State continues attempt to tighten grips on online media

The government’s attempt to tighten control around online media suffered a setback with the Supreme Court’s interim order but two notices issued within six days by the state agency show they are not backing.

The latest notices by the Department of Information and Broadcasting are examples of the state’s intention to control online media. 

Use of unconcerned law

In March 2017, the then Ministry of Information and Communication issued the ‘Online Media Operation Directives’ using the powers under the Good Governance (Management and Operation) Act 2008. The Directives therefore was born off a law irrelevant to the media.

The preamble of the Act states that it was expected to make ‘public administration of the country pro-people, accountable, transparent, inclusive and participatory’. The Directives is issued under Clause 45, which has no relations whatsoever to media:

Clause 45: Directive or Manual may be framed: Government of Nepal, for the purpose of carrying out the activities of government offices or work performance in a manageable, speedy and economical manner in terms of process, may frame and implement necessary directive or manual.

Good Governance (Management and Operation) Act 2008

The Directives was not issued under the Press and Publication Act or National Broadcasting Act – the two laws that govern print and broadcast media in Nepal. There was also the possibility of drafting a different law for online media if the necessity was felt. 

The Directives states that to operate an online media, it would be registered and renewed annually. It states online media may not be operated without registration.

Interim Order

A writ against the Directives is waiting to be heard at the Supreme Court. Issuing an order on the different writ, the Court however has issued an order to nullify Clause 6 (3) of the Directives that states the services of the online media could be blocked if not renewed annually.

Despite the order from the bench of judges Deep Kumar Kakri and Sushma Lata Mathema on April 13, 2021, the state agency has not shown stopped work on the renewal process. There are decisions, one after another, to continue the renewal process.

On July 4, 2022, the Department of Information and Broadcasting issued a notice stating that ‘online media’s registration will not be canceled or operation of online media will not be blocked for not renewing now onwards’ in line with the Supreme Court’s order.

However, the same notice also states that ‘the renewal will be continued for online media that have been renewed annually’. The notice also warns online media without renewal will not be issued press credentials.

On July 25, the Department issued another notice referring to the Supreme Court order and stated ‘registration will be renewed for online media failing to renew earlier if audit of last financial year, tax clearance certificate, company renewal, and other necessary documents’.

The notice doesn’t state anything about what would happen to the online media failing to renew. However, the Department as stated in earlier notice, may deprive them of press credentials and other services.

Why renew?

To publish a newspaper in Nepal, although registration is mandatory to start it, there is no provision of annual renewal. FM radio and television stations have to renew annually paying 2 percent of their total income as broadcasting fees.

In principle, both radio and television use frequency – a limited resource. The state has the renewal process to ensure that the valuable resource is not wasted by stations not using them. However, there is no limitation of frequency on online media and therefore it’s illogical to have provision to renew annually for online media.

Registration doesn’t stop wrongdoings

It’s also notable that registration or renewal doesn’t stop wrong practices seen in ‘online media’. Nepali online can be operated from abroad and many websites which are spreading propaganda, disinformation and misleading titles are unregistered and operated from within and outside the country. 

The state hasn’t even followed up on registered online media – they have registered online media where they are non-operational and some of registered online media have been found uploading porn contents or contents deemed illegal from Nepal’s laws. Therefore, the concept of registered online media operate professionally is wrong.

If the state wants to facilitate the development of online media, the best way forward is to make them equal to newspapers – asking them to inform at the beginning and about ownership or editorial change.

  • By Umesh Shrestha

Shrinking of Media Space: Drafting of Media Policies in Nepal

A discussion program entitled “Shrinking of media space: Drafting of Media Policies in Nepal,” was virtually organized on June 29, 2021.

The participants in the discussion highlighted the making of media laws in federal level restricts freedom of the press and opinion. They argued that media laws that are in process of drafting is not conducive for journalism in Nepal.

Presenting the discussion paper media expert and journalist Binod Dhungel argued that the legal dynamics of newly drafted bills and laws passed by the parliament restricts media freedom and freedom of opinion.

Dhungel pointed out the need to advocate to amend such provisions for the functioning of media in Nepal.

Former Member of Parliament Rangmati Shahi, who was also member of the Development and Technology Committee shared her experience working in the committee.

