Sunday, October 5, 2014

Nepalese Journalism's Misfortune

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

Thomas Jefferson, the former US president and great American statesman said still in 1787: " The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be  to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

First Amendment to the US Constitution says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting free exercise thereof or abridging freedom of speech or of the press or rights of the people to peacefully assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

The importance of press freedom and the role of journalism have been bolstered by multitude of national and international documents. In fact, journalism is a cornerstone of democracy and good governance. The Press is one of the strongest weapons in fighting the war against injustice, impunity and corruption rampant in so many countries. History of nations across the world is testimony to the fact that  journalism has forced so many crooked politicians and bureaucrats  out of office. Remember, President Richard Nixon had to step down in 1973 because of Watergate scandal which was exposed by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

There is no doubt, even today the corrupt politicians and tycoons are not happy with modus operandi of the honest and true journalists as well as citizen journalists from the social media.Even today corrupt politicians and tycoons tend to deal with the journalists with carrots and sticks approach.Certainly, the honest and true journalists always foil their hanky-panky schemes whereas the dishonest ones do not. It is to be noted that thousands of journalists have sacrificed their lives for the cause of truth, peace, human rights, freedom movement etc.

A number of powerful Nepalese politicians, ministers, bureaucrats and high ranking police officers have served the prison terms, but as we see that frequent jail terms for the notorious politicians have proved no deterrent for the incumbent political actors to engage in dubious and suspicious activities. Unfortunately, corruption and bribery are still thriving in Nepal. And again unfortunately there were cases in Nepal when the mainstream news outlets were hamstrung by the influence of the politicians and tycoons, the social media had to step in.

It goes without saying that journalists should always exercise sound judgement and should not bring discredit and dishonor to the calling referred to as the Fourth Estate by disseminating untrue and unreliable news stories and by becoming sycophants  of the politicians and tycoons. That is why if  journalists are expected to hold others accountable for their misdeeds, we the journalists should be held accountable as well when we happen to disseminate misleading, untrue and biased stories.

However, the misfortune of the Nepalese journalism is --  Not only during the period of monarchy but even after the nation was declared a republic, many journalists are acting like 'spokesperson' of the powerful political actors and business tycoons and many newspapers working as the mouthpieces for political stalwarts and political parties. Today more than ever, the Nepalese journalism is deeply and highly politicized and polarized. Many journalists are engaged in intense political horse-trading and financial skulduggery.

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