It is indeed a privilege for me to welcome you all to the launch of the first ‘Children’s Network for Video Content – PRISM’ in Bangladesh, which has become a reality after three months of dedicated and relentless work by UNICEF’s partner bdnews24.com, one of the country’s largest news providers.

Through the ‘Children’s Network for Video Content – PRISM’, video news stories gathered by children from across Bangladesh will be delivered on a website specially designed and created by bdnews24.com, which will be accessible to all TV stations for daily news gathering.

All children have the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse, and to live a better life. In Bangladesh, around 40 per cent of the population is under 18. Many of their rights are violated; often their needs go unnoticed by policy makers. Especially, protection of children from different forms of violence and abuse is a big challenge for the country.

UNICEF in partnership with bdnews24.com has created a space for children where they will be able to raise their concerns, share their aspirations for the future, and contribute to decisions that affect their lives by suggesting solutions while playing an active role in broadcast media.

We are hopeful that through this unique initiative, we will be able to see and hear the unheard voices of this nation, enable children to make a contribution to the news agenda, and accelerate the process of upholding child rights for children in Bangladesh.

Protection of children and promotion of children’s rights requires the involvement of multi-disciplinary actors. Coordination among the key stakeholders, including the government, UN agencies, international and national NGOs, and civil society organizations are crucial to achieve these results.

Also, UNICEF’s Global Communication Strategy focuses on Digital Communication and has three global, measurable strategic objectives:

  • Voice leadership: be the world’s number one voice to drive change for children
  • Maximize reach: 1 billion people listening
  • Maximize engagement: 50 million people acting in support of children

To expedite this effort, and to build coalition and support, the Bangladesh media can play a critical role by publishing news, op-eds and editorials on issues affecting children’s lives.

In this regard, Bangladesh’s first ever ‘Children’s Online News Service’ was launched by online news provider bdnews24.com and UNICEF Bangladesh on 31 March 2013, focusing on issues affecting millions of children in Bangladesh, where news stories gathered by children from across Bangladesh are uploaded on a website (http://hello.bdnews24.com), accessible to all national and district level media outlets for their daily news consumption.

The child journalists of ‘Hello’ have already made a notable contribution to mainstream media. Their stories are carried often by television channels.  During the much publicized legal case of ‘Shumi’ (a child domestic worker accused of killing her employees), child journalists reported on ‘justice and children’ in accordance with the Children’s Act 2013, encouraging national media to report on this forgotten issue, creating much public debate.

Although this initiative has proved to be successful, it is covering only one segment of the media, namely print media. We know from experience that the presence of children and their issues on broadcast media as well as the quality of representation of children remains under-utilized (Study on Child Participation in Broadcast Media: UNICEF 2013).

Thus, we initiated another partnership with bdnews24.com to create ‘Prism’, which enables children to look through their own lenses at their rights and to ensure child participation in the broadcast media, which will be self-sustainable after a certain time period and is expected to run as a professional video news service.

The significance of such a network is manifold:

(a) There are more than 20 TV channels in Bangladesh and not a single functioning video news agency. The children video news agency ‘Prism’ is an exemplary start, something to be proud of for the children of Bangladesh.

(b) In fact, the number of credible functioning Bangladeshi news agencies with text and/or photo service is about five, state-run agencies included. The children’s network for video content ‘Prism’ has the potential to be a unique agency providing audio-visual feed along with textual scripts.

(c) While international news agencies like AP, AFP and Reuters have to concentrate on news of national importance happening mostly in the capital and perhaps a few other major cities, ‘Prism’ ‘has the scope to reach places that those ‘big media’ often choose to ignore.

We are grateful to bdnews24.com – its leadership and all the staff involved with this unique initiative – for standing beside nearly half of the population of Bangladesh. We urge all television stations of Bangladesh to extensively use ‘Prism’ and gather news provided by the children of Bangladesh.

Finally and more importantly, UNICEF will continue working in partnership with the government of Bangladesh to make sure children reach their full potential and have a brighter future.

Dr. Lianne Kuppens  is UNICEF Deputy Representative. This article is the address she delivered at the launch of the ‘Children’s Network for Video Content – PRISM’ on Sunday, 10 April 2016, in Dhaka #