Shahi pointed out that much discussion is required with the stakeholders when it comes to media related laws as parliament members do not have expertise in the field. She said that it was bitter truth that the law-making process was guided by the majority in the parliament. Shahi was lawmaker from the opposition Nepali Congress party in the House of Representative.

Speaking at the occasion, former president of Federation of Nepali Journalist (FNJ) Suresh Acharya said that lots of discussion on media related laws have been done and the major question is whether state mechanism listens to such suggestions. He argued the state mechanism does not own the documents prepared by the experts.

He pointed out that the major problem lies in the political will power and bureaucracy in the making of the law, where the latter’s intention is controlling and to remain in the driving seat.

Senior Vice- President of FNJ Ramesh Bista was of the view that the bills such Media Council, Information Technology Bill and most awaited draft on Mass Communication Bill have controlling provisions from the government, which cannot be accepted.

He argued that media related laws are not drafted transparently, are against the constitutional provisions and without much consultation with the stakeholders, which is even practiced by the local and provincial government.

Lecturer at Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communication Dr. Kundan Aryal said that it was highly necessary to lobby with the political parties and actors with respect to the making of media policy. He suggested that the stakeholder should come together in fundamental principles and discuss the issue with the parliamentarian and political actors.

Media Expert Binod Bhattarai said that the formulation of media laws in Nepal is not “conducive for journalism” and doing journalism is “very difficult.”

Bhattarai argued that only speaking about the “complete press freedom” in speech by the media activist which is endorsed in the preamble of the Constitution of Nepal is only principally agreed form, but it is not a law, this confusion needs to be addressed.

Bhattarai believed it was necessary to dissociate from the political leadership and force them for discussion. He pointed out that unless journalist and media maintain distance from political parties, and do journalism for the people, the political parties will not feel the threat.

He suggested that only solution is to the problem is to team up with the media research organizations and journalist association file a public litigation in the court and challenge the laws and bring out the legal interpretation to improve press laws. If it is not done the government will continue to bring the same restrictive laws in the future, he emphasized.

In the program, the participants also highlighted the need of gender friendly press laws. Former President of Working Women Journalist (WWJ) Amika Rajthala and Press Council member, Durga Bhandari stressed on the need for participation of women in the institution set up by the government that regulates media.

Communication Registrar of Bagmati Province Rewati Sapkota highlighted the problems related to the laws in the federal and province level, that have affected in the day-to-day functioning of the registrar office. He emphasized the need for clear demarcation and distribution of power between the three tiers of the government.

The discussion was participated by 30 media researchers, academics journalists and media rights activists.

Situating Civic Space in Lumbini Province

A discussion program “Situating Civic Space in Lumbini Province,” was virtually organized on June 28, 2021.

In the discussion, participants highlighted the needs to reform the laws and proposed bills in the provincial parliament that restricts civic space.

The participants were of the view that the laws related to media and registration of social organization that was drafted in the province hold restrictive provisions.

Presenting the paper, researcher, and civil society activist Gopal Prasad Bashyal said that proposed bill and passed laws that regulate civil society in the Lumbini Province is based in the intention to control the civic space.

He pointed out that laws regarding media hold the provision of restriction that endangers freedom enjoyed by the media. Based on his findings he outlined the need to revise and amend the laws that are inconsistent with the constitutional provisions.

In the virtual discussion Minister for Internal Affairs and Law of the Lumbini Province Chet Narayan Acharya pledged commitment to amendments in any laws that affect civic space in the province. He outlined the necessity to regulate the media, but the government has no intention to gag the press.

Minister Acharya agreed that further discussion was necessary with the stakeholders, and amendments can be done in the proposed bill. He also pointed out the need to rethink in the issues pertaining to national interest and integrity, discrimination based on caste and others that incites violence while advocating on freedom.

Speaking at the program, Whip of the Nepali Congress at Lumbini Province Assembly Nirmala Chhettri pointed out in congruence with respect to making of laws in three tiers of government. She said federal, province and local government have not been able to demarcate the concurrent and shared power as per the constitutional provisions.

Chhettri said that the laws that curb freedom of the press should be passed by the assembly; the opposition party will continue to speak for the independent media rights.

Chairperson of Lumbini Province NGO Federation Govinda Regmi pointed out the problems of registration of civil society Act passed by the province assembly. He said that the Act could not come into practice as the federal government institution and agency did not recognize the civil society organization that was registered based on the Act passed by the province assembly.

