Monday, 24 February, 2020
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INTERVIEW

IT Bill can be corrected if there are weaknesses



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The statement of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli that there is no editors in Nepal who have heart to write about the good works done by the government has drawn a wide criticism from the media and general public without referring the context in which the PM had made the statement. PM Oli has claimed that the media seem reluctant to praise the good performance of the government. Time and again different governments have been claiming that the mainstream media have not been practicing fair journalism and are focusing only on negative aspects of the government. It is also claimed that media are now working as an opposition of the government. As claimed by the government, is Nepali media really working as an opposition of the current government? Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s Press Advisor Surya Thapa and senior journalist Yubaraj Ghimire expressed their views on the issue, press freedom and prevalent anomalies seen in journalism during the weekly Gorkhapatra Sambad held on Sunday. Excerpts: 

Government does not believe in close society: Thapa

Let’s not see the whole journalism by putting in one basket. There are both positive and negative sides of Nepali journalism. In my observation, lately some renowned editors have created fronts like the new-left party’s front and are acting according to their mindset, instead of using their rational. This alliance started from the time when Dr. Govinda K.C. started his hunger strike against the Medical Council Bill.
Recently, we had an hour long meeting with stakeholders to bring improvement and correct the disputed parts of the Information Technology Bill. Within half an hour after the meeting, two renowned advocates and journalists who were also the part of the meeting reached the Union House and expressed their solidarity with the statement demanding the withdrawal of the bill. If they had to issue the statement, then there was no meaning of participating in the discourse to bring improvement in the bill.
I have seen the ministers and prime minister are talking less in the media, because they are focused on their work.
The mainstream media have not realised that this is not a periodic government. Like the way the media had struggled in 2062/63 for bringing about changes in the governance system, the editors and mainstreaming media houses have been constantly struggling against the current government. The media these days are deliberately raising single agenda, distorting the facts. The mainstream media are treating the current government as if they were fighting against the Panchayat system and the autocratic monarchy. We need to understand that this is the first stable government formed in 70 years’ history of Nepal. This is a two-thirds majority government and should get a chance to work for stability and prosperity. The media should always criticise the government if it fails to fulfill its promises and when it gets diverted from its mission. Most of the issues raised by media are not the outcome of investigative journalism. For example, the news on Lalita Niwas was not an outcome of investigative journalism. The government has not asked the media to support its work but to present facts. But the media should change its mentality to dominate its headlines with negative news. This could have happened due to the transition of media technology development. Lately, the media are seen presenting news by picking up certain words and sentences from the statements of the government officials and distorting their version. The media are found distorting the facts of the government’s performance for their vested interest.
The Prime Minister was not seeking extol. But he wants see the broadsheet media’s coverage should base on the fact. The media are not covering the news related to the beggars, who were removed from the streets, and the management of the street children. These are the popular programmes of the government. In this sense, the PM has made reference to the editors’ heart as they have been resorting only to criticism. “They are disseminating one-sided information as if the government was doing nothing, they are not looking at the government’s programme of prosperous Nepal,” it was what the PM had said.
We achieved 7.1 per cent economic growth last year, welcomed 1.3 million tourists and the banking access reached 741 local levels etc. Before the general election, Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba told that if the communist formed the government, no one could even cry. The editors’ thoughts are also oriented towards similar views. A few examples to this type of thought surfaced through Dr. Govinda KC’s campaign and on the Information Technology Bill. The bill has just entered in the parliament, and it is on process of discussion, we can correct it if there are any mistakes in it, and the Court can invalidate it if it is found to have any anti-constitutional provision.
The incumbent government does not want to curtail the citizens’ freedom, it does not believe in close society as it is formed through people’s mandate expressed through fair and free elections.
The media should be accountable to people not to the Prime Minister and the government. But our media are being used for the benefit of promoters. But they are not free from questions. People can question the media on their misuse.
There is no need to afraid of a rope mistaking it as a snake. This government is not trying to impose autocratic and authoritarian system as it believes in complete democracy. It is what our PM has been telling.
Our society praises a person only after his death and the government also looked lovely after its dismissal. Late Manamohan Adhikari’s government was not free from criticism in the party and outside. But now we appreciated his government. Now the government and the top leaders of the opposition party are closely working, but some of the opposition leaders are speaking forgetting the ground reality while some of our party leaders are seeking personnel benefits by criticising the government.
Our party is facing transition as the unification process is yet to conclude even two years after the unification process began. So the party was not fully backing the government. The media are also criticising the social security fund, PM employment programme, monitoring of the development projects from the action room and the performance contract signed with the ministers and the secretaries.
One example of misleading information spread by the media was about our (PM’s advisors) meeting with spokespersons of the ministries held to make them more transparent and updated. But the media and some former bureaucrats criticised it. The incumbent government is not like the previous ones. It is a stable government. It should be allowed to work its full term. You know well, it has provided money to the sugarcane farmers, forwarded process to investigate into the gold scam and others. The Public Account Committee of the Parliament is taking suggestion from the same man as an expert who did not get tenders in the same case. The media are reporting otherwise on the case of printing press purchase process. Same happened in the wide body aircraft case.
However, our PM is telling us that we develop our native development model, but we are not bringing Lee Kuan and Mahathir model.
Maximum people are being arrested in the case of corruption, but the media are asking where the big fish is. While asking such question, they have to show the big-fish. We need justifiable comments.
The new media is need of hour. We are using it for information dissemination. So that we can tackle maximum media as tackling all the media is not possible. We are arranging an interaction between the Prime Minister and the editors after the Speaker’s selection. The PM is not far from media. He is accountable to people, she he is never far from the media. 

