NARAYAN PRASAD GHIMIRE, KATHMANDU: “Newspapers are publishing stories in a biased manner. They are giving significant space to a particular political party while writing little about others.
Such practice may create a situation of threat and attack not only to a particular reporter but to the entire media.”
This was what a senior journalist in the Far-Western region said during a discussion on how media reports come about elections.
During discussion with active journalists in a recent visit to the Far-Western region, they not only admitted that they could not write fairly for various reasons but also complained that the media in the Capital city were ignoring the issues in their region.
As the second round of local level election was round the corner then, the discussion was stirring enough to know how actually the field reporting was about election and other pertinent issues.
One of the pressing points they admitted was that they were affiliated to particular organizations and unions which are linked to political parties, and it could in a way affect the news reporting. Although they tried to claim themselves clean in terms of reporting about political parties, some blamed others for practicing self-censorship being loyal to some political faith.
Death of news
Noted journalist Chitranga Thapa from Kanchanpur district said, “Fair reporting is dead. Almost all reporters are loyal to some political parties and hence write exaggerated news on the election candidates they favour while writing skimpy story about the one they are not close with.”
To be loyal to some political ideology is normal and natural. But when a journalist breaches the code and writes news being panegyric to one or the other party and leader, the ethics is really dead as Thapa said. When the ethics is dead, fair reporting is not possible.
Not only in particular region but all across the country, Nepali journalism is divided as per political faith. It is the gross misuse of the position in deed. Because of the political affiliation, news is already dying in the very reporting itself– even before reaching the gatekeeper, desk editor.
As one can see the aggressive and one-sided presentation and publicity of news stories over Facebook and online news portal by many journalists, the election has been the celebration of the death of news.
Similarly, during the visit, the security bodies and administration were asked about whether journalists were enjoying free and fair atmosphere for reporting, political parties and candidates practicing election campaigning without obstruction and citizen’s right to freedom of expression protected. The security agencies and the administrations from Kailali and Kanchanpur districts said they were committed to citizens’ right to freedom of expression. They complained that some media especially the Facebook and online media were found presenting news in a tawdry manner, which they argue could invite conflict in the harmonious society.
They also suggested media to present news in a positive manner, so that it could help ensure justice the local administration has done to the needy people.
Vicious nexus discouraging fair reporting
When talked about the factors that discourage journalists to write well about irregularities and aberration in the development projects, a journalist, requesting anonymity, said: “The vicious nexus among local political parties, contractors, security personnel, administration obviously discourages reporters to write fairly on a big scale corruption and irregularities. For example, we’ve not been able to write effectively about the postal highway.” He, however, said a reporter coming from the centre could report on it.
His views suggest that journalists in the districts are not able to develop investigative stories on the pressing issues as the irregularities in the local development activities.
Claim and blame game creating confusion
In addition to the issues mentioned above, lack of media literacy within media, among people, administration and security agencies were hindering free practice of reporting. The blame game among the political parties has put reporters in confusion on how they could tell readers the facts. Political leaders are claiming everything good are done by them while blaming others for bad things. Here, journalists need to be shrewd enough to find the facts behind the claim and blame game, so that readers would be aware of what’s right and what is wrong. Mere reporting of what political leaders say is not news because lies are often repeated in political speeches during the election.