Nepali Citizen Media and Bloggers’ Code of Ethics

We were discussing Nepali mainstream media and the ethics lapses that hurt the profession and its standing in the society; and focused on active politicization of media and ignoring conflict of interest situations.

With regards to the citizen media, there haven’t been many (publicized) incidents of ethical lapses, but that does not mean the problem does not exist.

For instance, back in April, a misstep by Mysansar raised questions regarding user privacy.

“Regarding the ongoing scandal at the Finance Ministry and alleged involvement of prominent industrialist Binod Chaudhary in the forced resignation of Finance Secretary Rameshwor Khanal, Mysansar has this post:

http://www.mysansar.com/archives/2011/04/id/18122

It is a good post. At least they are asking questions mainstream media is avoiding but there is a problem.

In the post, they have published IP address and email of commentators who it seems have sent comments supporting Chaudhary and questioning Mysansar’s intentions from Chaudhary Group’s computers.

Now, Mysansar does not have an explicit privacy policy for it’s users but publishing email and IP address of commentators you don’t agree with is certainly not a good practice. What worries me is that this sets a precedent for vendetta blogging rather than having a constructive dialog.

I request Mysansar to delete the email and IP addresses immediately and respect privacy of these users.

What do you say?”

Plagiarism also hurts Nepali blogosphere.

“At Twitter we had long discussion with Rabindra Rijal, who discovered that a new website has been stealing feeds and publishing articles without any attribution or links.

I visited a website-NepalNepal.com, and found, what I believed, was a talented writer. After reading three articles , it was clear she was lifting them from mainstream news sites and posting them without any credit or link.”

Literary and entertainment blogs and websites seem to be victimized more often.

Then there is the infamous “Twitter Kanda” or the Twitter scandal that rocked Nepali social media circles earlier this year.

“A user at twitter posts some unflattering comments about his boss. Next thing he knows, his comments are published in a national newspaper. He is not notified before the comment is published, and almost lost his job.

What do you think? Is it ok for a national newspaper to publish a tweet, publicly available and not protected, without notifying or seeking permission from the user?

Before you make up your mind, let me share some facts.

The national newspaper in question here is Kantipur Daily-Nepal’s largest circulating national daily. The tweet was published, along with couple of other randomly selected ones, in its Friday supplement  Hello Sukrabar.

Ashish Luitel, Kantipur reporter, who is behind this tweet sharing experiment, defended his action amidst avalanche of negative comments. At Twitter-where else? Nepali bloggers (including yours truly) called his action breach of privacy.

He responded that because the tweets were not protected and publicly viewable, there should be no expectation of privacy.

Well, I disagree. Yes, the tweets were publicly viewable but that does not imply that the user was ok granting a national newspaper rights to publish it and make it available to larger public. How many times have we griped about our bosses? if all of that were to be made public, no one in this world would have a job. Social media has extended the sphere of debate and also blurred the line between private and public. You post something at Facebook or Twitter, and if you are not careful, it comes back to haunt you.

User in this incident, should have kept his tweets private, if he expected privacy; but is he not allowed to be silly about his boss without being nationally ridiculed? Is the media so powerful and ever-present that even random acts of silliness now make it into national newspaper?

Also, for a publication like Kantipur, does it make any sense to pick random tweets and publish them-without approval from users or notifying them; when the tweets are just too random to make any sense?

The published tweets, are all over the place and don’t contribute anything to discussions now going on around the world or in Nepal. At Twitter, Nepali youth are organizing fund-raisers to help social causes, some are debating civil servants and their right to politics free work place. To ignore all that and to select few tweets that are not part of any coherent debate, just for the sake of it is pathetic waste of time and space.

Ashish Luitel was nice enough to answer his critics and present his side of the story, unfortunately his experiment of adding some “hip” stuff into boring sections of Hello Sukrabar by inserting random tweets shows the fickleness of Nepali media and is a sad testament to the fact how un-evolved they are on matters related to social media and privacy.”

Ethics hurdles facing Nepali citizen media can be broadly categorized as:

# Lines blurred by technology

#copyright, privacy, content ownership

#preserving standards

# and the need to re-define the interaction between the mainstream media

In an effort to strengthen Nepali blogosphere, a code of ethics was introduced (and signed by handful of bloggers present during the unveiling ceremony). There were some who opposed the move, unfortunately, and refused to sign. Although the code of ethics movement has slumped a bit, it is an important effort and hopefully will be revived soon.

 

Moving on, from ethics to the blogs-we will discuss Nepali language blogs tomorrow.

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