The recent defamation case put forward by the Nepal Oil Corporation chief against Nepal Republic Media is a direct threat to press freedom. This lawsuit is of utmost importance, not because the NOC chief is asking for Rs. 80 crore as damages, but it clearly reveals the chief’s intention after being exposed.
Nepal Republic Media’s approach to investigative journalism is praiseworthy. At a time when media in Nepal is suffering from ‘fake news’, ‘click-bait journalism, and ‘yellow journalism’, Nepalis need investigative news and articles to differentiate between right and wrong. And if the very media who invest in informing the nation’s citizens face gagging from state authorities then it is unfortunate for everyone.
In a country where more than 400 online media have registered with the Press Council and Ministry of Communications, it is disheartening that most of them do not focus on ‘quality content’ instead invests on cheap tricks that will increase their Alexa ranking. More so, the ministry also doesn’t have any guidelines or vision to strengthen online media. However, there are a bunch of print and online media in Nepal who are marching ahead with investigative stories. Why is it that so many exposing news does not get published? It is something we all need to ponder about.
Nepal’s press freedom status in 2017 is partly free. How far have we come from the last year? Press still suffers from politicization, unreliability, and obscurity. It is saddening that even the public does not trust Nepali media to a certain extent. And when a media publishes investigative article–it encounters unimaginable defamation case. What does this suggest? How does the public perceive it? It is sending a message to Nepalis that corrupts can walk free while media that upholds truth is subjected to state punishment.
With a meager score of 52 out of 100 in press freedom, media in Nepal has a long way to go. And only state and its people can ensure its future by standing with the media that promotes transparency and truth. We have had enough with corruption and corrupt people in Nepal. They need to be stopped, anyhow.