In view of continuing violence against journalists in Nepal, media experts, academics and representatives of human rights organizations have urged all stakeholders to jointly push for a national-level mechanism. Such mechanism will be empowered to take immediate action in case of threats to journalists, and will also be mandated to chart out a long term plan to create conducive environment for journalists to discharge their duties.
This view was expressed by the participants of the National Level Consultation on Improving Media Rights Violation Monitoring Mechanism, organized jointly by UNESCO’s Kathmandu Office and the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (ACORAB) under the project “Increasing the Safety of Journalists” in Lalitpur on 10 March 2014.
Citing a pre-assessment during an introductory session on the project progress, Laxman Datt Pant, Coordinator of the UNPFN/UNESCO project “Increasing the Safety of Journalists”, said that public officials, including chief district officers and heads of security forces, are found to be less updated on the issues and rights related to freedom of expression. He stressed the need for extensive debate among civil society, security forces, government officers and judiciary to foster better understanding of the issues.
Part of the problem stems from the lack of uniform approach in the dissemination of data on cases of violence against journalists. The discrepancy in data produced by different organizations that claim to monitor violence against media is both baffling and discrediting in the eyes of international organizations that support journalistic causes and work at global scale to promote safety of media workers.
In the consultation, Nirmala Mani Adhikary, who led a research on organizations involved in monitoring of violence against media, said that out of 23 such institutions only 17 are functional, with only a handful still actively engaged in the work. The research showed that access and reach was not a problem for monitoring organizations, but lack of common standards hindered production of consistent data.
Yadu Prasad Panthi, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), said, “Journalists should not violate code of conduct or professional integrity on the pretext of lack of job security.” According to him, the Ministry of Information was willing to take steps to safeguard the interests of journalists based on the recommendation of the national consultation.
Borna Bahadur Karki, President of the Nepali Press Council, said that an effective joint media monitoring mechanism is possible only by strengthening government institutions.
The national consultation was followed by the two separate regional consultations organized in Birgunj on 3 March, and in Ilam on 6 March among the journalists, media advocacy groups, civil society members, indigenous and women groups. A total of 120 persons from eastern hill and central terai districts participated in three separate consultations and discussed a joint strategy document on monitoring media rights violation cases. The strategy document is now circulated among the stakeholders for the scrutiny.
Meanwhile, regional consultations revealed that aggressions against journalists are both related to their work and matters unrelated to their profession. Attributing such anomalies to professional or job insecurity, the participants at the national consultation were more or less unanimous in their support for enforcing measures like exams for entry into the profession of journalism and implementation of minimum wage as prescribed by Working Journalist Act.
Earlier, the stakeholders participated in an online consultation carried in social site for a month from 7 February to 7 March 2014.