2015: Harrowing year for Nepali media

KATHMANDU: Amid unrelenting political agitations especially in the southern plains of the country and devastating earthquake, Nepali media faced tough time in 2015.

Both the state side and the protesting groups remained on the front to intimidate media and journalists, said a report unveiled by the Freedom Forum today.

Breaking a trend of some years, the year even witnessed murder of a young radio journalist - Rohan Chaudhary - working at Jaleshwornath FM of Mahottari, a district in the southern plains, the report mentioned, maintaining a total of 83 incidents of violations took place in the country, while there were only 27 violations in 2014.

About the murder, the report quoted Station Manager of Jaleshwornath FM, Bijay Chaudhary, as saying, "Sadly and astonishingly, the incident was ignored by many including media."

He was killed in a police firing while he was reporting live to the Jaleshwornath FM from a local Mahendra Chok on September 9. Shot at the chest by the security command while taming protest, Chaudhary died on the spot, according to Station Manager of the FM, mentioned the report.

Rohan had been working as an RJ and reporter for the FM for 13 months. He was from Bajrahi village of Jaleshwor municipality, Mahottari.

The reasons behind the threefold increase in the press freedom violation, the report argues, are lack of political culture to respect media, rowdy party cadres, unreceptive and untrained security agencies, and ill efforts of misuse/control of media by the agitating parties.

As the country is yet to get rid of political unrest coupled with agitations in Tarai/Madhes and border blockade, the reporters faced mounting pressures from the agitating groups.

The report has mocked at the situation in the Capital itself recording highest number of violations - 29 in the proposed Province No 3, which is followed by 26 in the Province No 2. Province No 2 consists of eight districts in Tarai/Madhes where Birgunj has turned into a hot spot with much hostility towards the media.

Categorically, the report records 29 cases of attack/manhandling while 18 of death threats, 11 of obstructions, nine of torch/vandalism, one each of murder, raid and arson.

In this regard, Chairperson of Freedom Forum, Taranath Dahal, observes, "The year remained really depressing with such many incidents of press freedom violation. It reflects country's failure to protect and promote press freedom, a fundamental pillar of democracy. Fair investigation into the murder of young reporter Rohan Chaudhary is essential, while proper human rights training can make security forces respect journalists' rights to free reporting."

Moreover, the report has lauded the role of Radio Nepal during and after the earthquake, took positively the expansion of internet, and increasing number of news portals. It has also hailed the promulgation of new Constitution, saying it has created democratic platform to bring reforms in the media sector.