Presenting a working paper on Press Freedom for Human Rights on the eve of the World Press Freedom Day, media expert Prof. Ram Krishna Regmee on Friday said, “press freedom is citizens’ tool. The media do not inform only but also play a watchdog role.” Prof. Regmee, also working as a media educator cum independent journalist, advised the mass media to work as the lobbyists and advocates for press freedom and human rights. He expressed the view that the media should keep on doing their job ethically and seriously even while the concerned forces may be ignoring the represented voices.
In his working paper, Prof. Regmee has referred to discrimination, displacement, disappearance, deprivation and violence in Nepal as regularly occurring human human rights violations deserving media attention. He also tried to draw his audience’s attention to the local and global food crisis being less heeded by the national media. He expressed his dissatisfaction at how the media have been mainly playing for politicians rather than for suffering people.
Speaking at the same program, film Director Lakshmi Nath Sharma stressed that film is the most powerful mass media little cared by media scholars. He cited the film ‘Maina Sunar’ the shooting of which just began on Thursday as an example of the film on human rights issues. He referred to Maina Sunar as a ‘right, good and appreciable attempt’ to link human rights issues with film business. He said, “the responsibility of filmmaker is not less than the other media.” But sometimes, undefined or misdefined freedom gives negative encouragement to make pornographic movies, Sharma thinks.
Sharma warned that the media freedom may be misused by dictators. He reminded his audience of how Hitler, Mussolini and other dictators had misused the powerful media of film.
Another speaker at the seminar journalist National News Agency journalist and media educator Shree Ram Singh Basnet expressed his dissatisfaction over the growing NGOization of human rights. He said, “human rights must not be just a chanting slogan or a sponsored campaign. Citizens’ personal and domestic behavior needs to be improved for the improvement in the nation’ human rights’ condition.” He added, “the greatest violator of human rights is the state. When human beings under police custody die or are tortured or unsafe, this is where the media should not fail to focus their attention.” He compared the Nepali media and the ones in Scandanavian countries: in Scandanavian countries, what appears on media gets serious media attention while even serious media reports do not get any government attention in Nepal.
Similarly, journalist Dinesh Regmi associated with the Kantipur daily, said “Press freedom is citizens’ right. It is not journalists’ individual right.” Regmi pointed out to the tendency of concealing information in Nepal. “Nepali press is full of prejudices, politicization and superficial reporting. It is weak in reporting the nation’s socio-economic issues properly,” he added. He equally emphasized on the need to follow up regularly on human rights issues.
At the program, National News Agency journalist cum student Krishna Adhikari urged media people to look into the current status of journalists while observing the World Press Freedom Day.
Likewise, student participant Ms. Radha Poudel stressed on the need to reach the grassroot public with human rights agenda than to limit oneself to urban seminars.
Many other participants felt the need for more proactive media role in favor of the protection and promotion of human rights and press freedom. For this, they pointed out to the over-politicization of every sector as a major barrier.
The seminar was organized at the KCC Seminar Hall by the KCC Center: Media for Diversity.* *
**KCC is Kantipur City College based in Kathmandu where Master Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism is taught.