Personal tools
You are here: Home News Analysis and Views Assault on Press or Rule of Law
Log in

Forgot your password?

Assault on Press or Rule of Law

Issue 01, January 04, 2009

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

‘Just Stay Cool; And Discharge Your Civic Duty’

Assaults on the media house and reporters have been the order of the day in Nepal, and counter attacks have been too, in the forms of protest rallies, of blank editorials in the Nepalese local newspapers, of not reading the headline news by Nepalese private-owned TV anchors and ultimately a solemn protest such as reporters wearing a strip of black cloth around their arms at work. However, one of the worst things happened to the sincere reporters was a reporter throwing a shoe at US President George W. Bush at the press conference held in Iraq. Another most annoying thing happened to reporters was some of the reporters came out in some parts of the world in support of such a violent act of a reporter. Reporter’s main weapons are the pens, pencils, notebooks, recorders and cameras. They are supposed to win any sorts of war using such weapons rather than any other possible weapons of physical destruction including shoes.

A group of thugs attacked the Himal Media House injuring some personnel and damaging some physical assets on Sunday, December 21, 2008. Some media reports identified them as the office bearers of the All Nepal Communications, Printing and Publication Workers' Union and All Nepal Hotel and Restaurant Workers' Union affiliated to the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist).

The tragedy is that we immediately give political color to the criminal acts. Most of the time, we blame the Maoists and their sister organizations and other political parties for such criminal acts. Most often than not, we forget such criminal activities of such people and let them go free with impunity after some protest rallies and getting some assurances of the Prime Minister or the concerned Minister.

First of all, if we are to follow the rule of law we need not label any criminals as the members of any political parties or organizations affiliated to any political parties. Let us label them as criminals as they have committed crimes, and let the law enforcement officials take charge of dealing with such criminals.

Reporters can help the criminal-investigating officials in identifying the criminals and their crimes. Some reporters might say that the concerned Nepalese law-enforcement officials were not serious in dealing with the crimes of the criminals affiliated to the political parties. That was where we failed in enforcing the rule of law and in going on the right path to deal with the criminal cases.

The media are the fourth pillar of the democratic system of governance. The rule of law is the life of any democratic nation. So, we all engaged in the media need to follow the rule of law rather than follow the strength of protest rallies and other civil disobediences and so on. If our mission is for tearing down a government then such protest rallies and civil disobediences are good. However, our mission is to pursue the rule of law and not let criminals go free with impunity.

In case of attack on the reporters or media House, we need to strictly follow the criminal cases starting from the criminal-investigating officials to presenting them to the courts and then the court rulings rather than rushing to protest rallies and resorting to some other means of protests. In this course of events, reporters need to expose whoever the state officials are not following the rule of law, and take them to the court if possible. However, it is easier said than done. So, we often resort to doing easiest thing to do that is to take the issues to the streets and then cool down after some time. Then the criminals get free after some time. Nobody bother to follow up the criminal cases. That is one of the main reasons why the criminals have been encouraged to repeatedly commit crimes. So, we have an increased number of criminal cases in the country. Have we done our civic duties in such cases?

In protest against the assault on the Himal Media House, editors of all local Nepalese newspapers ran a blank page of editorial, and TV anchors refused to read headline news. In the first case, editors have denied the readers the rights to know their views and violated the rights of the people in general to information. Similarly, the TV anchors also denied the information to the viewers violating their rights to information. Are these the right things to do? While attempting to protest the criminal activities of some thugs, are we not indulging in violating the fundamental human rights and punishing the innocent people for the crimes of some thugs?

Then, reporters went to streets to stage protest rallies. They attempted to reach out the rally-prohibited areas. Consequently, they confronted with the riot police. Unfortunately, some reporters got injured when the police resorted to a baton charge to control the crowd. Thus, both the reporters and the police violated the rule of law. Is it correct to violate the rule of law to protest against the criminal acts of some thugs?

Reporters have been successful to put the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister on a defensive position. The Prime Minister promised to punish the culprits of attacking the Himal Media House whereas the Deputy Prime Minister with the portfolio of Home also promised to take actions against the police officials ordering a baton charge on the protesting reporters. Are they going to keep the promises? Even if they are going to keep the promises, is it the rule of law? Certainly not, in case of the rule of law, everybody follows the law and criminals get what they deserve from the court rulings. However, we are ignoring the rule of law but taking up the cases of our choice for the Prime Minister or other concerned minister to bring the culprits to justice. Is it the right thing to do? Have we discharged our civic duty in such a case, too?

