The Press Council Nepal has asked newspapers carrying news on their May 21 edition about a proposed ordinance in media law to furnish written explanation as to how “the published matter became a news item even before the ordinance was issued.” The letter also asks how a “comment made on the basis of speculation” was news. Once issued, the ordinance, among other things, proposes to introduce curbs on the existing media freedom. The said newspapers have also been accused of violating three different sections of the Council’s Code of Conduct 2003 which relate to publication of authentic information in an impartial manner. The letter accuses the newspapers of being unclear about their news source.
Any idea, debate, proposal, theory or development, including at the conceptual level that has a bearing on the public, is news and the latter has all the right to be informed. In essence, the elementary proposal to introduce changes in the existing law is the stuff of public interest and, hence, a big news while the amendment is the end product of that proposal, which though belated is still a worthwhile news. When a concept, or in this case a four-page draft, outlines greater state-control over the media, the people have the right to be informed of those ch-anges too. In doing so, the newspapers were doing their duty which the nation rightly expects them to perform. It is the media’s job to dig out news, views and developments in public interest. Not to do so is to fail in performing the duty. News on the preparation for the birth of a tool that will have far-reaching consequences on the level of press freedom, therefore, cannot be labelled speculative and misleading.
So if the media was doing its duty in carrying the news, it is however, not for anyone to decree what goes in print or not. Of course, just because the public has a taste for sensation is not to say the media has the licence to act irresponsibly. It may be admitted the media has not always been flawless in this resp-ect. Responsible journalism takes years to evolve, for which, laws conducive to ethical and standard journalism, quite apart from state support, are a must. Anything that goes against these ethos is antithetical to standard journalism. The Council’s alarm over the news concerned is misplaced as it will not contribute to the evolution of worthwhile journalism.