Centre for Media Freedom and UNESCO Kathmandu Office jointly organised a seminar on 29 June in Kathmandu entitled, “Let Journalism Thrive, Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, & Media Safety in the Digital Age”, to mark World Press Freedom Day 2015. The seminar, attended by 55 persons including 16 women, was divided into two parts: inaugural session and working session.
Addressing the programme, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission Mr. Anup Raj Sharma said that even though the responsibility of implementing human rights commitments primarily lies on the government, mainstream media has significant role to play on this regard. “Since journalists as human rights defenders are flag bearers of civil society, they serve as catalyst not only in nurturing human rights culture in the society but also in defending human rights,” he added.
Commissioner of the National Information Commission Mr. Kiran Pokhrel said that only the right to information could ensure freedom of expression and press freedom. “Press freedom and right to information are intricately interlinked,” said Mr. Pokhrel. Underlining the need of free press and independent journalism, Chair of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists Mr. Mahendra Bista said that preliminary draft of new constitution contains some restrictive provisions which should be corrected by parties. Chairperson of the Press Council Nepal Mr. Borna Bahadur Karki said Nepali media played a vital role for establishing the press freedom. He, however, said there are tendencies of misusing the freedom of press by journalists and steps should be taken to make press more responsible.
Mr. Laxman Datt Pant, Coordinator of the Journalists’ Safety Project at UNESCO highlighted the theme of World Press Freedom Day 2015. He informed that due to the April 25 Earthquake it was not possible to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day on May 3 and the program was rescheduled for June 29.
At the working session, three working papers on each of the themes, namely, “Media Safety in Digital Age”, “Gender Equality and Safety of Women Journalists”, and “Independent Journalism and Corporate Influence” were presented among prominent participants. The session was moderated by Mr. Laxman Datt Pant.
Media expert Prof. Rama Krishna Regmee presented a paper on “Media Safety in Digital Age” highlighting the possible threats that journalists face in the digital age. During his presentation, Prof. Regmee said that journalists should be more aware about their safety in digital age as they might be under surveillance which creates problem to keep their tasks secret and confidential.
Participants lauded the paper presented by Prof. Regmee and asked numerous questions on how country could formulate laws and policies to ensure the safety of journalists in the digital age to which Prof. Regmee explained in detail.
Ms. Manju Thapa, the Executive Director of the Asmita Women’s Publishing House, presented a paper on “Gender Equality and Safety of Women Journalists”. Ms. Thapa presented some concrete evidences to justify her logic that media has not played a satisfactory role in maintaining gender balance. She presented national and international data showing that representation of women in media is dismal. She analysed the status of women journalists and portrayal of women’s issues in media.
Former President of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists Mr. Suresh Acharya presented a paper titled “Independent Journalism and Corporate Influence”. Mr. Acharya basically talked about various factors that have prevented media from becoming free and fair. The commercial interest, media concentration and lack of payment to journalists on time were the key points that Mr. Acharya took as barriers to ensure independent journalism. He said there is no editorial independence and editors are working under various influences.
Participants were actively engaged in the working sessions making it quite interactive.