Nepal’s online revolution: Its residue

It is however a matter of encouragement that a substantial number of the Nepali news portals are being run by a relatively large investment and sound plan. Many digital portals are practicing professional journalism even with limited resources

Recently, the Government issued a directive for the Nepali online news portals aiming at keeping record of those new media and discouraging inappropriate materials.

However, the next day the directive became an orphan amidst strong criticism that not only came from the stakeholders and oppositions, but also within the coalition partners and the ruling party.

The line minster, Minister of Information and Communication demonstrated his vulnerability when he could not establish the rational of the controversial directive in public.

Since it was drafted within the close doors by the bureaucrats and issued without adequate prior consultation with the stakeholders, the situation was obvious.

Perhaps he could have clarified the Government’s intention and convinced the stakeholder by showing readiness to rectify errors.

Moreover, the Government could have expressed its commitment to bring the bill in this regard in Parliament in the near future.

Nevertheless, the Government’s predicament concerning the directive for the Nepali online news portals has not offered the solution in order to get rid of the anomalies created by the unprofessional attitudes of non-serious practitioners.

Sooner or later, a legislation aiming at encouraging professional journalism through the online medium will have to be passed in the Parliament. The Government could have avoided the awkward situation by projecting the directive as an ad hock measure.

Seven years ago, in 2009, when Philip Meyer, a journalism professor in US, predicted that the print version of newspapers will run out of readers by March 2044, the media houses around the developed world were stunned.

The world noticed that the new information technologies had scattered the mass audience that newspapers once held. Subsequently, the wave of new media enveloped the newspaper industries in the entire world.

Today, it is very hard to find any traditional print media, i.e., newspaper sans an online version anywhere in the globe. Over a couple of years, the newspapers have developed the coping mechanism against the world wide declining trend of newspaper circulation as an impact of the new media.

As seen around the world, the new media are gradually moving towards substituting the traditional media even in Nepal. Its popularity is manifested in the growing number of the online news site.

Around 350 online news portals have notified their presence at the Press Council Nepal. It had taken eight decades to reach same number of newspapers in the country from the date of inception of the first newspaper, Gorakhapatra.

For the last 400 years,the trade of journalism, which was started by print, has established as a noble profession comprising of normative values and principles.

Over the centuries, different media of journalism have been emerged and they have jointly transformed the world to a global village. Print, radio, television and now convergence of all these kinds in the form of new media have shaped the mode of public or political communication around the world.

The converged form of mass media was not in existence, even in the developed world, prior to the integration of digitization with telecommunication in the later part of the last millennium.

Today, nearly fifty per cent of the population are within the reach of internet even in Nepal. People, within the reach of internet, are being exposed to the news sites.

The growing usages of news portals have great contribution to the rapid flow of information within and outside the country. Dissemination of news with such immediacy was witnessed never before in Nepal.

Since the cost for establishment of an online news portal could be economised, journalists found a relatively viable and effective medium for the transmission of information and expression of opinion.

Thus, the news portals have been mushrooming with limited resources in comparison to the traditional forms of mass media. Consequently, many news sites have appeared as non-serious or whimsical attempts.

Many times, the online news portals are considered as reincarnation of the partisan weeklies.

The weeklies were run by different political centres as direct propaganda tools in Nepal mostly before 1990.

Thus, over the years, in general, the Nepali online media have been known for their low level of compliance with the professional standards. For example, Press Council Nepal, during its monitoring, has been finding almost 40 to 50 items as baseless and unverified in the Nepali news portals every month.

It is however a matter of encouragement that a substantial number of the Nepali news portals are being run by a relatively large investment and sound plan. Many digital portals are practicing professional journalism even with limited resources.

A way of consolation could be the consideration of the young stage of the new media, since it is still in transition towards maturity. However, one cannot deny the necessity of strong self-regulation and soft regulation in the world of online journalism in order to uphold the public trust.

There are different platforms to practice journalism, but the principles of professional journalism remain the same: enhancement of public trust by revealing truth.

The writer is Head of the Department of Journalism, RR Campus, Tribhuvan University