New strategy ‘must’ to restore press freedom

Kathmandu, January 6:

Media experts and journalists today agreed to revise their action plan and strategy in their fight against autocracy and suppression of press freedom.

The participants of a national conference on “Future Direction of Media Movement,” said that the on-going movement against the King’s direct rule needed to be revised and consolidated to reach its target soon.

Addressing the event, chairman of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), Bishnu Nisthuri, said that the 10-month-long movement of journalists aimed at restoring the freedom of expression now needed to take a new height. The government too had accepted the strength of private media and their commitment to media freedom.

He said: “February 1 bears historic significance for those fighting for free media. This day will be observed as a black day of press freedom,” he said.

Nisthuri said the FNJ had set up its regional offices through which the regional vice-chairmen would coordinate local movements.

The FNJ has also been monitoring the media movement and a report on it is expected soon.

Hem Bahadur Bista, managing director of MSI (Media Services International), said that the movement was now weakening as it was divided with some elements in it being tempted with power. But at the same time the movement could be a landmark event in establishing the unshakable right to information and in improving the legal provisions for the media.

“Instead of aiming for the same goal through various divided and uncoordinated movements, the media persons should now opt for a solid and committed joint movement under an umbrella organisation,” Bista said.

Raghu Mainali, the coordinator of Save the Independent Radio Movement (SIRM), presented a step-by-step chronology of the King’s attempts to curb media freedom.

“Innovative skills are needed to quash the current State controls and work in a conflict environment. We should also allow joint national and international advocacy to build up to re-establish the press freedom, the freedom of expression and the right to information,” he said, while discussing the challenges of radio journalismMahendra Bishta, the general secretary of FNJ, said that the rulers had been able to curb media freedom as the journalists themselves had failed to recognise their rights on time.

“Now the King’s government has been working to convert independent journalists into its hymn-singers and are threatening anyone going against its decrees with harsh punishments. This is obviously a do-or-die situation for reporters, editors and media house owners,” he said.

The programme was jointly organised by the MSI and the National Secretariat International Advocacy Mission for Press Freedom in Nepal.