A hybrid event marked the close of the Mina Swaminathan Media Fellowship (MSMF) for the year 2022 with the three fellows Ms Neenu from Kerala, Mr Jagannath from Odisha, and Ms Dharani from Tamil Nadu, making their presentations to describe what they achieved over the 6-month grant period, and experts from the policy side – Dr Arabinda Padhee IAS, media – Mr A S Paneerselvam, and gender – Dr Nitya Rao, making pertinent points to strengthen the science-media-society linkage in India.
Full presentations from Ms Neenu Mohan, Staff Correspondent, Mathrubhumi; Mr Gyanchand Jagannath, Reporter, Sambad; and Ms Dharini Balasubramanian, TamilNadu Correspondent with Mirror Now news channel, are here.
Dr G N Hariharan, Executive Director, MSSRF, welcomed everyone gathered and congratulated the Fellows, while Dr R Rengalakshmi, Director Ecotechnology, MSSRF, briefly touched upon the Fellowship, its beginning, and the 2022 theme – Gender Transformative Approaches for Sustainable Food Systems. She explained the selection process and the expectations from the media fellow awardees. She also stated that the fellows were guided by several scientists from MSSRF — Dr Oliver, Dr Velvizhi, Dr Shakeela, and Dr Hossain during the grant period.
After the fellows presented their case studies and spoke of the challenges along the way, and also how happy they were to be part of the MSMF journey, one of the mentors – Ms Anupama Srinivasan, Assistant Director with REACH (Resource Group for Education and Advocacy for Community Health), lauded the fellows for their dedication and strive to fulfil the fellowship, and wished them well.
The audience of 70+ people joining online and in-person got to listen to a special address from Dr Arabinda Padhee IAS Principal Secretary Department of Agriculture & Food Production, Government of Odisha. He came in from a policymaker’s perspective, and iterated the crucial role journalists play in highlighting issues at the grassroots. He spoke of ‘responsible journalism’ while reporting on rural development issues, especially while writing on topics of food systems and gender. Recalling his time as Country Director at ICRISAT, he expressed his appreciation for Prof Swaminathan and MSSRF in reaching science-based evidence for policy attention, and recognised the MSMF as an essential pathway for the media to pick up research ethics in their journalistic work as they take a deeper look into situations of rural development. Dr Padhee also enlightening the audience on 2023 being the year of millets, and how the regional language media can take spread the message to society on consumption of millets for better health.
Three Insight Briefs (Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Odisha) were released by MSSRF in the presence of Dr Arabinda Padhee with Dr Rengalakshmi explaining how these were prepared based on the awareness raised by the six articles published by the media fellows.
Mr A S Paneerselvam, Fellow, Centre for Study in Public Sphere, Roja Muthiah Research Library, and former Readers’ Editor, The Hindu Group of Publications, provided a media perspective. He reiterated the values of journalism, especially in the era of misinformation and disinformation, and the complex environment of plurality vs proliferation. He emphasised that media fellowships are thus vital to bring out trustworthy and credible information for citizens.
The final remarks for the event was made by Dr Nitya Rao, Professor of Gender and Development, University of East Anglia, UK, and Trustee of MSSRF, and she recalled the core reason for the start of the MSMF at M S Swaminathan Research Foundation. “Ms Mina Swaminathan,” she said, “was well-known for her contribution to gender and development using creative communication methods, and it is to commemorate her work in these interdisciplinary fields, the MSMF was instituted.” Dr Nitya also made known that MSMF for 2023 is being developed with millets and gender as the focus.
Ms Sangeetha Rajeesh, Director of Communications at MSSRF delivered the formal vote of thanks at the close of the event.
Watch full event here
 Dr Murali Shanmugavelan, Faculty Fellow, Race and Technology, Data and Society, NYC, and Dr Nalini Krishnan, Founder-Director, REACH, could not make it due to unforeseen circumstances.