Citizen journalism = power to fight back. Even before the battle against corruption took the nation's imagination by storm, the CJ show was already at it. 'Citizens against corruption' was our focus. And why not? You shared your stories and fought your battles against corruption. You took us - team CJ - along. And we reciprocated. Standing by you till the very end. That was the other defining feature of the year gone by. There was impact after impact. More power to the hero CJs of India.
When we look back at the year, we see a huge demand for an effective Jan Lokpal mechanism turn into an outpouring against corruption. People spoke out and how. Anna Hazare, who is now synonymous with this movement, turned citizen journalist in March this year. He announced his resolve to sit on an indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. His demand: a joint drafting of the Jan Lokpal bill. Anna called on people to join him. Arvind Kejriwal too turned CJ. He explained what the Jan Lokpal Bill was all about.
The year against corruption
When we look back at 2011, we see a huge demand for an effective Lokpal turn into an outpouring against corruption.
While the battle for an effective anti-corruption mechanism continued to play out, the CJ show kept its focus clear: you and your battles against corruption. We launched the '50 Days 50 Citizens Campaign' from the 15th of August till the 2nd of October. 50 stories of citizens who fought corruption featured on CNN-IBN. Many of these stories even became the talking point of the day. You made the news.
When we started out, we thought it would be a rough ride home. But we were amazed at the response. Citizens went all out to expose corruption. Some stories like that of Bhupinder Mehta were personal battles. He'd been waiting for Rs 4 lakh that the Ghaziabad post office owed him. After relentlessly fighting red tape and inefficiency, Bhupinder wrote his story on the CJ site. But when Trupti the reporter assigned to the story, met him for the first time, she just couldn't believe this man would actually access a website, register and share his story in English! Just knowing that he'd taken all this trouble made Trupti go all the way. The result: the post office released Rs 80,000 and officials there have mended their ways. This is just one of the many success stories.
Shefali Sewak, a young lawyer by profession, refused to turn a blind eye when a large hotel chain in the capital stopped her and others from parking in a public parking lot.
Here's her 'Ode to Citizen Journalist'
Offering hospitality, swanky and swell
In Saket, upon a time, there was a hotel.
Serving good food and getting business done,
It goes by the appellation, ITC Sheraton.
The Sheraton decided its property wasn't large enough,
So outside its boundary wall, wanted to usurp turf.
Woe betide me, for I work in the building next door
And watched their deeds unfold from the third floor.
They cordoned off the land outside their boundary wall,
And stationed there security guards, quite burly and tall.
Their mandate was to stop people from parking
Vehicles that didn't bear a Sheraton marking.
It was so wrong, for the land belonged to the DDA.
When I wrote to the Hotel, I made little headway.
They said that monthly, they did pay the MCD;
no one else could use the land. It sounded quite seedy.
I went to the MCD to file an RTI application,
I hoped their answer would allay my vexation.
The MCD responded, a monthly rent was quite impossible,
What the Sheraton was claiming was neither legal nor permissible.
I wondered what to do, then called CNN-IBN.
The channel introduced me to Miss Megha Mamgain.
Intelligent and quite gutsy, she is a nifty journalist,
Who works on a TV show that assists to persist.
It's called Citizen Journalist, a show without ballyhoo.
In front of the camera, they put nothing but you.
Not only will you get to vindicate what's right,
You'll get to embarrass the wrong-doer in public spotlight.
We shot the story and thereafter it aired,
I took much pleasure in gory details being bared.
The Sheraton backtracked quicker than you can say "hospitality".
Did I mention how much I enjoyed exposing their morality?
Now the cordons are gone, the guards and high-handedness too.
I thank CNN-IBN for seeing this matter through.
If you've seen a wrong-doing and feel it needs to desist,
Call CNN-IBN; they'll hook you up with Citizen Journalist.
Thanks Shefali for your spirit. I guess that's what keeps us going.
Another CJ with spirit is Mani. He goes by the name Makkal Sevangan or servant of the public. This young man in Chennai polices the cops, quite literally! He has used his mobile phone to catch men in uniform on the wrong foot. With the help of CNN-IBN Mani took these pictures and videos to senior police officers who promised action against cops who were caught breaking the rules, on camera.
Shakuntala Devi in Varanasi took up the mike to battle for her dues under the MNREGA scheme. Turning CJ got Shakuntala Rs 1100, a sum that made a huge difference to this casual laborer and her family. Similarly, Ram Asrey another unemployed laborer managed to get his BPL card renewed. These may seem like small victories, but for Shakuntala and Ram Asrey, they mean the world.
And geography was no barrier either. CJ Payi Gyadi exposed corruption in Meghalaya. CJ Abid Shafi from Kashmir appealed for juvenile rights and the setting up of a juvenile home in Srinagar. CJ Vinaya Raghvan took up the demand for a countrywide ban on the use of endosulfan, a deadly pesticide.
While our primary focus remained corruption, we didn't lose sight of larger issues like better burns care facilities and child labour. CJ Yashmin has undergone 16 operations in the last seven years. An acid burns victim, she faced the camera for a gritty and powerful CJ report that demanded better burns care facilities in Delhi.
When heroes hold a camera
One call and we were flooded with CJ videos and pictures from all over the country that expose corruption or simply rules being broken! So a policeman riding a bike without a helmet to a wrongly parked car, nothing escaped your notice. And the winner - Muzaffar Bhat from Srinagar - took home the prize an HD handycam, for his pictures of children working on a government road development project funded by the Asian Development Bank.
In a tragic case, Parikshit Dalal lost his wife and unborn child in a case of alleged medical negligence. He turned CJ to fight for justice. Parikshit chatted online, sharing his experiences and details like the legalities associated with such cases. Netizens responded, offering their support.
A nameless, faceless bunch of enthusiastic heroes turn CJs for us, and a an amazing story is born, every week. The show also completed a hundred episodes in May this year. And what better way to celebrate than winning the prestigious Asian Television Awards in the best cross-platform category for the second year in a row!