Some news in the Nepalese media says that the dispute between the management and the staffs has led to the assault on the Himal Media House. Nobody could justify such criminal acts as any dispute. If the staffs have any grievances they could go on strike following the labor law and other related laws. We have seen many labor strikes in the business and industry sectors in the recent time. It is a part of life in the democratic system of governance that everybody tries to enjoy his or her rights peacefully.

The Government has assigned the Minister for Information and Communications to take actions against anybody vandalizing the Himal Media House. Does the government need to assign anybody to do the job of the police? The Criminal Investigation Department of the police is the right State office to do the job. The government has been doing all sorts of things to satisfy the ego of the protesting reporters.

When we give any criminal acts the political color, the police will not be effective or the police will simply wait the order from the Minister or other political bosses. So, giving the criminal case a political color we have given a chance to the perpetrators of crimes to be free with impunity. The worst thing is the Federation of Nepalese Journalists having dialogues with the Minister for Information and Communications and attempting to negotiate the criminal case of assault on the Himal Media House. We need not negotiate any criminal cases; the law of the land needs to take its course in the case of criminal acts.

The international community and the UN have protest the assault on the Himal Media House saying it is the attack on the freedom of expression, and the Nepalese reporters accept it and have began protesting against the freedom of expression wearing a piece of black cloth around their arms while at work. Again we are interpreting the criminal acts as the attack on the freedom of expression. The local media reported that thieves break in the Pashupati Jeweler Store at New Road in Kathmandu on Friday night, December 26, 2008, and stole three kilogram of gold and ten kilogram of silver. Can we say it is the attack on the freedom of doing business? Certainly not, it is entirely criminal act. The assault on the Himal Media House is the similar case.

Some members of the Constituent Assembly (CA) have shown solidarity with the protesting reporters; some even joined the protest rally at the south gate of the State secretariat building called Singhadurbar in Kathmandu. Nepalese people have elected them to craft a new constitution not for engaging in politicizing the criminal case. Similarly, some CA members have been boycotting the CA demanding the government enforcing the nine-point agreement reached with the Nepali Congress; others have been obstructing the CA sessions demanding the concerned minister bringing the Bill on scholarship. Thus, our CA members elected for crafting a new constitution have been engaged in petty matters. So, almost all of us doing something we are not suppose to do missing the major assignments.

NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent John Child writing from Kathmandu in an article posted on on December 27, 2008 says that Nepal is in mess as the traffic mess on the Kathmandu streets. He says that civic responsibility loses out to individual interest. Members of the CA have done about a week of real work since the election, as they have been following their only agenda "us first"; in Nepal every social grievance turns into a strike, lockout, boycott, list of demands or road closure, as individual interest trumps the rights of everyone else to travel, work or open their shops; where elected officials, the bureaucracy, law enforcement and the judiciary all value self-interest over civic responsibility, another force has to intervene that force is the press; so, Nepal's press needs to tell the unwelcome truths in pursuit of the rule of law.

A shoe-throwing reporter is very brave to act as a terrorist. He has discredited all reporters throwing a shoe at US President George W. Bush at a press conference held in Iraq. On top of that instead of demanding strong actions against such an unruly reporter, some reporters rallying in support of such a criminal act added insult to the injury done to the reporters of the world. Time will soon come when reporters would be treated as terrorists. They not only would need to take off their shoes but also would have to stay out of the security line at the press conference with Prime Ministers and Presidents in the future. So, is it not the insult to the reporters caused by one reporter behaving like a terrorist rather than a reporter?

Elsewhere in the world some reporters are partisan and biased. When people know the reporters are partisans then they become careful to believe the story of such reporters. Such reporters more often than not exaggerate both the reports on opposition and on their parties, too, and attempt to cover up the misdeeds of their parties and exaggerate that of opposition. Such reports often mislead the innocent people.

If reporters want to serve the people and the nation they have to be non-partisans and unbiased. They have to report what they see and what they hear from the politicians, government officials and other newsmakers. They neither need to give their own opinions nor to conceal the facts for some reasons or fear. We cannot be good reporters if we fear to give the facts. However, it is also a fact that hundreds of reporters die due to the revenge taken on them for reporting the facts.

Reporters need to be perpetual vigilant at what are going on against the rule of law, and need to report repeatedly on the violation of rule of law if any. We have seen that some leaders have behaved as if they are above the law and they think that they could do anything disregarding the law. Reporters need to bring such misdeeds of so-called leaders to the public attention and assist in forcing them to follow the rule of law. Thus, reporters need to fulfill their civic duty.

January 3, 2009.

Document Actions