Sunday, February 1, 2015

Role of Media and Political Uncertainty in Nepal

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

Nepal has once again plunged into political turmoil as the divided and polarized Constituent Assembly could not make any significant breakthrough in formulating the constitution. It looks like the ruling as well as the opposition political parties succeeded in obstructing the constitution writing process and set a very bad precedent in Nepalese politics.

There is no doubt that  a free and independent media is vital for a vibrant democracy. There is also no doubt that Nepal has  a free press and that Nepal is a fully democratic country.Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are guaranteed by the incumbent Interim Constitution of Nepal.  Nobody is persecuted, prosecuted or arrested in Nepal for venting his or her ideas in the news media.  Then,  the question arises: Why is political transition taking so long, why did the main political parties not come to the common consensus and why were they not ready to sacrifice some of their vested interests for the common cause of the people? All this would raise additional questions about the intention and credibility of the prominent political parties like the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist. Some analysts event went to the extent of smelling rats about the grand designs of the external forces. The duty of the press is to expose  the dishonesty of the politicians vis-a-vis the ongoing political process.

Today more than ever, Nepal is confronting a lot of challenging problems that threaten the very existence of the nation, and herein lies the role and relevance of the free press. Nepal is bitterly divided in the federalism vs non-federalism dichotomy The very fact that even after so many years Nepal has not been able to enforce constitution has just demonstrated the inefficiency, incompetence and incapability of the Nepalese political parties and its leaders.

It was the clearest evidence yet that the political uncertainty has only widened the divisions that have plagued Nepal since the ouster of the monarchy. The kind of hostilities and conflict between the ruling and opposition parties - as was reported in the Nepalese media - will certainly derail the constitution writing process and  is also likely to reverberate the entire  political spectrum of Nepal

Despite the sacrifices of hundreds of Nepali sons and daughters, why one after another event  brings us disgrace and why the political parties and leaders have not been able to forge consensus on the contentious issues like federalism? All the political disagreements and differences can be solved and figured out if the political stalwarts are ready to compromise on contentious issues for the broader interests of the common people.

 It is a fact and it is true that if the Nepalese political parties do not bury their partisan and parochial differences and do not work  in tandem for the common benefit of the people, the job of writing the constitution cannot be accomplished even in decades. 

At a time when the Nepalese political parties are not appearing serious about the constitution and when    they are trying to reap partisan benefit out of the protracted crises and political stalemate, the Nepalese news media should be able to effectively warn the parties and the stalwarts of the fatal consequences of their partisan and dishonest politics. Nepalese media outlets should try to create a healthy public opinion and should present a supportive view of a compromise and reconciliation  between pro and anti federalists.

It is evident that in the perspective of contemporary Nepal, in its elaborate process of  political and socio-economic development, the scope and role of mass media is getting to be vital. But it is true that the Nepalese media has not been able to overcome the hangover of the polarized journalism. And it is equally true that lapdog journalism is also flourishing in Nepal. But what the Nepalese people aspire is the watchdog  media which can effectively exert pressure on the political parties to work for building national consensus. That is precisely why we need a "watchdog" press to train "the dishonest, parochial and partisan" politicians, to make sure the political stalwarts are doing what they should.

Admittedly, an independent and watchdog media is a cornerstone of democracy. The free press should be able to yield something good, otherwise there will be questions about the role of a free press in a  democracy. And, therefore, Nepal's media outlets should be able to play a positive and effective role towards ending the political uncertainties plaguing the nation

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