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Workshop Report on Role of Press Union in Highlighting Trade Union Issues

Organized by Nepal Press Union (NPU)

7 June 2011, Kathmandu


Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in Cooperation with Press Union organized one day workshop on the role of trade union in highlighting trade union issues in Kathmandu on 7th June, 2011. There were more then 70 participants, mostly journalists from mainstream and vernacular media representing newspapers, Television and radios. The chief guest of this programme was Ramchandra Paudel Vice President of Nepali Congress Party. The inaugural session was chaired by Kiran Kumar Pokhrel - President of Nepal Press Union. Dev Raj Dahal, Head FES Nepal Office, Ramkrishna Regmi -Senior Journalist, Tara Nath Dahal -Freedom Forum, Dharmendra Jha -outgoing President of Federation Of Nepalese Journalist and Ganesh Nirula vice President of trade Union spoke in the inaugural session.

Speaking in the inaugural session Nepali Congress leader Paudel said that press union played a crucial role during the people's movement of 2006 and requested that it should now work towards the formation of inclusive politics that upholds norms of social justice. He also commented on the current political situation and said that Maoists have come as a major hurdle for the current political deadlock in the country. The fact is that they wanted to retain their combatants even after the Constitutional process is completed and this intention of theirs is to prolong political process in the country. He also said that without peace, any constitution will not function properly. "To make new constitution, we don't have much time so that we would be more dedicated to complete the task within extended period. Without peace we can't do anything for the nation. Therefore, Nepal Press Union and all other democratic institution will always be ready to coordinate for the peace."

"Now we are reflecting on the role of trade unions especially the role of Nepal Trade Union Congress in leading democratization process in the country, said Poudel." He further said that Nepali Congress is committed for the development of Trade Union movement in the country. Dev Raj Dahal - Head of FES Nepal in his inaugural speech has said that media should assist in setting agenda of workers in the country. Media as a cultural industry represents critical mass in a society which can forward the issues of social justice that has come forcefully in the country. He also said that solidarity and peace are the major elements to develop the nation. Mass media-television, press, radio and internet-are effective medium of communication between the political system and the people. Both media and trade unions constitute a part of larger civil society endowed with the ideal to protect public interest. Both help to mediate opposing interests of society to establish golden means of politics. The general functions of trade unions worldwide are: defending their employee rights and jobs; securing improvements in their working conditions, including working hours and health safety at work; improving their pay and other benefits, including holiday entitlements; encouraging firms to increase worker participation in decision-making; improving sick pay, pensions and industrial injury benefits; and developing and protecting the skills of union members enabling them to compete in the changing nature of economy.

Citizenship begins with the membership of the state; therefore, civic responsibility of the Nepali media requires their contribution to public opinion formation. The state has to sincerely implement Right to Information Act 2007 and Working Journalists Act 2007 as well as provide labor market information. In this process, the Nepalese media have to provide civic awareness to workers about changing nature of economy, equip them with participatory information and resources, stimulate active public engagement and foster meaningful dialogue and ownership of workers in the agenda-setting regarding their rights, laws, social security provisions and the dignity of work. Familiarization of workers with various ideas and issues provides them a greater measure of free will and self-confidence and enable them to use their own political choice. Democratic politics is not only about the self- assertion of politicians for power but about seeking a common good where workers are not excluded. Democracy seeks to maximize the greatest happiness of greatest number of society's members. Media should, therefore, stress on the formation of a common ground so that democracy can release the possibility for social, economic and political integration of Nepalese workers and contribute to strengthening national integrity system to control corruption and resolve various types of conflicts in society.

