Gulf News recognises readers who took a stand and raised their voice on issues that they felt were important, relevant and required immediate attention. Image Credit: Oliver Clarke, Gulf News

Gone are the days of Grecian agoras, where merchants and military men would gather to discuss issues. Today, the public prefers to speak out through community reports — and they are being awarded for it.

The newspaper recognises readers who took a stand and raised their voice on issues that they felt were important, issues that were relevant and required immediate attention.
Today, we acknowledge and reward those who shared their experiences and brought significant matters to the fore during the month of February.

Over the past year, the Your Turn page’s Community Report section has highlighted a myriad subjects that concerned residents and helped alert authorities about issues that required urgent attention.

Topics of concern ranged from the perils of flooded roads to misguided youths in need of supervision.

Readers have found community reports to be the right platform to create awareness and turn the spotlight on situations that generate interest and truly impact their lives.
The practice of raising important questions, seeking answers from the relevant authorities and highlighting social issues takes effort. Community reporters do not hesitate to prod and poke, if there is a chance of making a real difference.
The community reports published in February were judged by UAE Editor Meher Murshed. The criteria for selection included content, issue, impact on community, responsibility and the quality of contribution.

First place:  Why are electric wires exposed?

February 10
By: Waheeda Naeem

Reason for selection:
A problem that could have been resolved almost immediately became the reason for three deaths in the recent rain in Sharjah.

UAE Editor Meher Murshed selected the reader’s report for predicting accurately the fatal consequences of leaving electric wires exposed to the elements.

He said: “The problem crops up again. Many readers have raised this grave issue repeatedly and yet little is done [to resolve it]. Three people were electrocuted during the recent rain in Sharjah. The reason: exposed wires in the water.”

It is a clear example of how negligence can result in predictable and avoidable accidents.

Profile: Waheeda Naeem is a recent graduate of the London School of Economics. She lives in Ajman.

She said: “The wires caught my eye because they were sticking out of the box. On narrow pavements, in a residential area, this is extremely dangerous, especially for children who are attracted by the colours and don’t know better.”

She expressed her concerns about the perils of exposed cables in the monsoon season. “I haven’t visited that specific area again, but I hope that through Gulf News, this problem is resolved not only in Satwa, but also in other parts of the UAE.”
Such issues should be given priority by the authorities, the community reporter added.

Second place: Cats move in on Abu Dhabi beach

February 5
By: Noel Yap Labrador

Reason for selection:

Lack of homes for strays is a recurring theme in community reports. In the reader’s photographic community report, the gravity of the problem is evident.
Cats are taking up residence on Abu Dhabi’s beaches. But the reader’s primary question is – what other alternative do they have?

UAE Editor Meher Murshed said: “[The community reporter has] great pictures that tell the story. A shelter is needed, as many readers have highlighted this problem.”

Profile: Noel Yap Labrador is a sales executive residing in Abu Dhabi.

For the community reporter, the best solution is an animal shelter, which would be able to take in abandoned pets and strays.

He said: “To have a single entity for the welfare of animals is really important.”
Labrador said community reports help the public turn the spotlight on issues that concern them. He compared it to similar initiatives on international news websites, where citizens take charge.

“I think platforms like these are necessary in any society. It gives the community a voice.”

Third place: Abandoned cars waste parking space

February 1
By: Farzana Shaikh

Reason for selection:
The shortage of parking spaces is a national nuisance. But the situation gets worse when cars are abandoned in residential parking lots, leaving no space for existing residents.

The community reporter explored this important issue with a new approach, according to UAE Editor Meher Murshed.

He said: “Parking spaces are scarce, with many motorists just leaving their cars in the middle of the road. And now, the reader says some vehicles have been abandoned, parked in the same space for two years. Removing these cars will provide some relief to residents.”

Profile: Farzana Shaikh is a homemaker, based in Abu Dhabi. For the reader, the platform of community reports is a great sounding board for concerned residents.
She said: “It is an excellent initiative by Gulf News, which gives the common man an opportunity to bring relevant and important issues to light.”

While several abandoned cars still remain in residential parking lots, the community reporter said the implementation of paid parking around the capital has helped.