Role of media in Constitution Making
Organised by Press Chautari Nepal (PC)
4 July 2009, Nagarkot
Press Chautari, in association with Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung - Nepal Office, organised one day workshop on the
Role of Media in Constitution making process in Nagarkot of Kavre
District on 4th July, 2009. The participants included journalists
from vernacular weeklies, dailies, radios, FMs and Television
stations. Altogether 40 journalists which also included five women
journalists, from different parts of the country took part in
the workshop. The programme was attended by the Minister for Communication
- Mr. Shankar Pokhrel, General Secretary of the UML- Mr Ishwor
Pokhrel, Executive Director of Nepal Television - Mr Kundan Aryal,
Mr Vijaya Chalise - Executive Chairman of the Gorkhpatra Sansthan,
Balkrishna Chapagain - Chief of the Rastriya Samachar Samiti,
Mr Sambhu Shrestha - Chairman of Press Chautari, Mr Bishnu Rijal
- Prime Minister's Media Advisor, Mr Mahaendra Bista former General
Secretary of Nepal Journalist Federation, Mr. Madhav Sharma of
Mechi-Mahakali media society and media advisor from the ministry
The main objective of this workshop was to train media personnel
as how to lobby and guarantee rights of the working journalist
in the upcoming constitution as well as to explore possible role
of media in constitution making process. That is, how can media
contribute towards the writing of the constitution in a stipulated
time-frame and ensure that upcoming constitution guarantees rights
of the various societal groups to minimse possible conflict in
Mahendra Bista presented a paper on the role
of media in the constitution making process. His paper stressed
on the fact that media should play more constructive role by
being vigilant as well as by giving alternatives views in the
whole peace-process to move it to the logical end. There is
a confusion in Nepali society whether the constitution will
come in time or not and even if it comes will it be inclusive
or not. The lack of trust that exists between politics and society
primarily because 'politics' has failed to serve the interest
of 'people' at large has generated anti-political sentiment
in society. Politics, as usual, in Nepal is working for the
interest of bourgeoisie class not for the society as a whole.
Against this backdrop, the foremost duties of media is to build-up
trust across various social groups and make politics 'people'
oriented rather than process oriented. If politics continues
to lose confidence of people and media merely 'recycle' knowledge,
the whole peace process is bound to face serious challenges.
Thus, role of the media during the transition period becomes
crucial both to build up confidence building measures and to
put peace- process on the right track through contextual sensitivity.
In addition to these challenges, there are some thematic issues
such as federalism, future framework or model of governance
(Presidential vs. Prime Ministerial) where rigorous discussion
is required. But the Constitutional Committees are yet to take
initiatives on these thorny issues. Hence, media's role becomes
more significant in pushing political parties, political leadersr,
CA members, civil society and other stakeholders to work towards
this end as soon as possible. Mr Bista also discussed about
the status of media in the country, he said that media houses
(print, electronic and broadcast) have mushroomed in the last
few years but the overarching fear is that how long will they
survive? The sustainability (the economic viability) question
of bulging media houses is at crucial juncture. Nepalese media
are heavily reliant on advertisement for their overall survival
but the ad market is shrinking due to deteriorating economic
condition coupled up with political instability and de-industrialisation
process of national country. As a result media houses are competing
for the 'same sources' at all time and this has led to the growth
of unhealthy competition, forced them to surrender ethical values.
In other occasions, most of the media houses have to carry out
activities which are against the state, society and culture.
For example FM stations in Palpa air Christian sermons (bhajans)
just for the money for half-an hour. By and large, media in
Nepal are co-opted with fund.
Sambhu Shrestha - Chairman of the Press Chautari
said that Press Freedom should be incorporated in the new constitution
as fundamental rights and media personnel should work towards
Kishore Shrestha, commenting on Mr Bista's
paper said that role of the Fourth Estate should be clearly
defined in the upcoming constitution. He also stressed on the
need of quality journalism that can contribute to resolve various
political/societal problems in the country. He has also demanded
for the provision of Pension for the working journalists (once
they are retired or incapacitated). He also demanded subsidised
Internet facility to the vernacular papers (media), quota to
study journalism for the children of journalists who had martyred
their life during duty. He also enquired if FES could conduct
training on Safety Journalism in the future.
Kundan Aryal of NTV lamented that currently
Nepali media are more focused on monologue than on dialogue
(absence of two way communication) as a result media in Nepal
has not been able to provide alternative voices/visions. They
have been 'recycling the knowledge' by repeatedly producing
same persons in Television talk-shows, newspaper interviews
and expert opinions. We need to depart from this culture and
engage in developing the mechanism of multilayered communication.
Media should develop directive principles and adhere them while
conducting professional responsibilities. Media personnel should
respect 'ethical values' of journalism which has not been the
case. We cannot cheat society just by spreading 'sensational
issues' all the time, said Mr Aryl. On the question of media
sustainability, Mr Aryal said that how long we are going to
rely on the state for our survival. This tendency has made 'journalism'
a begging profession and had led to the growth of 'Pocket' based
newspapers (merely to grab journalism welfare aid of the government).
This has developed some sort of 'yellow journalism' in the country.
Coming on the provision of 'pension' Mr Aryal gave different
opinion. He said that we as a journalist are also selling products
- how could we ask for the pension. Unless and until general
public do not get pension from the state - how can businessman
like us ask for a pension opined Mr Aryal. The main duty of
the journalist is to concretize 'abstract issues' made by political
parties, leaders, policy makers and convey to the citizens in
an honest way, said Mr Aryal.
Speaking in the same programme Minister for
Communication Shanker Pokhrel stressed that media should engage
to build up confidence building environment in society to win
back the public trust. He also said that current provision of
classification of newspapers should be decentralised(given to
the district HQ) as it will discourage 'pocket journalism' and
encourage 'true journalism'. Welfare aid that is being disbursed
by the state to media houses should be streamlined. Media should
try to explore the 'common ground' that can take peace-process
to the logical end rather than building their own empire, or
being the mouthpieces of political party, government or any
other agencies/persons/organisations said Minister Pokhrel.
The confusion and deadlock that exist with the ongoing political
process should be minimised and media can play crucial role
in this sector by developing alternative views - views that
serve the interest of state and society. Not of particular political
party or only for the interest of media for that matter.
Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES - Nepal Office
said that the role of media is to connect system with people
and vice versa and for that matter they should work as per the
spirit of time and will of the people. Media should also spread
civic education by uniting different identities into a single
national identity. This identity will help to build-up civic
nationalism in the future. Media should also focus on normative
reporting not only on objective reporting as objective reporting
sometimes could create problem in a society and could destabilise
social harmony. For example - the communal violence in society
should be reported in such way that its boomerang effects could
be scuttled to the lowest level. Nepalese media should rise
above the partisan interest and work for the national issues.
The unabated foreign intervention in domestic problems has become
a problematic and media should report objectively on these issues.
Foreign intervention is dangerous as Kant said democracy cannot
survive in a country where too much of foreign intervention
exists. Media should also do the job of early warning on impeding
crisis of any kind. To conclude, civic education, context sensitivity,
public interest above all other values, vocational ethos, enlightenment
rather than information are the good virtue of journalism. To
carry out these functions freedom of the press is necessary
in fact it is a lynchpin of democratic system.
Finally, Ishwor Pokhrel - General Secretary
of UML - spoke importance of media in the current political
process. He said that rather than speaking or writing on a 'wholesale'
basis media should be rational and analytic while reporting
on the issues of public/national importance. He said that media
should not create an environment of negative psychology in society.
We should explore issues what unites us together rather than
what divides us together.
The programme drew very important issues
on media and their possible role in the Constitution making
process. The taming of media in the developing country by the
state was thought from the fact that they are important factors
for democratisation. But with the passage of time a trend has
developed to control media either by the state or political
parties or by the media houses just to serve their own interest
through what Noam Chomsky calls consent manufacturing. This
development in media has put democracy in danger. In Nepal vibrant
media is emerging and many youngsters wanted to have media as
profession but we also need to develop some sort of mechanism
for their sustainability on their own. Otherwise, there are
chances that mushrooming media houses may be (mis) utilised
by various actors as had happened in Palpa. We should be careful
to this end. Finally, Press Chautari expressed its gratitude
to FES for their continuous support for the discussion on the
issues of national importance.