He further stated that Ministry of Home Affairs have sent a circular to all the District Administration Office to continue the registration and renew of the civil society organization stating that constitutional provision of residual power rests upon federal government as the concurrent/shared powers of federal, province and local level have not been defined.

Regmi was of the view that registration of civil society organization in all the three tiers of the governing structure is tedious and not practical. There should be one law that guides the overall civil society organizations said Regmi.

The online discussion program was participated by 35 participants from different NGOs, researchers, and journalists from the Lumbini Province.

Fundamental Fact-Checking: Introductory Training Begins

The Center for Media Research – Nepal (CMR-Nepal) begins multi-day ‘Fundamental Fact-Checking: Introductory Training’ on June 27 with 12 participants attending the first day of online sessions.

The participants, six of them male, will attend more online and offline sessions in coming weeks where they will learn theoretical and practical knowledge of fact-checking. The training aims to produce the fact-checkers who will contribute to combat disinformation, including contributing fact-checks to NepalFactCheck.org – CMR-Nepal & mysansar.com’s joint fact-checking initiative operation since March 2020.

On the first day, two sessions of two hours were held:

1. Introduction to Fact-Checking: introduction, definition, principles, procedure, and importance of fact-checking; it’s comparison with journalistic process and writing. Disinformation.

2. Tools and Techniques of Fact-Checking: the selection of fact-checkable information, the process of fact-checking, how fact-checks are conducted, and basic introduction to tools and techniques.

On second day, the participants will start using the tools and techniques whereas subsequent session will go deeper into fact-checking tools and techniques as well as classification and writing fact-checks.

The participants are: Deep Jyoti Shrestha (Tanneri Chaso – NGO), Muna Kunwar (Naya Patrika – media), Srijhana Khatri (Nepalmacha – media), Chetana Kunwar (CMR – NGO), Bijeesha Budathoki (Onlinekhabar – media), Sunita Lohani (12khari – media), Kiran Kaushal (PDC – NGO), Gopal Prasad Bashyal (PDC – NGO), Krishna Malla (Butwal Today – media), Bishnu Tamang (NepalLive – media), Rabi Raj Baral (researcher) and Tilak Pathak (CMR – NGO).

NepalFactCheck.org’s editor Umesh Shrestha is leading the training.

CMR-Nepal will conduct more introductory sessions on fact-checking in Nepali language. If you are interested to attend, you can register your name here.

Restriction and Shrinking of Civic Space: Drafting of CSO Policies in Nepal

The Center for Media Research- Nepal organized a discussion program “Restriction and Shrinking of Civic Space: Drafting of CSO Policies in Nepal,” on June 25, 2021 focusing on the status of CSO policies at the federal level.

The participants pointed out that the law-making process of CSO policy was imbued with the intention of curbing the civic space and stressed that continuous vigilance was unabated.

The role of stakeholders has resulted to drop the proposed draft bill by the Ministry of Home Affairs and new process of drafting the bill is initiated. The Government’s Plan and Policies has envisaged to draft new bill to address the concerns of social organization through Integrated Social Development Act. It was emphasized that further consultation is required in drafting of new law with the stakeholders.

Presenting a discussion paper, Lekhanath Pandey, lecturer at the Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Tribhuvan University, argued that the intention behind making of laws restrictive was result of interpretation of constitutional provision to manage the CSOs based on the national needs and priority to make such organizations accountable and transparent.

Further the charter has adopted “single door policy” to establish, endorse, engage, and regulate NGOs and INGOs management, said Pandey.

Speaking at the program, Executive Chief of Freedom Forum Taranath Dahal said that the constitutional provision of freedom of association has been viewed through the traditional lens of linking it with only CSOs in Nepal.

Dahal emphasized the need to take broader approach in viewing the constitutional provision of freedom of association and argued that the constitutional guarantee as fundamental rights where in freedom of association cannot be encroached by other provisions of the charters. Such provisions do not hold ‘constitutional gravity,’ and must not be given much importance.

The Constitution of Nepal 2015 in its Article 51 holds the provision of States policy: Involving NGOs and INGOs only in the areas of national needs and priority, by adopting a one-door policy for the establishment, endorsement, engagement, regulation and management of such organizations, and by making the investment and role of such organizations accountable and transparent.

