Sunday, May 18, 2014

Problem of Corruption and Role of Media

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism, Peoples Campus and RR Campus, TU.

"The fight against corruption by the Nepal government and the people of Nepal will continue."  "Corruption is the deadly cancer of the society which has to be nipped in the bud." " The NC (or for that matter UML or UCPN-M) is the party that has always been waging a war against corruption and impunity."

I was often amazed at the mendacity that would come from the mouth of the Nepalese political stalwarts and more so that the Nepalese media would cover them in a prominent way. Notorious corrupt politicians  Khum Bahadur Khadka, Govinda Joshi, Chiranjivi Wagle and Jaya Prakash Gupta have been convicted by the court on corruption charges and have served the respective prison terms. There is no doubt that individual acts of courage against some corrupt political leaders work as the light at the end of the tunnel.

Corruption continues to plague too many countries around the world. Majority of the governments are failing to protect citizens from corruption, be it abuse of public resources, bribery or secret hanky-panky dealings. In a developing country like Nepal, official corruption has become a widespread problem and a source of public disgust.

Yes, corruption is a ubiquitous and global disease. The practice of corruption is spreading day by day in the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Reportedly, corruption has infiltrated the entire political and administrative machinery of countries like Russia. Likewise, corruption has become lifestyle in India and China, emerging global powers. Even the US is not untouched by the problem of corruption

As reported by the media, Republican Rep Michael Grimm was indicted recently on federal charges of tax evasion and perjury for allegedly hiding more than $ 1 million in revenue from his New York restaurant where he also hired illegal immigrants. Trey Radel, a Florida Republican was convicted of misdemeanor cocaine possession. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, was indicted in 2007 on 16 counts of bribery, racketeering and money laundering. Likewise, James Traficant, an Ohio Democrat, was convicted in federal court on 10 counts of bribery, racketeering and income tax evasion. These, again, are just the tip of the iceberg.

But here in the US, people do not have to bribe the officials in the city, state and federal offices to get their job done, whereas in countries like Nepal and India the people have to go from pillar to post to do some registration things and their renewals, to obtain driving license  and fix their problems in the government offices unless they pay bribes to the officials.

The press has always been playing a critical role in the battle against  corruption. However, the problem about covering delicate issues like official corruption, police abuse and misdeeds of business tycoons can backfire the journalists in forms of dangerous vendettas and retributions.

The media's efforts to uncover official corruption earn them many influential enemies, they are vulnerable to assaults, threats and revenges. The legal custodians of the government: the law enforcement and the bar have additional responsibility in this regard.  There is no doubt that a journalist alone can not wage a lone battle against the octopus of corruption. There should be a triangular collaboration of  the cops, the bar and the press to fight  a winning battle against the corruption.

Journalism should be in a position to bring about changes in a way the people think and rally them towards a just cause: increase awareness against corruption, make corrupt politicians 'pariahs' and ostracize them in the media coverage etc.

In Nepal, sadly enough, instead of playing a watchdog role there are a number of newspapers which carry on obsequious profiles of "dubious and corrupt" tycoons and politicians thereby becoming notorious lapdogs.

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