TOPICS: The media and the making of a constitution

Khimlal Devkota

Writing a new constitution is a highly important task. At this historic juncture, the media has an important role to play. The press is not the fourth estate but the first as far as constitution-making is concerned. When we were drafting the Interim Constitution, we had started the first meeting with a journalist in our midst. Ultimately, Interim Constitution made the CA polls and implementation of republic possible. In this respect, I would like to codify the media’s role as follows.

Firstly, the media should be aware of the function and mission of CA. That knowledge should be disseminated among the people, the political parties and the CA members too. Secondly, the media should embrace people’s aspirations. Democracy implies addressing people’s voices, aspirations and mandate. If a constitution is unable to accommodate people’s voice, the document may not be a democratic one.

Third, sometimes CA members may overlook their own duties. It is the media’s duty to remind them of their duty towards the country and the people. Control, intervention and monitoring by the people are the salient features of democracy. It is among the important tasks of the media to discuss and publicise CA’s workings. Fourth, CA members are busy fulfilling their own duties. But sometimes even the lawmakers might be confused about their duties and distorted views might emerge from the CA. It is the media’s role to clear these things up.

Fifth, the media can make their own suggestions about what is to be included in the constitution and explain the vague topics therein. Sixth, the media can play the role of idea explorer. As Nepal’s political and constitutional developments are unique, there are so many ideas the media need to explore.

Seventh, interpretation of facts is also very important. Sometimes the same fact might be interpreted differently by different people, leading to confusion about and hindrance to the constitution writing process. The media should disseminate the right interpretation.

Eighth, in the course of writing a new constitution, the people, the politicians, CA members as well as experts need to be educated on different issues. This task also falls under the media’s role. Ninth, sometimes vital issues might be mixed up. The media can make stakeholders follow the rules and set the agenda through their writings and editorials.

Tenth and the last, the mass media should plan their own missions vis-à-vis constitution making. The media are always on the frontline and never serve the status quo. They will always stand for progressive change, which is yet another important media role in New Nepal.

In conclusion, the media can play a vital role in writing a new constitution. Its role can be divided into its own mission and its contribution to the greater mission of writing a constitution.

The media’s own mission can

be placed first but the constitution writing task is vital too. If the

press fulfils these twin responsibilities, it is no longer the fourth but the first estate.