Media Independence DayBy Nepali Patro (Sudan Bhattarai Upadhyaya) in International Days .
“No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information. It is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power.” quotes António Guterres (António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres), United Nations Secretary-General. The complete absence and freedom without any restrain from external control, force or influence over Media institutions or individuals working in the media. The fundamental factor in freedom of speech is World Press Freedom Day which is celebrated worldwide on 3 May and is known as Media Independence day. In December 1993, World Press Freedom Day has proclaimed the “Declaration of Windhoek” by the UN General Assembly, followed by the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. Since then, the third of May is observed as the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek and is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day, also known in other words as Media Independence Day.
This day is a great day for media and an opportunity to, celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate the state of press freedom all over the world, defend the media from the attack on their independence, and to pay homage to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The Nepalese media these days is at the crossroad of two paths mainly the one pursued by the state government which intimidates freedom of expression and speech challenging the very existence of independent professional media. While the other path being pursued by the media community itself, in fact, a difficult path of strong and relentless struggle.
Nepalese journalists face threats and intimidation, and sometimes even detention by the state as well as ruling parties almost every day, which has tended a small handful of media personnel to do Yellow Journalism too because of the threat opposed to them.
The journalist’s community, led mainly by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (F.N.J), is at the frontline of this battle against those who try to press freedom in Nepal. The Royal coup, by then King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah on February 1, 2005 was a huge attack on the media to obliterate its infrastructure on which the Nepalese media’s foundation stood, after the 1990 great event of restoration of democracy. But, despite the government effort and action to curb media freedom and impose state control over them, journalists launch several Movements to protect their rights and freedom. And they achieved their freedom too. However, the media community never has faced such strong challenges from the state and non-state sectors as in the present times.
History of Media Independence Day
The 2019 Theme of Media Independence day: “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”
As of now, when we speak of media it does not only refer to the traditional newspapers, magazines and television of the earlier days. Now in this digital media age with social media too showing their existence it is somehow different from the media of those days. Nick Couldry in 2009 said “digital transformations tend to compromise the press as a common good (with a blurring of the difference between journalism and advertising, as an example) by the technological, political and social change that it brings within a system”, Thus, authors and writers, Daniel Hallin, Kelly McBride, and Tom Rosenstiel have consider other rules like transparency and participation to be taken in consideration which will be more relevant in the present pretext. Karppinen and Moe stated “what we talk about when speaking about media independence are the characteristics of the relations between, entities connected to or from media institutions, via journalistic cultures, to individual speakers and, on the other hand, social environment, including the state, political interest of the people plus the the mainstream culture of the people in general. Because of these factors, a trend of establishing self-regulatory bodies, as press councils, with support of governmental and non-governmental organizations such as UNESCO are a dire need not just for self-regulation expressed as an advantageous system by journalists but also for support of media freedom and its development.
Defining the limits of what should or should not be carried and prioritized in the most popular digital spaces, European Commission’s 2013 publication “ICT Technology Sector Guide on Implementing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”, has given importance to independent journalism.
Press freedom is impossible without democracy in a country like Nepal. Since the restoration of democracy in 1990, Nepalese media never had anticipated the audacious royal coup of February 1 would threaten the foundation of the media industry in Nepal. But, for the right of people to information, as enshrined in the 1990 constitution of Nepal, our Nepalese journalists are always fighting and will do so much more in the coming days, to safeguard the press freedom and freedom of expression in this politically volatile country. Thus, the media community, especially the journalists, are here to protect the fundamental human rights and freedom of expression.
With such a background, the important question is how the Nepalese media community moves forward from here. Continued vigilance is the price to be paid for freedom. Since the right to information and press and publication rights have been enshrined in the current Nepal constitution, media personnel should always be vigilant, maintain solidarity and fight for their rights whatever the circumstances may be. At the same time networking at the district, national and international level will be very crucial to protect rights of media personnel in general. Whereas another very important resolution to be taken by Media personnel as a whole is in Nepal in the present condition is refraining from “yellow journalism” especially in the current transitional period of Nepal. Therefore, the celebration of the Media Independence day will not have any significance nor any kind of value if it does not refrain from yellow journalism and gives the right news as demanded by the people for freedom of speech.