The Nepali media : Responsibility and challenges
The media contribute to shaping the public mindset and bringing about major changes in the society. The change may be both, positive and negative. However, the media in Nepal have not always been what they should be in the real sense. Today, the mass media’s inclination towards sensationalism is increasing. Due to intense and often unhealthy competition between media houses, they are unable to broadcast and print the kind of news and programmes needed for the constructive uplift of the nation. Many of the news stories they carry seem more or less opinionated.
Similarly, focus is mainly on maximising the numbers of readers and viewers. To win the race, Television channels always jump on to anything for the flash breaking news. Thus, introspection or self-inspection by the media is urgently needed to uplift their professional standards. It is in the best interest of the media, and society therefore, that news organisations subject themselves to intense internal scrutiny and avoid unethical journalism. Many national, regional and international conferences are being frequently held in the capital and elsewhere in the country but these events are rarely able to find space in the media. Even the important deliberations, outcomes and recommendations of the seminars and colloquia often go unreported in the mainstream media.
This is unfortunate, as such conferences usually focus on crucial issues of public concern. There are many examples of worthy topics that the media often fail to cover because they do not serve the purpose of creating sensation. There is continuous
debate as to whether the Nepali media are impartial when it comes to covering political issues. The media have from time to time fanned flames of discord on political as well as social issues by taking sides, reinforcing prejudices, fabricating the facts and giving half-truths. It is a big challenge to strike a balance as reporters run the risk of promoting propaganda if they fail to support their reports with full facts and even more importantly the objective treatment that news reports requires.
The basic principle that emotions must not be allowed to dominate is often forgotten by the journalists. Emotional evaluation is always misleading. The question of political bias in Nepali press and broadcast media should be another subject of a lively debate. In the hunt for sensationalism, even statements and interviews are misreported. A two paragraph news item recently published in a national English daily saying “Professor Wang disowned interview
published in a weekly newspaper” is an example of such unscrupulous practices rampant in the media.
Sagar B. Malla and Hemanga Khatri in a letter to the editor in the same daily had rightly pointed out that the news item neither revealed the name of the weekly in which the interview of the Chinese scholar Prof. Wang Hongwei was published nor the cause of his disappointment? Media organisations like Press Council, Nepal Journalists Association and Media Council should be responsible in controlling such practices.
A landmark victory has been achieved in addressing the people’s aspirations and in institutionalising the achievements of the popular April movement. However, we cannot claim that journalism practiced in our country is free of biases and prejudices. We seek angle in news and the news media have their own angle of presenting specific events. No doubt, journalists themselves and experts from other sectors have praised the role of the Nepali media and journalists as such. However, the question frequently raised by the readers and the media experts concerning balanced and impartial news in the Nepali media can not be ignored.
Therefore, there is the need to make efforts to retain credibility, impartiality in the Nepali media together with the commitment of political forces to keep away from influencing the media for their personal gains. The journalists cannot be very impartial and accurate while collecting news in a situation where they are threatened and come under pressure from hidden political interests of media owners. The media in Nepal, thus, need to make more efforts to maintain credibility, impartiality and refrain from making emotional and personal judgment, instead presenting the facts as they are. Because it is the readers, listeners
and viewers who make judgment based on the facts presented.
Expansion of the media industry has not always meant that it protected the rights of the people and made the voiceless heard. The role of the media in making Jana Andolan II a success deserves praise. However, even if democracy and the movement for press freedom have succeeded to a large extent, the important responsibility and challenges to make the
Nepali Press independent, professional and disciplined still exist.
Chalise is a journalist and litterateur