Report on Role of Media in the Democratization
Organised by Press Chautari (PC)
26 April 2012
Press Chautari Nepal (PS) in cooperation
with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Nepal organized a one-day
national seminar on the "Role of Media in the Democratization,"
on April 26 in Kathmandu. Altogether 87 journalists of vernacular
press including 12 women took part in the meeting.
The seminar was attended by Speaker of Parliament
and Central Committee member of NC, UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-UML
as each of them hailed the role of media in public communication,
system change, gender equality, bridge building across the social,
economic and political divides, bringing progressive legislation,
protecting the rights of citizens during conflict, exerting
pressure on politicians for timely promulgation of Constitution
and logical end of peace process. The journalists identified
political role for media to make leaders accountable to their
promise, media as a public sphere for critical dialogue, fight
against prohibitory acts and implementation of Working Journalist
Act. They identified two areas for campaign: editorial freedom
and responsible press. Political leaders representing NC, CPN-UML
and UCPN (Maoist) explained the political situation of the country,
progress in the Constitution drafting and peace, defined ways
as to how media can play effective role in inserting democratic
contents in the constitution and make transparency of governance
Presenting his paper senior journalist Mahendra
Bisht on the theme argued that Press Chautari Nepal is a common
platform of active and professional journalists with five-thousand
members. This organization is engaged in protecting press freedom,
rights of working journalists, implementation of Right to Information
Act and protection of working journalists.
Since its establishment it is organizing a
number of activities with the aim to promote professionalism
of journalists and editorial freedom. Chautari is also engaged
in a series of campaign to bring the transitional politics and
peace process to a logical end, institutionalize democratic
practice and activate citizens through awareness building. It
has also organized capacity building of journalists, skill training
and career enhancement. Press Chautari stresses not only rights
of journalists but also duties in the areas of :free and responsible
press, institutionalization of democracy for the consolidation
of change, guarantee of democratic peace and constitution, safe
landing of transitional politics, constructive role in the education
of citizens about public affairs and help in reshaping of public
opinion and democratic will-formation and objective reporting
of events to make the life of citizens visible in policy attention.
Inaugurating the program Speaker of Parliament
Subash C. Nembang said that journalists have to engage people
in constitutional discourse, follow constitutional norms and
engage them in informed opinion formation. Press freedom is
possible only under democracy. It is wise to promulgate constitution
by May 27. Leaders are concentrating their efforts. The press
should exert constructive pressure for timely promulgation of
new constitution. We should first draft integrated constitution
and take it to the public for consultation. The process can
Dev Gurung (Chief Whip of Maoist Parliamentary
Party): He said that Nepal Army was dramatically engaged in
Maoist cantonments to disarm the PLA violating the norms of
Interim Constitution, Comprehensive Peace Agreement and National
Security Council. It was not integration, it was surrender.
It was also undemocratic as Prime Minister Baburam Bhatarai
did not consult even the cabinet and President. How can we believe
that NA cannot be mobilized against the CA? The CA has been
inactive because it has become the prisoner of three major parties'
leaders. Media should play active role like they played during
the movement for the restoration of democracy.
Arjun Narsingh KC (Member, Nepali Congress
Central Committee): We need a constitution that fulfills the
rights of ethnic and caste groups, classes and all communities.
The press should lobby for the articulation of rights of all
Nepali and consolidation of democratic achievements made so
far. The old bitterness among the parties are disappearing which
is a good sign for the promulgation of new constitution by the
Constituent Assembly. The backbone of democracy is vibrant press,
therefore, political parties should be careful about providing
them environment and protecting the rights of journalists. Nepalese
citizens have undergone through the process of absolutism and
dictatorship. The demand for presidential system seeks to revert
Nepal's political process in that direction. If the power of
executive and military head is concentrated in president then
it can easily breed fear of absolutism. Rights of all can be
ensured only under democratic constitution.
Pradip Gyawali (Head of Publicity Department
of CPN-UML): The role of press in social change has remained
all the time. The country paid the price for protracted transition.
Irresolution of constitutional issues might be costly for peace
and constitution. Despite the integration and rehabilitation
of combatants, there are other issues such as reconciliation,
return of property and justice and disappeared persons commission.
Only consensus politics can guarantee new constitution otherwise
politicians will face the disaffection of people and lead to
Dev Raj Dahal (Head, FES Nepal): Constitution
alone is not sufficient for a civic culture. There should be
constitutional behavior of all actors. There should also be
a balance between individual, group and human rights. For this,
media should foster the concept of citizenship equality, protect
the rights of minorities, weaker sections of society and opposition
so that democracy as a responsive rule becomes a common stake
of all citizens. Media should also help to put a tab on aspirational
politics which has weakened the authority of government, political
system and the state in society and distanced citizens from
these institutions. As a medium between the citizens and the
state, media should work for the negotiation of rational social
contract, a workable constitution. Media autonomy and impartiality
can increase their credibility before the public and build trust
on their news, views and opinions which are essential to expose
the citizens to democracy and modernity and foster a conversational
public. Media can also play constructive role in the healing
of society as the sensible words they use have soothing impacts.
Shiva Gaunle (President, Federation
of Nepalese Journalists): Media should be responsive to public
and constantly monitor the behavior of leaders as to whether
they follow democratic lines and responsive to public or deviating
from their path. Protection of editorial freedom and journalists
in the context become important.
Mahendra Bisht (Senior Journalist):
Media and democracy move in tandem and each strengthens the
other in a virtuous way. In this context, journalists should
be both objective and impartial. False new affects their own
credibility and distorts public faith as well as pushes the
Kundan Aryal (Senior Journalist and
media teacher): Journalists have to fight for democratic rights
of citizens and see whether their rights are violated. Media
freedom can be guaranteed by the state, not non-state actors.
Freedom should have autonomous values. Only then they can bring
change like they did in the past.
Kiran Pokhrel (Chairman, Nepal Press
Union): peace existing in the country is mainly because of the
de-legitimization of violence by media. Media should be conflict
sensitive and foster the values of rule of law, good governance,
transparency of governance and information flow. Implementation
of rights is connected with the capacity of the state, therefore,
they should also inform about the functioning of public institutions.
Maheshwor Dahal (Chairman, Nepal Revolutionary
Journalist Association): Media is industry, Media houses should
be independent of businessman and leaders. They are now biased
as media have gone into the hands of business and politics and
therefore far less report about the life of people. This trend
should be rectified.
Gagan Bisht (President, Press Chautari Nepal): To make democracy
strong we have to strengthen the public sphere where all citizens
equally speak and share their options about public affairs.
It strengthens the democracy from the base and help fulfill
people's sovereignty embedded in the constitution. We also need
to take democracy at various levels of society and stimulated
people's informed participation.
The presentation of the paper was followed
by discussion among the participants where they viewed the deterioration
of the condition of human rights, press freedom and attack on
journalists. They also found that source of threat has shifted
from the state to armed groups, criminals and mafias owing to
the declining outreach of the state in society in matters of
security, rule of law and service delivery. Security and safety
of journalists was deemed essential for articulating editorial
freedom in the press. Vernacular journalists also demanded training
opportunities for them for career enhancement prospect and dignity
of the profession. They also felt the need for the solidarity
of working journalists for establishing fair working conditions.