Data Journalism for Transparency: Workshop Empowers Next-Gen Journalists

Published: 12 May 2024

In a class filled with university students, a question was asked- Do you know anything about Panama Papers Scandal? The question ignited the interest of the students. With immense enthusiasm, the students delved to explaining about the scandal case that involved a leak of 11.5 million confidential documents. It exposed more than 214,000 tax havens involving high-profile people, government officials, and entities from 200 different nations. The incident is often cited as a prime example of data journalism.

During a workshop, Mohammad Tauhidul Islam, Director of outreach & communication of TIB, asked this thought provoking question to the students to explain how a journalist can use data to dig out corruption on a deeper level in order to ensure transparency and accountability. Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) in association with Communication & Journalism department of Chittagong University (CU) organized the workshop for journalism students at the university campus on 12 May 2024. The workshop saw the active engagement of 45 communication & journalism students. The primary objective was to instill interest in aspiring journalism students towards data journalism and equip them with the necessary tools to uphold transparency and accountability while combating irregularities or corruption.

Inaugural and book hand-over ceremony: The day-long workshop commenced at 11:00 am at Chittagong University, one of the country's oldest and largest lush green public campuses. The university's Vice-Chancellor, Md Abu Taher, graced the event with his presence. During the inaugural session, Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of TIB, presented a set of Data Journalism handbooks to Mrs. Rawshon Akter (Associate Professor), Chairperson of the university's Communication and Journalism Department, on behalf of TIB. These handbooks were specifically intended for academic use by the students.

Data for transparency & accountability: Addressing the event, Chittagong University's Vice-Chancellor, Md Abu Taher, emphasized the critical role of data in journalism. He stressed the need for thorough data verification before publication to prevent story distortion, highlighting its significance as a transparency tool. He urged students to master proper data utilization.

Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of TIB, illuminated the Panama Papers scandal and the pivotal role of data journalism in exposing such incidents. Encouraging students to uphold anti-corruption efforts, he expressed hope in their ability to foster societal accountability through dedication and determination.

Mrs. Rawshon Akter, Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Communication and Journalism Department, underscored data journalism's role in bolstering credibility. She encouraged students to glean valuable insights from the session.

Professor Mohammad Ali Asgar Chowdhury, from the Communication and Journalism Department, expressed gratitude to TIB for their timely initiative and expressed interest in continuing such collaborations in the future.

Thought provoking session with students: Veteran journalist Miraj Ahmed Chowdhury, who joined online from Thailand, conducted a session where students displayed genuine interest in pursuing a career in journalism and shared their ideas in response to thought-provoking questions. Each student expressed keenness to write stories on various topics using data. The highlight of the session was when the trainer demonstrated the practical use of data in published stories.

As part of this, Trainer Miraj Ahmed showed them an award-winning story titled 'The Hungry Children of the River Ganges.' The story utilized satellite imagery and other available information to identify the locations of dams across India. Given the longstanding debate over river issues between India and Bangladesh, this significant story unveiled important information about different dams using only data.

Introducing tools: TIB Assistant Coordinator K.M. Rafiqul Alam instructed students on the technical aspects of data utilization. He demonstrated the fundamental use of spreadsheets and also provided insights into various coding languages for data analysis.

Certificate ceremony: The program concluded at 5:00 pm with a certificate handover ceremony. Each participating member received a certificate from TIB Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman.