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Report on Media as a Medium of Peace

Organised by Press Chautari Nepal (PCN)

20 May 2010


On May 20, 2010 Press Chautari Nepal (PCN) organized a one-day national seminar in Kathmandu on "Media as a Medium of Peace." Altogether 150 media persons including 30 women, media houses and politicians were gathered to discuss. Prime Minister Nepal inaugurated the meeting while General-Secretary of NC, Minister for Communication and Information shared their ideas. Six commentators from various media federations presented their comments on the paper presented. The discussion informed the politicians that they should look peace beyond party interest, maintain human rights condition, agenda setting and lobbying, media diversity, act as connectors of society, optimization of actors interest by finding middle ground, media code against propaganda and culture of peace. Nepal is in transition from conflict to peace but there are numerous obstacles to implement the provisions of peace accord. With a view to generate alternative ideas about breaking the prolonged deadlock Press Chautari organized this seminar in cooperation with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office. There were two papers.

Inaugural Function

Inaugurating the seminar Prime Minister Nepal said that he was ready to step down if there was national consensus to conclude the peace and statue writing processes. "The government wants to solve the present deadlock on the basis of consensus, cooperative action and unity among the parties." PM Nepal said that until the Maoists turned into a civilian party, gave up their strategy of capturing the state and vacated the cantonments, national consensus was far from realization. 'To strike consensus, they should also use the language of consensus and co-work," PM said in an apparent reference to the Maoists. He said that the Maoists were circulating the rumors that the government wanted to dissolve the Constituent Assembly (CA) but now their claim had been debunked after the coalition registered a Bill at the parliament to extend the CA tenure. "So, I urge all not to be swayed by misleading propaganda spread by the Maoists," he added. He said that it was not time to engage in the blame game but to work for creating conducive atmosphere to build confidence and consensus among the parties. Stating that there could not be consensus to fulfill the ego of particular leader, PM Nepal said that they could not move ahead by undermining the democratic norms and rule of law that they established through hard work and sacrifice. He said that the role of the journalists had further increased in institutionalizing democracy in the transition period. The media have been victim of non-state actors, he said and added that the government was committed to protecting professional rights and freedom of the journalists.

Minister for Information and Communications Shankar Pokharel said that some elements were trying to depict a dreadful scenario after May 28. Minister Pokharel urged the media to play a constructive role to reduce such fear. "The state will not remain in void no matter how much crisis is there," Pokharel said. He said that the institutions of President, the government and the parliament would continue to function even after May 28, the deadline of the constitution writing. The Nepalese political parties will finally find the way out of crisis within the framework of interim constitution and democratic values as happened in the past, he said. Nepali Congress spokesman Arjun Narsingh KC asked journalists to impartially judge as to who were responsible to stall the peace and constitution writing process. KC accused the main opposition Maoists of not implementing the past agreements signed between the seven-party alliance and the Maoists. "It will be quite an injustice to put all the parties in the same basket for the current deadlock," he said. CPN-UML publicity department head Pradeep Gyawali said that the Maoists were trying to barter the chair of PM with the extension of the CA. Gyawali said that the Maoist-led government did nothing to conclude the peace process in line with the interim constitution. "We are not ready to derail the peace process to satisfy the ego of a leader," he said referring to the Maoist demand of the formation of the government under their leadership.If there is a guarantee to peace and statute writing, PM Nepal will tender his resignation within minutes, he said.
Dev Raj Dahal, head of the German political foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, said democracy offered the media to mediate contending perspectives through dialogue, non-violent communications and collective action. He said that journalists needed to inform the public for the democratization of the society so as to democratize the politicians; to bring forth the diversity of the society to bolster its legitimacy; bridge knowledge gap between those who know more and those who know less; and spread civic education for building the culture of peace. "Pro-active engagement of Nepalese media has been useful to remove the irrationalities of society and policy attention of stakeholders of society to mitigate conflict-producing root and proxy causes and struggle for peaceful and just future society," he added. Federation of Nepalese Journalists Dharmendra Jha, PCN president Gagan Bista, former FNJ president Binshnu Nisthuri and SAFMA Nepal head Shiva Gaule also spoke at the function. Media workers highlighted that the types of inputs media provide for the citizens and the government are essential to resolve multi-layered conflict in society.

Functions of Conflict-Sensitive Media

Media is one of the key elements of socialization of citizens into a democratic political culture. As the culture of civility grows political actors can easily agree over their principles and settle differences by non-violent means. The process of peace and conflict is often cyclical, not straight and linear. Therefore, every problem formulated rationally is capable of solution. Democracy offers the media to mediate contending perspectives through dialogue, non-violent communication and collective action. Any workable effort to peace process must be owned by the Nepalese themselves. The contextual and emotional intelligence to learning gives journalists a clue into human approach to peace. The usefulness of learning lies in modifying behavior, changing attitude and adopting peace-promoting goal. This means social learning of conflict dynamics is necessary to its resolution and strengthening the sites of rational and spiritual foundation to ensure peaceful coexistence of Nepal's multiple faiths.

Reporting is about bringing the truth of human condition in public life and sensitize citizens and leaders to address it. During pre-conflict phase, Nepalese journalists had provided early warning of fault line conflict and invited preemptive response from the concerned authorities. During the phase of violent conflict, they had supplied information to ramp up citizens' sensitivity about conflict, enabled them to take part in the social, economic and political processes in a meaningful way, countered propaganda, disinformation and defamation and event provocation and combated racism and ethnic hatred. They had played role in mobilizing popular pressure for democratization, conflict de-escalation, ceasefire monitoring, observation of peace talk and exerted pressure for early signing of CPA, Interim Constitution, drafting of new constitution by Constituent Assembly, durable peace and structural reforms.

Peace requires peace-oriented conceptual framework of structures, rules and behavior. Rational communication is important to respond to a desirable change and establish transitional justice for the conflict victims through welfare measures, non-violent communication, establishing citizens' right to know and breaking a culture of silence through a culture of articulation and peace. Pro-active engagement of Nepalese media has been useful to remove the irrationalities of society and bring policy attention of stakeholders of society to mitigate conflict-producing root and proxy causes and struggle for peaceful and just future society.

Outcome

Post-war situation of Nepal required journalists to increase costs for the spoilers of peace, connect the broken relation of society and act as bridge maker. At the end of discussion the journalists came with some important points: first, journalists should engage in peace education rather than focusing only on the differences and conflict among the key political actors; second, they should lobby for the accountability of political actors for the implementation of peace accord; third, journalists should work to convince the political parties and the government to move beyond partisan interest and work for conflict reducing policies and programs; fourth, journalists should report in a very conflict-sensitive manner and maintain the impartiality of news and views; fifth, exert pressure on political parties to shorten the transition period; and finally, develop a mechanism for consensus-based politics so that politicians undertake their responsibility to complete constitution-drafting in time and create an environment conducive for creativity and freedom.

 
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