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Role of Press Union in highlighging working journalists issues

Organised by Nepal Press Union (NPU)

1 May 2012, Kathmandu

By Chandra Shekhar Adhikari


Nepal Press Union along with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office had organised a workshop on the 'Role of Press Union in Highlighting Working Journalists' issues' in Kathmandu on 1st May, 2012. There were more than Seven dozens of participants, mostly the journalists from mainstream and vernacular media representing newspapers, Television and radios. We all discussed on the issue of journalists more than five hours continuously. The main objective of the program was to share the problem of working journalists with leaders of political parties. We continued the discussion till the end of the session with the enthusiasm of all participants and political leaders. Ultimately, all of them spent their full time in the program with their patience and curiosity on the burning issue.

The chief guest of this programme was Dr. Ramsharan Mahat, Former Minister and Central Committee member of Nepali Congress Party. UML leader and former minister Pradeep Gyawali, and Maoist Leader Narayan Sharma were also the guests of this programme. The Programme was chaired by Kiran Kumar Pokhrel - President of Nepal Press Union (NPU). Dev Raj Dahal, Head FES Nepal Office, Tara Nath Dahal -Freedom Forum, Dharmendra Jha -Former President of Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), Bishnu Nisthuri -former President of FNJ, Shovakar Parajuli,leader of Nepali congress, Kulchandra Wagle former President of NPU and Samir Jung Shah former President of NPU also raised their voice on media issues in the Programme.

Speaking in the programme, Nepali Congress leader Dr. Mahat 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 linked with prolonging 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 should always be ready to coordinate for the peace." Journalists ought to be responsible on their profession.

He further said that Nepali Congress is committed for the development of Trade Union movement in the country. Nepali journalists are not secured in the nation. And, the state has not shown its own responsibility in this important sector. He commented on media too. According to him, Media has not produced qualitative programme and news too. In the name of giving scoop and fast news, media house don't go on deep source. For the reason, they fail on giving proper news on right time. And, they give more emphasis on covering political news only. It has made the public monotonous on watching news channels, radios and newspapers. In this sense, media house should be aware of improving themselves.

Dev Raj Dahal - Head of FES Nepal in his inaugural speech said that media should pin point and knock responsibility of the state. The main task of the journalists is to set the voice of voiceless people and also to secure themselves. 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 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.

UML leader Pradip Gyawali said that Nepali media is in crucial situation at the moment. He also said that journalists are not safe in the country. When journalists are no safe, it also poses serious security threat to people at large. Responsibility of media and its working area are is squeezing day by day. Press freedom has become only the slogan but not practicable in day to day life.

Maoist leader, Narayan Sharma said Nepali media is facing number of problems during these days. According to him media people are motivated and guided by political parties. The major weakness of the media house is that it works for political parties rather than working for braoder society. Media houses are misused by foreign countries as well argued Sharma. That's the reason, among others, political parties should be responsible and accountable for it. And, on the other hand, media house should not play the role of business house, rather it should work for the sake of Nepali people.

Taranath Dahal, former president of FNJ presented on the problems of Nepali Media and role of NPU. Likewise, Dharmendra Jha presented a paper in the programme on challenging of working journalists.

Dahal, currently President of Freedom Forum, 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, argued 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 organised 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.

Dahal 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.

Dharmendra Jha said that 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.

Bishnu Nisthuri 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. NPU president Pokharel 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.

Samir Jung Shah while making remarks on both the speakers 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. Jiwan Bhandari 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.

Gagan Bista, president of Press Chautari and some other journalist's also highlighted on the current situation of press. They are focused on government role in press sector always aggressive. Anil Giri from The Kathmandu Post said that Nepal's daily paper developed from the weekly paper and they still carry the same culture in reporting as well.

Chandra Shekhar Adhikari, Press Union central committee member and diplomatic correspondent of Annapurna Post Daily said that we should find out the way in for working journalist so that they can truly work for the society as well as maintain their dignified life.

They all focused on less representation 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, Rebati Sapkota from the Annapurna post daily commented that Nepali trade union movement is much loyal towards management of the media not with people working in the media houses.

Arjun Bhandari, Journalist from The Himalayan Times said that the management of the media houses 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. He further added that there is a lack of professional journalists in the media leadership and this has to change for the better.

Conclusion

The event oriented and guided journalist is not going to address the issues of actual present situations of journalists and Trade Union Issues. Head of the FES highlighted about the trade union issues categorically. The participants of the program agreed on the statement given by the FES Head. Media can play an important role to make democracy for everybody by reaching even passive and isolated workers for collective benefit.

The ultimate goal of this is program is to focus on the issue of trade union. The process of being professional journalist in the context of Nepal is growing up gradually. However, the journalists are not still presented as social mirror of the society.

 
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