Sunday, April 5, 2015

Press Freedom is OK in Nepal, But Working Conditions for Journalists Are Not

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

I was very much stunned, surprised and disappointed by what was written in Wikipedia's article on "Freedom of the Press" where it says: "In Nepal, Eritrea and mainland China, journalists may spend years in jail for using the "wrong" word or photo.

If it was during the few turbulent years when King Gyanendra usurped political power, the statement of Wikipedia might be true. But it does not say that.

I know it is true about Eritrea and mainland China, but absolutely false when it comes to Nepal which is a fully democratic country. This kind of blatantly false information may erode the credibility of Wikipedia.

Freedom of press is guaranteed by the Interim Constitution of Nepal. So there is no problem with the press freedom in Nepal. When it comes to freedom of press, I believe we must define a journalist and the constitutional and statutory protections that a journalist should receive. Politically, there is considerable press freedom in Nepal and journalists are free to write about whatever they want.

It is true that, although the Nepali press has enjoyed freedom in principle, the job of the journalists is still hazardous. Nepalese journalists are still vulnerable to threats, attacks and intimidation from notorious politicians, tycoons and criminal dons.

It goes without saying that no Nepalese journalists are harassed and imprisoned by the government for doing their jobs. Journalists in today's Nepal are neither persecuted nor prosecuted merely for what they write.

And yes, the threats intimidations and assaults to journalists usually come from non-state sector. So many Nepalese media people were killed in the past decade. The sad part is that the government has not been able to prevent the murders and assaults on journalists.

One of the noticeable deterrents of the Nepalese journalism is related to the working conditions. Many journalists and reporters especially working in small newspapers and private TV channels are underpaid and some are not paid at all.

There is no doubt that safety and good working conditions are important to journalists. Media industry can not flourish in a professional way in the absence safety and good working conditions.

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