Media Action Nepal launched its report 'Media in Nepal: Safety of Journalists, Sustainability and Gender Inclusiveness' on Friday.

The report calls to expand inter-agency collaboration and consultation to promote sustainability, professionalism and accountability in Nepal's media.

The report was released remotely amidst a virtual event which was attended by Lily Thapa, member of the National Human Rights Commission; Balkrishna Basnet, Chairperson of the Press Council Nepal (PCN); Ramesh Bista, Acting President of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ); Professor Dr BK Ravi, Chairman of the Department of Communication of Bangalore University, India; Dr Sadia Jamil, Acting Chairperson of Journalism Research and Education Section, International Association for Media and Communication Research and Professor Dr Mariam Gersamia, head of the Media Psychology and Communications Graduate Program of Tbilisi State University, Georgia.

Chairperson of MAN Laxman Datt Pant presented the highlights of the report which was prepared based on the virtual interactions held in all seven provinces from June 12 to June 27, and the national-level webinar held on July 9.

"The report is a policy advocacy document that outlines the challenges for the safety of journalists, media sustainability and gender inclusiveness in Nepal", Pant said. He further added that it presents recommendations for the stakeholders to adopt to meet these challenges.

Dr Jamil commented that the document was extremely important, not just for Nepal but for the whole of South Asia where a significant gap exists between theory and practice. She also urged press unions in Nepal's neighboring countries to produce such reports and documentations of lived experiences.

Likewise, Professor Gersamia talked about the media landscape in Georgia and how journalists there had to contend with systematic pressure from the oligarchs in power.

She elaborated that the journalists in her country were victims of both direct physical violence as well as indirect threats and harassment.

Furthermore, Gersamia remarked that the situation was similar in many young democracies and called for international solidarity and collaboration to ensure journalist safety.

Similarly, Dr Ravi talked about the blow COVID-19 had dealt to the Indian media where 40% of all media professionals have lost their jobs and more than 400 have lost their lives.

"The common issues of media literacy, infodemic and gender discrimination that plague all the countries of South Asia," he noted, adding that his university was ready to join hands with Nepali institutions to find a solution.

Basnet, speaking on behalf of PCN and Bista, on behalf of FNJ took ownership of the report and pledged to implement its recommendations.

During the discussion, NHRC member Thapa shared that Nepali media lacked gender sensitivity and had a tendency to ignore ethical principles while portraying women, particularly victims of crimes. However, she also stated that there have been improvements and that the NHRC was working with stakeholders like the FNJ to draft an action plan to promote human rights and gender sensitivity in newsrooms.

The report recommended that provincial governments should refrain from starting their own news organisations because it is against the principle of press freedom, whereas newly established provincial press institutions should be led by members of the press/experts.

"Ministers leading these bodies will hurt their autonomy, credibility and acceptability."

Additionally, Media Action Nepal also recommended to expand the scope of digital media literacy beyond the realm of journalism and media education to counter disinformation.