 

Partisan journalism harms media credibility: Ghimire 

The mass media refers to a diverse array of media and I do not comprehensively represent them all. But I have my own principles and have my own difficulties in journalism. For the past two decades, I have been actively practicing journalism in Nepal. So as an observer, I can say that there is a mentality of media that they are not accountable by themselves to anyone but they should be made accountable by other forces. During the time of the constitution promulgation, the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) raised the issue of absolute press freedom. In my opinion, press freedom is sufficient for journalism. If we criticise the absolute power, then why do we need absolute press freedom? Can media be accountable in absolute press freedom? This is not just a matter of opposing or supporting the government but a matter of discourse for Nepali journalism. But unfortunately, this couldn’t happen.
Talking about the government’s complaints that the media are working like an opposition. The role of parliamentary opposition parties and media is different. The political parties can oppose the government’s policies and plan, expose the government’s lapses. They can also depose the government through parliamentary processes. If the media reports and opinions make the oppositions and government accountable, then that will be the biggest achievement of the media.
This is a matter of debate that whether journalists should join any political movement or not. In my point of view, opinion of journalist should always be individual and powerful. If their opinions are powerful then the government and others will acquire their ideas. But if we get united for certain movement and activism, then it poses a threat to the professional journalism and we will lose the strength of our opinion. Journalism should never imply advocacy of a particular political party. Dishonest or partisan journalism will harm the media credibility. Journalists must provide a balanced account, regardless of their political standing.
Is Nepali journalism is guided with the notion that it should always work as opposition of the government? Or is this a global trend? Do you think there is a need of debating on absolute press freedom?
This is a debatable issue. We need discourse on it. Like in Nepal, other countries in the world have associations of journalists like press council and editors society. There is a trend of issuing statement if they figure our any anomalies seen in journalism and issue statement as a guidelines and suggestion.
In Nepal, we also have a number of such institutions but they have not been able to warn media and journalists and issue such guidelines as foreign institutions of journalists do. There was no meaning of absolute freedom. Journalism without accountability has no work and politics and governance without accountability have no meaning.
This issue is always discussable but the main question is that who will regulate this policy. The parliament is responsible for formulating laws but as an aware citizen, if I doubt the law that it will challenge the spirit of the Constitution, then I can go to the Supreme Court.
As said by Surya Thapa, there are many anomalies in investigative journalism. The loser parties are always the primary sources of the information in majority of the scandals revealed by media. Similarly, the media have failed to expose the final beneficiaries of any corruption cases. Like when Nixon was to get impeachment in the Watergate scandal, he blamed the media. This could be interpreted both positively and negatively. The state could take this issue positively but Nixon himself perceived the issue negatively.
Nepali media are fairly reporting the news on corruption due to their political standing and their personal relation. There are many media which have political affiliation but when it comes about corruption, they never support them.
If we talk about the media Council Bill there is no need to appoint extra-judicial persons in the judicial body. The provision aims to appoint the Communication Minister’s loyal in such body. The council should give power and need to make it transparent.
There is a need a sense of responsibility with the Editor. Confusions can be minimised if the PM-Editors interact.
Now people and the media expect more from the Prime Minister as he got help from the media during the time of blockade. He benefited from the media as the Nepali Congress never used the word ‘blockade’.
The media look on promise and delivery, The PM inked performance contracts with the ministers and secretaries and he is criticising on their performance, taking proof from the media, which means the media are doing good. However, the media have vested interest. Only three television channels are providing regular salary to their employees. If the government tries to provide salary, they will support. But the government is not doing so as if it had nexus with media owners.
The CPN should give consolidated views on any agenda, basically on MCC. Foreign Minister Pradeep Gynwali favoured it but CPN leader Bhim Rawal is opposing it. 

How do you feel after reading this news?