Mission of Journalism:
Democracy and Peace
Hiranya Lal Shrestha
Nepal has been going
through what is known as the 'people's war' launched by the
Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) since February 1996. About
9,000 people have lost their lives owing to the conflict between
the government and the Maoists. Most of the victims are innocent
civilians. After the king started to rule the country through
nominated prime ministers and the council of ministers after
dissolution of the parliament and elected government from October
4, 2003, conflict has increased between the King and the parliamentarian
parties also. The insurgents have broken ceasefire and both
sides have intensified military activities. In the recent battles
in Bhojpur and Myagdi, the insurgents have used new weapons
including AK- 47 rifles and other heavy weapons. There are bomb
explosions and killings even in the capital and other cities
in different parts of the country. Frequent bandhs and blockades
added hardship to the commoners. The humanitarian laws and human
rights have been systematically violated. Women and children
have fallen worst victims of the conflict. The ratio of the
internal displacement is increasing. Murder, kidnapping and
detention of journalists by the government and the insurgents
are growing. The Nepalese people want peace and settlement of
the armed conflict through social- economic transformation.
They want to build peace instead of the culture of guns. In
this process, media can play vital role, because an aware and
vibrant journalism can multiply the strength of the peace campaign.
In the context of present
day Nepal, the only mission of journalists is to create favorable
people's opinion for a durable peace by helping bring about
ceasefire and effecting a social transformation through dialogue
and consensus. It is to create people's pressure against the
option of military solution. The preamble of the constitution
of the UNESCO stipulates: " Since wars begin in the minds
of men that, the defenses of peace must be constructed."
The journalists, therefore, must nurture the culture of peace
based on humanitarian laws and human rights instead of glorification
The Clause 8 of the
Code of Conduct for Journalists 2060 drafted by the Press Council
in consultation with the Nepal Journalist Federation stipulates:
"Violence, terror and crimes should not be encouraged.
The news, ideas, photographs and scenes of war should not be
presented in a way the destruction, violence and crimes are
provoked." Similarly, the clause 9 of the statute says:
"The gruesome pictures likely to provoke hatred and incite
passion should not be published. Pictures showing badly mutilated
bodies should not be published in an irrelevant, obscene and
provocative manner." These clauses direct journalists to
stand against violence and murder and to show that the mission
of the journalists is peace.
Although democracy was
formally re-established in 1990, no socio-economic transformation
could be brought in the country. No significant change was brought
in the semi-colonial and semi-feudal status of the country.
The status of the common people, specially those of the women,
indigenous people, dalits, exploited and the oppressed
remained unchanged. The gender discrimination too, remained
intact. The people of remote areas and the Terai remained in
the sideline. Banking on these contradictions, the CPN (Maoist)
launched a revolt under the attractive slogans of radical change.
The rulers, in turn, took up the path of suppression instead
of going in for political way-out and socio-economic transformation.
Despite being a least developed country, Nepal is turning into
a market for weapons. The state is openly acquiring weapons,
training and logistics from outside. The insurgents, too, have
been bringing in weapons clandestinely from the money they have
accumulated by looting banks and extortion from the people.
The possibility of Nepal receding to the status of a "failed
state" has started to loom larger. Instead of forging understanding
and unity to bring the insurgents to negotiating table, the
constitutional forces are engaging themselves in the cold war
pushing the chances of peace farther away. This has worried
the common people and the civic society which are creating popular
pressure for the fresh ceasefire and peace negotiation. The
lust for power and the culture of violence cannot be challenged
until an effective peace movement is built at the people's level.
The media people should play a role of vanguard in this peace
movement. It is necessary to stand for freedom, equality, democracy,
justice and all-round prosperity to build the culture of peace.
All three political forces should be able to move towards dialogue
accepting mutual co-existence.
We should be alert against
the schemes of vested external powers 'to fish in troubled waters'
and expand their grips in Nepal. Realizing sensitive geopolitical
location of Nepal in between two big competing neighbors, India
and China, we should not allow interference of any external
powers who have strategic interest in Nepal. Rather, we should
prefer UN's role in peace keeping and peace-building in Nepal.
So we welcome and appreciate UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's
recent appeal asking the government and the Maoists to immediately
bring the military operation to halt and resume the peace process
with the participation of all parties and the civic society.
All political parties including the CPN(Maoist) have expressed
consent for possible UN role in peace process in Nepal. It is
HMGN's turn to appreciate and explore the prospect of UN assistance
in peace process as facilitator and mediator. Since Nepal has
been helping the UN to establish peace in various parts of the
world, it is the responsibility of the UN to help Nepal acquire
peace by resolving conflict. As Nepal is one of the members
of the UN, it is natural for it to try to save a member country
from becoming a failed state. The Nepalese media have, in fact,
accepted the UN's role in peace building by highly appreciating
the appeal of the General Secretary of the UN. Nepal wants to
take advantage from the rich experience of the UN in peace keeping.
The mission of Nepalese
media at this critical juncture is to stop militarization and
encourage dialogue, consensus and national reconciliation. It
should be realized that durable peace can be established only
if the society can be transformed through forward looking reforms
instead of going in for retrogression and status quo. Peace
in absolute term, therefore, is not feasible. It should always
be linked with freedom, equality, justice and democracy. Journalists
should stand firmly to say 'No' to the cult of violence. There
should not be dictation of weapons; reasoning must prevail.
We can enjoy freedom of press only in peaceful and democratic
atmosphere. Free press should stand as a defender of peace and
(The author, former
Member of Parliament, freelancer journalist and political analyst,
presented the paper at a seminar organised by the Editors
Society of Nepal in cooperation with FES Nepal on Democracy,
Conflict and Press Freedom on March 28 at Radisson Hotel