Saturday, October 3, 2015

Impunity and Role of Watchdog Journalism

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

In the journalism world, call someone 'watchdog' and people and readers know exactly what you mean. Watchdog journalists are those honest and true species who try to uncover the misdeeds of the powerful politicians and powerful administrators. Watchdog journalists try to spill the beans about misdeeds of notorious tycoons and about their illicit connivance with the politicians. They try  to prevent the abuse of power, prevent the scope of impunity.

If royalty and its extended family were impune from any legal actions for their misdeeds during the Panchayat regime, today the powerful elites of the ruling class as well as the opposition are acting with impunity because of their power. It is here that the Nepalese watchdog journalists have to show their prowess  in exposing the misdeeds and criminal acts of the political elites.

Watchdog journalism is the writing and reporting that keeps politicians, power brokers, administrators and organizations with power accountable for their decisions and actions. Watchdog reporting helps to right the wrong.

Coverage of the Watergate scandal was one of the best examples of watchdog journalism leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Revelation of Pentagon Papers by The New York Times in 1971 is another example of watchdog journalism. Similarly, president Joseph Estrada of the Philippines had to step down and be arrested because of the watchdog journalism.

Watchdog journalism is relevant especially in countries like Nepal where abuse of power, political corruption and embezzlement of billions of rupees are rampant in various ministries, departments, corporations and government undertakings, and majority of the perpetrators go scot-free.

There were cases when former powerful and notorious ministers like Jaya Prakash Gupta, Govind Bahadur Joshi, Khum Bahadur Khadka and Chiranjivi Wagle were convicted of corruption  charges and served prison terms respectively. but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Nepal, a democratic nation, is one of the countries in the world where powerful political elites still have been enjoying privilege of impunity from prosecution for years. Anybody got guts to touch Khadga Oli and Prachanda? Nope.

Well, the wrong-doings of various governments have been exposed by the Nepalese press time and again to some extents.  But it is also equally true that the Nepalese press could not play an effective role in exposing the Dhamija scandal, Lauda Air scandal and tens of other high-profile scams, they were just unable to publish in-depth and investigative news stories  with full proofs and evidence about those scandals.

There is no doubt that Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Nepal is becoming poorer and poorer because of the political corruption, skulduggery and embezzlement of billions of rupees by the politicians and top administrators. So the question arises where is Nepal's watchdog journalism and why is it silent?

Impunity is a big challenge not only for Nepal, it has affected press freedom and political systems globally. The media is the watchdog of the nation, if it is hindered, it can not carry out its responsibility towards the community and the nation. Free press has a significant role in rooting out the seeds of impunity.

At a time when Nepal is reeling from the blockade imposed by India, the Madheshi politicians are speaking out loudly that they were the ones creating the blockades. What the rotten bastards ? The present vulnerable and volatile scenario could be the part of a grand design of Madheshi politicos and the South Block to destabilize Nepal. It looks like a number of Madheshi politicians are maneuvering to curry favor from the South Block.

Therefore, it is the duty of the watchdog journalism to expose the misdeeds and criminal activities of the Madheshi leaders. It is the duty of the watchdog journalism to uncover sources of billions of rupees of the Madheshi politicians.

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