Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Media Fails Nepal in Time of Need

After a fortnight of the Royal Coup, I would like to comment on the media and their 'bravery' in publishing or not publishing about the coup.

Himal, a fortnightly newsmagazine that never failed to criticize the King's role in the past, came up in the bravest way. The first issue after the coup was published two days ago and ran a full page advertisement and a note by editor to tell the readers that the magazine has been censored and claimed that it would soon change. The ad with two photographs, the first with the mountain (mountain is Himal in Nepali) covered by clouds with caption Mountain is blocked … and the second without clouds saying … but will again be unblocked, is so vivid in meaning that everybody understood the hidden meaning.

The editor's note on the content page ‘we regret the difficulties caused by the imbalance in some of our article due to special censor' and grey fill for the content relating to the coup along with the main editorial (‘Long Live Democracy') talking about the King's commitment towards democracy were all but the protest of the King's move. The newsmagazine was heavy censored (how do I know it? Because they left all the censored areas blank.)

Weeklies like Deshantar and Bimarsha although were censored protested the move by leaving the editorial page blank and publishing the front page in grey. What we today popularly talk as the Mission Journalism (the role of journalists in returning democracy to Nepal in 1990 was greatly appreciated and called that Mission Journalism while trying to separate it from professional journalism) is set to make a return. The journalists at era of 1960-1990 bravely published newspapers despite being imprisoned and punished several times.

After 1990, journalism has become an industry and we all enjoyed the good things about it in the recent past, now we are experiencing the misery. The big newspapers despite having a huge reader-base and influence failed in the test due to fear that the King would order the close-down of the newspapers (why would any publisher want to lose the advertisings and the huge investment?) Kantipur Publications, which never let slip away any moment to show itself the great supporter of the democracy, chose to protest meekly with light editorials (on newspapers) and light news stories (on TV). No wonder many people around me have stopped reading the #1 newspaper (why should we?)

Kantipur even chose to close-down its printing press in Chitwan and handed contract-termination letters to all the employees there. One of my acquaintances, who was working for the newspaper for last 12 years as a plate-maker, couldn't stop his tears. I felt really sorry for him when he talked about the need for finding a job as soon as possible for his family survival.

The other day, The Kathmandu Post, printed a photograph of a journalist who lost the job as his newspaper was closed. In the photograph he was seen playing guitar in front of the board that displayed the advertisement of the newspaper he worked for. So many around me has lost the job, even mine is in danger, that I felt all my enthusiasms for journalism have swept away.

The Maoists have announced the blockade to the capital and I heard that outside the Kathmandu Valley everything is closed. With army escorting around 200 vehicles are going out and coming in but nothing is as normal. If all this continue, I don't know what will be the situation after a month.

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