Journalists join movement for democracy in Nepal

BY adhikary| IN Media Practice | 15/04/2004
Democracy and journalism are mutually reinforcing, say journalists in Nepal who are out on the street with protestors.

Dhruba Adhikary in

With the gunshots released from both the Maoists and the government reverberating up hill and down dale on the one hand, and five major political parties including the Communist party of Nepal -UML and the Nepal Congress heating up the Kathmandu`s streets against regression on the other, Nepal now stands at a crossroads the kind of which perhaps she never experienced.  

The parties are seeking to restore the status quo ante prevailing before October 4 2002. On that day King Gyanendra took over executive powers, a move which was seen as derailing the democratic process in Nepal. Twenty-five-odd professional  organizations have already posted their solidarity with the current  movement. And the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) has also jumped on the bandwagon, creating mixed ripples.
FNJ, Nepal Press Union and Press Chautari and Reporters` Club have already taken out solidarity rallies. Asked whether this is not beyond professional ethics, FNJ chief Tara Nath Dahal says, "We have not gone beyond the bounds of professional decency. When basic democratic rights are at stake, we must rise and raise our voice for their preservation. Democracy and journalism are mutually reinforcing. The press cannot always remain unconcerned of what is happening around." Press Chautari chairman Shambhu Shrestha also echoes the same concern. Media persons, he says, have come onto the street in view of the danger of the democratic rights being snatched away by the regressive regime. However, Shrestha claims that the Fourth Estate is still acting as an umpire and has frequently appealed to both the monarch and the parties to come to negotiation to thrash a way out.
Asked what prompted them to join the street when their rights were not curtailed, Dahal reacted that press freedom is now only on paper and the Terrorist and Destructive Activities (TADA) Act which gives sweeping powers to security forces including arrests without a warrant and detention of anyone suspected of having terrorist links for 90 days without trial may be taken as a case in point. Shrestha also reacted likewise. "Arrests of journalists continue to take place, they continue to be killed or threatened with life and they continue to disappear", he says.
However, Yubaraj Gautam, chief editor of the state-owned Gorkhapatra daily, has a contrary opinion. He disapproves of agitating  journalists and  describes their

 " solidarity rally " as paradoxical and asks them to play the role of  an umpire to the best possible extent. Journalists should always  bear in mind objectivity and it is unbecoming of them to become  a tool of political parties. I don`t feel press freedom is now at peril. Everyone is free to write to their liking, even against the monarchy. Of course the journalists may have to cope with  constraints  in times of national crisis and it happens everywhere.  "But such difficulties should be brought to the fore," he comments. How the journalists will go about it in the future, however, remains to be seen.

Dhruba Adhikary is vice-president of the Nepal Press Institute. Contact:



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