TOPICS : Assault on freedom of press

Chandan Sapkota

The ongoing clampdown on journalists provides symptoms of anarchy and autocracy in the nation. At a time when the nation is in a limbo, the arrest of journalists and the attempts to circumscribe objective reporting show that the government is bent on paralysing the media. This undermines the widely respected view that the media is the fourth estate of a nation.

The government has failed in most of the facets. The concerned authorities are acting as if there is minimum level of disturbances and that normalcy will be established. The government is parting from veracity and is airing subjective news from the state controlled media. The government has been repeatedly trying to restrain media houses which are not fully supportive of its plans. For this, the government appears ready to cross any limits, as exemplified by the arrest and torture of journalists despite showing ID cards and keeping them in detention without charges.

The government is paying lip-service to human rights. The declaration of “violence-prone area” is itself disputable because if the government visualises the most secured areas in the nation as threatened, then what about the situation outside the Valley where most of the areas are controlled by the rebels with the exception of district headquarters? Is it then justifiable to talk about elections and peace in the country? It appears that the government is attempting to commit yet another blunder while trying to hide its past mistakes.

The current imbroglio and impasse in the nation shows that the government is not ready to control the current situation. To suppress the ongoing protests against regression, the infamous declaration of “violence-prone area” has given the government an excuse to use lathis, boots and prevent ‘threats’ to the present regime without any credible proof. The victims of this short-sighted act are innocent citizens, journalists, human right activists, among others. No doubt, the nation is becoming a failed state. The power of police officers to make those under them obey orders seems to be going out of control. This can be clarified by a recent incident when a senior police officer ordered his cadres not to assault journalists but barely a kilometre away police encircled journalists, lathi-charged them indiscriminately, harassed and arrested them, turning a deaf ear to the commands of their seniors. Who is controlling this situation?

Never in the history of this country there has been such a grave assault on journalism. The attempt to paralyse the most trusted and objective institution is very upsetting. Amid this, the state controlled media is as always making up news out of nothing, but that which suits their interest widely by ignoring the real circumstances and objectivity. The obstinacy of the government to stick to its position and intent on using more force to quell the unrest will be suicidal in the long run. It should know that violence will never bring peace. The nation is sandwiched between insurgency and the demonstrations. The continuing solidarity towards the agitation by various organisations shows that people are beginning to lose faith in this government. Additionally, the assault on journalists and an attempt to stifle the freedom of press will be even more costly to the nation.