President of NGO Federation Jitram Lama explained the role of stakeholders that resulted to dropping of the bill drafted by the Ministry of Home Affairs. He said that they have consulted with the Social Welfare Council and agreed in principle to go ahead in drafting of new law to regulate CSOs in Nepal.

He emphasized the making of new laws should envision to support social entrepreneurship role of CSOs in Nepal.

“The organizations in Nepal could engage creating employment and profit-making activities, but the profit earned should be spent for social work and community development,” said Lama. The present legal provisions bar the CSOs to engage in profit making activities.

Lama outlined the necessity for the CSO to search for alternatives to the international support and search for opportunities within the country for resources.

Speaking at the program, Member- Secretary of the Social Welfare Council Pushkar Khati said that proposed bill made by Ministry has not been withdrawn but government has adopted in its policies and plans to develop Integrated Social Development Act.

He informed that Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen has asked for principle agreement to draft a new bill to the Ministry of Law.

In the discussion participants also pointed out the practical problems with respect to CSOs registration and classification.

Senior Journalist Babita Basnet said that the proposed draft law has provisions on classification of CSOs. To classify it based on the working fields is not possible as the working area are interconnected said Basnet. Such classification cannot be practical, as CSOs work in different cross cutting issues.

Advocate Punyashila Dawadi of Legal Aid and Consultancy Center (LACC) said that it was necessary take a practical approach while making the laws. She pointed out monitoring all the projects from the Social Welfare Council are unnecessary but monitoring and evaluation of organization’s holistic nature could be helpful to understand the strength and weakness of organization.

Devraj Humagain, the researcher at Martin Chautrai said that practical approach is lacking behind understanding of the government agency as it puts all the organization in one basket.

Humagain pointed out that defining research organization with respect other organization that supports in infrastructure development needs to be dealt separately. He said that the government is in discussion to form a National Research Council, further creating doubt whether research organizations should get registered in the Council or other government agency.

Thirty-seven participants, representatives of various stakeholders, participated in the virtual discussion program.

My tryst with the virus: Photojournalist Bikash Karki

On March 24, 2020, a few days after the first coronavirus case was detected, Nepal went into lockdown. Only a day before, I had initiated a discussion at Annapurna Post, where I was the photo editor, on how to continue working in case of lockdown.

I was concerned because photojournalism as profession demands work in field. I had more responsibilities as I was also leading the photojournalists’ union – the Photojournalists’ Club, an associate union of IFJ-affiliated Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ). The club issued a 10-point guideline based on the WHO protocol and requested media houses to provide safety equipment for photojournalists.

Like every other family, my family was also scared of coronavirus, which was aggravated by the nature of my work. The fear that I may transmit infection to my family always indirectly impacted my work. It became routine to carry of packet of instant noodles and a bottle of water, leave home early and return late and upon return, leave my clothes and equipment in a separate room and spray sanitizer on them.

My family tried to persuade me to leave the job, but I felt a responsibility to tell the public about what was happening around them. However, when my publication did not provide the safety equipment and even didn’t pay my salary on time, it became hard. Through the club, with donations, we collected 3,000 face masks, 500 sanitizers and provided all photojournalists and their family members with coronavirus infection insurance.

Journalists in Nepal demonstrate in front of media house protesting salary cuts and illegal job terminations during the Covid-19 pandemic. Credit: Photojournalists Club Nepal
Journalists in Nepal demonstrate in front of media house protesting salary cuts and illegal job terminations during the Covid-19 pandemic. Credit: Photojournalists Club Nepal

In late April, my publication announced a 50 per cent salary cut despite protests from the chief editor, bureau chiefs and myself. Even our halved salary was not paid for three months but I continued with my duty. The chief editor resigned over the disagreement and after the new editor was appointed, remote login to office system was cut for me and five other journalists. Our salary remained unpaid and six of us were transferred to a newly-formed special investigative bureau and were targeted for opposing salary cuts. The FNJ which took up these issues on our behalf.

I continued submitting photos through email but we were transferred to remotest part of the country and asked to leave immediately even though there was no transport due to the lockdown. While carrying out my professional duties, fighting for our rights, supporting other photojournalists and staff of Nagarik who were on a sit-demanding their salary, I contracted coronavirus. Though I had followed all safety protocols – wearing masks at all times, using sanitizer and keeping distance – during a late dinner, I noticed I had lost my sense of taste. Thankfully, my wife had taken my little son to her parental house a week ago, so I was sure I did not transmit it to them, but difficult days were ahead.

