The State of Journalism in Nepal
So, yesterday my friend and journalist colleague, Rishi Dhamala, was released from prison here in Nepal. He’d spent a couple of month on charges of involvement in terrorism(!) but in the end the police didn’t produce a shred of evidence! He’s always blamed the Maoist government to be behind his (political?) arrest, said it was an attack on press-freedom in the country. Not just from an inflated ego, he is in fact sort of a leading figure in Nepalese journalism, head of the “Reporters Club” etc.
So was it a political arrest? The question remains unanswered for now. But whatever ‘forces’ and ‘powers’ (politicians here always use these vague terms to draw up enemies, real or imagined!) –whoever- was behind it, the free press has seen some attacks this year. Most notably the one on Uma Sing, a young female reporter who was brutally murdered. Terrible stuff. I will not guess who is behind it, even if it’s the same ‘powers’ behind all the various attacks. But something fishy is going on here!
And the damn thing – looks like the threats are working! Well, either that or the standard of reporting is dropping for other reasons. But the standard is dropping! I should say that I just follow the English language press, mostly reading The Kathmandu Post and The Himalayan Times. I used to think that the Post was pretty good and the Times a close number two. But not anymore. They mostly stuff their print editions with cheap babble and they just don’t ask questions that begs to be asked!
First, let me give you an example of the irrelevant babble we have to put up with. From The Himalayan Times yesterday: They devoted a whole page to animal stories, “Egyptian Mau are fascinating cats with their delightful personality and striking appearance…” Hey! Nobody keeps cats in this country! Next an article about safety in children’s playgrounds. Hey! You don’t have children’s playgrounds in this country!
What’s going on? Quick-and-dirty, copy-and-paste, from some stupid wire subscription service? I know, by no means is this populistic and lifestyle centered form of ‘journalism’ merely a Nepalese phenomena. And what can you expect when you’re just paying 3 rupees ($0.04) for a newspaper?
Well, it used to be better, even when it cost only 2 rupees!
And also a couple of examples of what I miss, since I’ve now pretty much accused them of being incompetent: When the Tibetans were being pre-emptively arrested for ‘anti-Chinese activity’ (we are still in Nepal), when their demonstrations are being suppressed, I was disappointed to see that none of the media asked the responsible persons how this matched with things like freedom-of-speech and the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty!
And leading politicians get away with saying anything, completely contradictory. Last week some time it was the PM, quoted on the front page of one newspaper, saying something like “we want more donors” and “we want to be self reliant”. Same day, same page in the same newspaper! Hellooo!
Funny thing, of course the Maoist-PM keeps accusing the media of being run by ‘feudal forces’ and being biased against him and his comrades. Guess what? That’s the problem with freedom of speech. Sometimes people agree with you, sometimes they don’t. And they are allowed to say so!
Oh and yes. Never one word of caution in the newspapers about running of to foreign countries, seeking some naïve dreams about washing dishes and saving up a fortune. Because, guess who is some of the biggest advertisers in newspapers?
That’s right, the ‘consultancies’, as they’re just called here. Foreign employment agencies under the guise of being ‘educations consultants’. It’s BIG BUSINESS here!
But I’m running out of time for now. Just need to say that there’s possibly another reason for the falling standards. We have a new newspaper starting up here. My Republica. And I know one or two talented journalists who’ve gone over to them. So perhaps just a local brain drain (perhaps other journalism talents have also gone overseas!). Funny thing, the Republica have already started their online version –free of course- but I haven’t yet seen a print edition… From a chit-chat I had a few months back, remember there were some problems with the printing press from India, hope it’s coming soon…