In the service of power

Mar 14, 2017

Minister for Information and Communications Surendra Kumar Karki sounds more like an editor or a journalism professor these days. He has publicly delivered lessons on a variety of pertinent topics, ranging from reporting and writing to media management and ethics. In particular, he has repeatedly urged journalists to write “positive news” in the service of “social responsibility”. More importantly, he has called on journalists to be politically “impartial” so that they are able to make journalism “a dignified profession”. 
To paraphrase one of his recent pronouncements: a journalist who distorts the truth in order to flatter a political party or group lacks credibility.  
Our Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is not far behind in his editorial instructions. In fact, he appears methodical in his media strategy. He has exhorted “all media” to work with “an integrated approach”. The Himalayan Times (Feb 14) quoted him as saying: “The media should contribute in maintaining togetherness and harmony among all the people from rural and urban areas, among people from culturally and socially different communities, and among ideologically and politically different leaders.” Indeed, a complex set of seemingly noble tasks.
Maybe they are impossible to achieve, but there is nothing disagreeable in their pronouncements. In particular, the issues of “ideology” and of “impartiality” pester even a layperson, often faced with the challenge of devouring content in more than a few outlets with different leanings just so “the truth” can be discerned.  
Untangling ideology in the polarized pluralist media of Nepal with a dizzying quantitative breadth poses a challenge to even our informed and perceptive audiences, especially because outlets are not always consistent in their political loyalties. A bigger issue with governmental editorial directives on bridging ideological divides is that instead of edifying journalists they end up irritating them.
Political leaders themselves thrive on opposition and division. So they are hardly heeded by working journalists or their managers. Here’s a government that is more of a lector than an enabler, a helper. 
Seasoned journalists, having covered different political dispensations over many decades, know from experience that harmony, in the official version, is often about silencing critics, and impartiality about shunning a political party in favor of another. 

Read more at:

My Republica, March 14, 2017

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