Media facing hard time during pandemic

Kathmandu, May 2

Nepali media has been hit hard due to unprecedented global health crisis resulting from COVID-19 pandemic.

Many small media outlets have closed, journalists have lost jobs while big media houses have reduced news content.

This has rendered a severe blow to citizen’s right to information, free speech, free press and the entire media industry.

A report released by Freedom Forum, an NGO, today on the eve of World Press Freedom Day warned that media and journalists continued to suffer various problems since last year.

Cases of press freedom violation increased slightly this year with 107 as compared to 104 last year. Such violations directly affected a total of 206 journalists across the country this year, it said. Of the total cases of press freedom violation this year, 62 were related to threats followed by 44 related to attacks and manhandling, 39 were arrest cases, 27 were related to misbehaviour, 21 prohibition cases, nine related to vandalism and obstruction, and four job losses.

Categorising the cases as per media type, 69 were related to online media, 48 to print, 42 to television, 30 to radio, including 14 cases involving freelance journalists, among others.

As per the province-wise analysis, Bagmati Province, which also has the federal capital, witnessed the highest number of violations (43), followed by Province 2 (20). Similarly, Province 1 and Gandaki Province shared equal number of violations (10). Province 5 and Sudurpaschim Province witnessed equal number of violations (6) and Karnali Province recorded 12 violations.

According to Freedom Forum, most of the violations took place while journalists were covering stories of public interest and concern, crime, irregularities, corruption and political demonstrations.

In the third week of March, Press Council Nepal, a media regulatory body, shut down nearly 50 websites and wrote to the National Telecommunication Authority to restrict access to those online portals from the country alleging they were spreading ‘false information on COVID-19.’ On April 1, Shiran Technologies, with its link to the IT experts of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli secretly removed a story on corruption in procurement of medical equipment, from

The state-owned Radio Nepal removed its interview with former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai on April 27. Radio Nepal also directed its staffers to be cautious while choosing guests for the programme to be broadcast from Radio Nepal. In the talk programme, former prime minister Bhattarai had criticised the prime minister’s recent activities.

“The prime minister has repeatedly discredited and demoralised media and its role.

Those against free press are encouraged and stoked with such anti-press views. Recently, he accused the media and social media users of acting against stability and development in Nepal,” read the report.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 3, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.