Tara Nath Dahal from Freedom Forum and the former present of Press Union strongly objected the current development trend that has been witnessed in the media sector. He categorized Nepalese press into three different columns who defend interests of the different groups. The traditionally oriented media, politically oriented media and commercially oriented media. And this sort of media orientation has posed serious threat for the development of "autonomous" press in the country, said Dahal. He further said that the free media in the country is free only for few who enjoy it as their prerogative rights. By and large, media has not promoted pluralistic culture in the country. There are more than 50000 persons directly employed in this industry. In addition to this, there are self-employed in media, there are editor publishers and one man media (the online) shows and we need to organized them for the betterment of society. He vociferously said that Press Union should highlight the issues of workers as we represent the same class and this has been not taken up so seriously for the last few years. He also said that press union also needs to be extended with all other workers who are in working in media house. He said that the union has become stronger now after the involvement of all those people.

Harihar Birahi former president of NFJ, Samir Jung Shah - outgoing President of the Press Union said that state capacity must be strengthened to ensure rights of the people. Kiran Kumar Pokharel- president of the Press Union said that journalists are mirror of the society so that they are always more responsible. Nevertheless, the government should have the positive role for the media development. He further thanked all the participants and inaugural session comes to an end.

In the working session, there were two papers presented by Ramkrishna Regmi, Lecturer of media on Professional Journalism in Nepal: Reflection on Problem and Taranath Dahal, former president of FNJ: Media and Trade Unions.

Regmi, while presenting his paper said that Nepali media has emerged over the time as the main source of the information and knowledge about the contemporary affairs and state of the country and those of the world for Nepal's of myriad walks of life.

A large number of instances suggest that their decisions and behavior appear directly or indirectly influenced by media. The current Nepali landscape of the media is quite interesting, radio informing the country in a localized version, news papers educating people about events, ideas and policies at the district, regional, national and international TV serving as fast abstracts of current time's trends and online offering menu of the thoughts of the digital elites. Their cumulative strength enables Nepali media to act not only as watchdog of the society but also citizens' forum for discussion as per the requirements.

Likewise, Dahal spoke about the current situation of trade unions in the country and their struggle to incorporate rights of the working people in the upcoming constitution. He further said that they are jointly working to ensure workers.

Bindu Kanta Ghimire, while making remarks on both the speakers has said that the trade union is highly politicized, party-oriented and media is action oriented as a result the genuine issues of workers are always sidelined. Workers have been merely used and abused by the trade union leaders and leaders of the political parties. Hemanta Kafle, vice president of NPU also added that economic activities in the country are shrinking and there has been too much focus on politics over the years. As a result the state has failed to create new jobs. Bhuban bhatta also commented on how to stop the investment of criminals in media sector giving the example of chair person of National Television. It has invited unnecessary cut-throat competition to grab the advertisement in the media industry. Lilaraj Khanal and some other journalist's also highlighted on the current situation.
They all focused on less presentation of Trade Union in policy making sector. They pointed out leadership problem in the trade union another issue that needs to be sorted out in coming days. As same people have been leading the TUs for a long time, that is, the process of inter-generational justice has been blocked and there is no internal democracy in the TUs like the political parties. He also cautioned that Trade Union movement is not only about opposing "employers" but also about creating an environment of the fresh investment in the country.

From the floor, Narayan Parajuli from Avenues TV commented that Nepali TUs movement is not investment friendly. Two other journalists Surya Thapa and Gokarna Aryal said that the management of the media house has become more powerful than the unity of the journalists so that whenever they raise their problems within the media houses, they would be sidelined and ignored. Moreover, their might be the possibility of their release from the service rather than addressing their issues. That is, media personnel themselves (particularly Press Union) have failed to address the genuine issues of workers.

Conclusion

The event oriented and guided journalist is not going to address the issues of actual present situations of journalist and Trade Union Issues. Head of the FES highlighted about the trade union issues categorically. Nobody raised or discussed on the issues raised by FES Head rather they just listened. Media can play an important role to make democracy for everybody by reaching to even the passive and isolated workers and peasants and energizing them to participate on the production of collective welfare. By providing critical information responsible press nurtures an informed society capable of making vital choices in the public affairs and contributing towards the emancipators potential of rationality embodied in participatory democracy.

 
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