In view of continuing violence against journalists in Nepal, media experts, academicians and representatives of human rights organization have urged all stakeholders to jointly push for a national-level mechanism that is empowered to take immediate action in case of threats to journalists and also mandated to chart out long term plan to create conducive environment for journalists to discharge their duties.
The participants expressed such view at the National Level Consultation on Improving Media Rights Violation Monitoring Mechanism, organized at the joint initiation of UNESCO and ACORAB Nepal, the association of community radio at Lalitpur on 10 March 2014.
Citing Reporters’ Sans Frontier’s data that puts Nepal among the riskiest places for journalists, Laxman Datt Pant, who oversees the UNESCO initiative Increasing the Safety of Journalists, said public officials, including chief district officers and heads of security forces, are not updated on the issues and rights related to freedom of expression. He stressed on the need for extensive debate among civil society, security forces, government officers and judiciary to foster better understanding on the issues.
Part of the problem stems from the lack of uniform approach in the dissemination of data on cases of violence against journalists. The discrepancy in data produced by different organizations who claim to monitor violence against media is both baffling and discrediting in the eyes of international organizations who support journalistic causes and work at global scale to promote safety of media workers.
Head of the Kathmandu University’s mass media department, Nirmal Mani Adhikary, who led a research on organizations involved in monitoring of violence against media, said out of 23 such institutions only 17 are functional, with only a handful still actively engaged in the work. Lack of common or widely shared data in public domain, Adhikary said, leaves room for criticism and suspicion and questioning the reliability of data provided by individual organizations.
The research showed that access and reach was not a problem for monitoring organizations, but lack of common standards hindered production of consistent data.
Meanwhile, regional workshops on journalists’ safety have revealed that aggressions against journalists are both related to their work and matters unrelated to their profession. Attributing such anomalies to professional or job insecurity, the participants were more or less unanimous in their support for enforcing measures like exams for entry into the profession of journalism and implementation of minimum wage as prescribed by Working Journalist Act.