Earlier, we were discussing hostile environment Nepali journalists and bloggers face. It would be a big omission to ignore the issue of journalistic ethics and integrity at this juncture because apart from the troubling reality that often the attackers hype the ethics lapse to justify their acts; it is important to keep the basics strong so that the media elicits respect and not suspicion or ridicule.
Case 1: BBC Nepali+Anti Corruption Campaign+Media Glare=Conflict of Interest
Couple of days back, I discussed this issue at my Facebook page, here I am sharing the post
“In Nepal, corruption is a deeply entrenched disease. Every sector is affected. Just released report from Transparency International ranks Nepal as the second most corrupt nation in South Asia, slightly better than war ravaged Afghanistan.
Stakes are high and inaction is not an option. We all agree on that. But do we also agree on how to fix this ill?
For couple of months now, anti-corruption campaign lead by journalist Rabindra Mishra and supported by many (including some high profile social celebrities), has been sloganeering against corruption. They have also been selling t-shirts with anti-corruption messages and engaging the public and government employees to stand up against corruption.
A noble deed and the campaign has my full support. I absolutely hate their tag line and the modus-operandi; but hey, you have to start somewhere.
However, I do have serious reservations regarding their structure.
Journalist Rabindra Mishra is a respected name in Nepali journalism. He is currently serving as the head of BBC Nepali and also leads a charity organization. His work, philanthropy wise and as a journalist, is much appreciated. But..
Yea..there is a BUT in this story…
As a head of a news organization, which by the way covers Nepal’s notorious corruption problem, is it ethical for him to lead a very public anti-corruption campaign?
We Nepalis raise up stink when a politically affiliated person is part of media establishment. His ideology will affect news coverage, we cry.
Isn’t this a similar scenario? Because of his involvement in an anti-corruption campaign, Mr Mishra has formulated certain views and understanding of the situation. When working as a journalist, those views can and will hinder him from providing free and fair coverage of corruption related matters.
Also, the campaign has brought him closer to the high and mighty of Nepali establishment. This proximity affects his news coverage, and his judgement. Thats the reason why many journalists skip White House functions, to stay away from those they cover.Because personal connections do not facilitate balanced views.
I see Mr Mishra’s involvement in the anti-corruption campaign as conflict of interest. His work, as a journalist and as an activist, are valuable but they cannot go together.”
Case 2: Politicial Activists Masquerading as Journalists= Unethical Journalism
In Nepali context, the principle of fair, balanced journalism has a different meaning; and sometimes that meaning is just a synonym for unethical practice.
Earlier this year, Binod Bhattarai at Republica commented on unethical practice of political activists masquerading as journalists,
“In less than two weeks, Nepal’s journalists will elect a new leadership at Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ). Unlike in the past years, the run to represent around 9,000 Nepali journalists is becoming more and more of a contest to watch. However, it is not just about who wins or loses; instead, it is more about how wide the partition among journalists will become by the time it is over.
I spoke to a potential candidate who was holding his chips close to the chest early this week. Having contested and lost in an earlier bid to become an office holder, this time he wanted to play his cards right by waiting for a green signal from one of the three main political parties (or their unions, rather) before entering the fray. Should that not happen, you will not hear of him. ‘‘It is impossible to win unless I get an endorsement from one of the three main unions that control the block votes,’’ he said. ‘‘Only then will the votes I may receive on my journalism credentials be meaningful.’’ Losing as an independent candidate earlier had taught him exactly what was needed to win.
Up until a few years ago, the ‘invisible hand’ that blessed candidates for FNJ leadership was obvious but far less apparent. That has changed. Some weeks ago, newspapers reported that CPN-UML leader Pradip Gyawali had camped at the Press Chautari convention (inaugurated by the prime minister) to endorse the selection of Shiva Gaule as its candidate. There are conflicting reports on what his exact involvement was for: Some say he was there to anoint the candidate, while others said, he chaperoned the entire process. “
This open involvement of political parties in journalist unions, and journalists openly flaunting their proximity to a party is troubling and downright unethical practice.
Lapses like these hurt Nepali journalism’s integrity and standing; and provide more ammunition to those who cannot stand free speech.
We will discuss the citizen media in this context tomorrow.