economies focus area.