That the diplomatic mission of a neighbouring country would find it fit to pick a quarrel, and publicly at that, with the host country’s press over reports questioning the quality of certain products manufactured locally is considered unusual, if not offending.
Knowledgeable Nepali diplomats familiar with universally accepted norms and practices were naturally taken aback when they read the statement Embassy of India issued on August 27, with unsubstantiated allegations that “certain print and television media” had resorted to negative publicity because their approach for release of advertisements were not entertained by industries concerned. Even if the subject becomes a dispute between manufacturers and consumers---of a particular brand of juice---through media, there are designated agencies and mechanisms in Nepal to resolve such controversies.
Similarly, the industries in question might have used investments from abroad including India, but their products are marketed as “Made in Nepal” commodities, thereby governed by relevant laws of Nepal. And the investments probably came from the private sector. People in the Nepali media are aware of these basic points, that is why they promptly offered their reactions. The joint statement containing the voices of publishers and radio/television broadcasters is actually an indicator of a broader perception of India’s increasing interference in Nepali affairs.
Meanwhile, it is an irony that the embassy of the world’s largest democracy is encouraging authorities here to take “suitable action” against a free press ! And a reference to “unethical practices” here in Nepal has surfaced at a time when the Press Council of India is reporting about an unprecedented challenge emanating from the phenomenon of “ paid news”, that is advertising in the garb of news. A council report released on 30th of July refers to possible pernicious influence on Indian democracy from “such malpractices”. Who, by the way, is the competent authority to decide as to what constitutes an “unethical practice” the embassy is alluding to ?
Press releases put out by embassies, missions of the UN and other international agencies based in Kathmandu are usually a good source of information on matters of public interest. With some exceptions, such as a European Union’s position on a particular issue relating to a Latin American country. It appears that some of the diplomatic missions spend additional time to make their public announcements more helpful to journalists who work under stressful deadlines. I have noticed that the British Embassy is one of them. Most of the press releases from this embassy add “Information for Editors” at the end of its main announcement, with background notes and details. The press release of August 9 on a group of Bhutanese refugees being resettled in the United Kingdom can be cited as an example. In addition to the news that 37 Bhutanese leaving Nepal to be integrated into a new host community, the footnote segment of the press release provided background information about the resettlement programme and destination countries together with the number of remaining refuges (77,616) now being sheltered in seven camps located in eastern Nepal.
The one and only flaw that I noticed in the press release was in its tagline which a newspaper could have directly converted into a headline: From Jhapa to Bolton. To the Nepali audience, Jhapa does not need laboration but Bolton does. And it could have been done by inserting just a one or two more words, isn’t it ?
Perfection is desirable, but not easily achievable. However, there is no dearth of dedicated journalists in this world of ours who are fiercely committed to precision as well as perfection as a part of accuracy. One such perfectionist was Allen Quicke, editor-in-chief of Asia Times Online which is based in Hong Kong with an editorial bureau in Thailand. From what can be derived in the obituary portal posted, this 57-year-old man from South Africa was also a genius at organising journalists. Otherwise it would not have been possible for this Internet version of Asia Times, a print newspaper that ceased publication in 1997, to record a steady growth in preceding years. It now is a vibrant site with daily readership of more than 100,000 enlightened people scattered across the globe. AToL says it has a policy to look contemporary issues from an Asian perspective. “ This distinguishes us from the mainstream English-language media, whose reporting on Asian matters is generally by Westerners, for Westerners”, its mission statement says. The Chinese edition of the site too is read widely in China and beyond.
“ Nobody likes to be scrutinized by the media, but the existence of the media helps maintain order and transparency.” Although a statement of fact, it would not have attracted attention if it had come from a British newspaper or an American television broadcast. It could have been dismissed as a journalistic cliché. Since this was printed in the editorial column of an English language newspaper published in China, ournalists with interest in that country’s measures towards liberalisation may find it worthwhile to monitor an increasingly assertive character of media outlets there. The quote given above is from the leading article in the Global Times of August 6. “ Without the media there would be dire consequences, and political and financial power would go unchecked,” is how the next sentence of the article read. The paper sought public understanding and support for the media which is “on a difficult road of transforming its role.” Efforts to enhance media’s credibility appear to be in full swing. Reports exposing the ugly parts of public life, ranging from the milk powder scandal, coalmine accidents to corrupt practices in businesses offer examples of recent media initiatives.
Global Times urged the public to reject “bad journalists”. As we know, this breed is not confined to China. They can be found everywhere, and Nepal is not an exception.Those who have entered the media without adequate qualification,training and professional commitment are the ones to be blamed for causing palpable erosion of media credibility. Men and women working as journalists but retaining loyalty to a particular political party are also responsible for inflicting damage to the profession that is associated with citizens’ constitutional right to be informed on public issues.Clearly, no professional journalist would create a sensational story like the oneSurya Bahadur Thapa, a former prime minister, alluded to in an interview published in Nepal Samacharpatra on August 27. According to Thapa, it is true that some elderly leaders including himself did meet each other at a luncheon hosted by Padma Sundar Lawati, a Panchayat-era home minister, but to say that revival of monarchy was discussed there is something like sharing a fairy tale. Obviously, this can be a good example of ‘creative writing’ but it definitely has no place in journalism as it has be to be based on facts only.