Coronavirus infection caused health problems that I had not experienced before: headache, fever, loss of taste and tiredness. And, then there was the psychological side of it: the fear that anything could happen. I obsessively checked my temperature and oxygen levels every hour. All this at a time when I was receiving letters with threats from my office.

A female journalists demonstrates in front of a Nepalese media house protesting salary cuts and illegal job terminations during the Covid-19 pandemic. Credit: Photojournalists Club Nepal

I decided to move into hotel isolation despite it being costlier because I thought if there was an emergency, the hotel staff would be trained to take me to the hospital, and there were some Covid-19 positive journalist friends staying there. The isolation was difficult because I was on my own wondering about what lay ahead. At times, I even thought I might not live to see the future. The helplessness – being unable to do anything to improve your health, not knowing what helps and waiting for an unknown future – was difficult to bear.

After a week or so, I was tested Covid negative and I could finally walk out of isolation and meet my family. But I was still feeling weak, and I had to continue fighting for my rights and dues at the Annapurna Post.

We had a case at the Labor Court, we had a complaint at the Office of the Press Registrar, and the FNJ and journalist community was with us in the struggle. The Working Journalists Act has never been fully implemented, but we were glad that it had enough provisions that protects journalists if we continue our fight in the court of law. Sit-ins and protest actions continued alongside.

The Annapurna Post finally negotiated. Although less than our rightful dues, it was a victory for journalists, the FNJ and the community. I have since resigned from the Annapurna Post and have been elected as the Central Committee member of the FNJ and I will continue to fight for the rights of the journalists.

(The author, a founding member of CMR-Nepal, is the Central Committee member of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and the immediate past president of the Photojournalist’s Club Nepal.)

This article is originally published in the 19th Annual South Asia Press Freedom Report – Truth in a time of contagion: The Viral Frontline, by the International Federation of Journalists.

Data-Driven Journalism 2020/21 course launches

Twelve training fellows received the first phase of the Data-Driven Journalism 2020/21 training from December 17 to 22, 2020 in Kathmandu.

The fellows, selected from among 105 applicants, will continue the course in e-learning before they join the final attendance phase in February 2021.

The course is run with support from Interlink Academy, Germany with Claus Hasseling being the principal trainer supported by two CMR-Nepal’s trainers in Kathmandu.

During the first attendance phase, they gained skills in using spreadsheets for calculations and finding trends; various types of data visualizations; tools for acquiring, cleaning, and using data from various data sources.

The training fellows for Data-Driven Journalism 2020/21 are:

  1. Mr. Bishnu Tamang, dekhapadhi.com
  2. Ms. Bijeesha Budhathoki, onlinekhabar.com
  3. Mr. Dinesh Luitel, Annapurna Post
  4. Ms. Srijana Khatri, Swasthyakhabar.com
  5. Mr. Rishikesh Dahal, pahilopost.com
  6. Ms. Muna Kunwar, Naya Patrika
  7. Mr. Rewati Sapkota, Bagmati Province Communication Registrar
  8. Ms. Sunita Lohani, barhakhari.com
  9. Mr. Shreeram Paudel, Tribhuvan University
  10. Ms. Nirmala Ghimire, nepallive.com
  11. Mr. Yadav Humagain, Karobar
  12. Mr. Rabiraj Baral, mediakurakani.com

Data Journalism Masterclass to Nepali Journalists

Training in the coronavirus pandemic: Together with our longtime partner Interlink Academy, Germany, CMR-Nepal conducted training courses in Data-Driven Journalism in Kathmandu. Twelve journalists received our fellowship to attend the two-month course during which they improved their skills in finding, analyzing and visualizing data.

Twelve Nepali journalists attended the first of two training on data-driven journalism in Kathmandu from September to November 2020.

The blended learning course, which consisted of six-days of face-to-face attendance phase followed by seven weeks of e-learning and a final attendance phase of five days, focused a lot of attention on hygienic measures and safety standards.

With multiple PCR tests, training in quarantine, safety measures, and social distancing, Claus Hasseling from Hamburg, Germany conducted the training remotely using Zoom, and he was assisted by two CMR-Nepal trainers in the seminar room. Continue reading “Data Journalism Masterclass to Nepali Journalists”

Nepal Twitter Users Survey 2019 report released

The Center for Media Research – Nepal published the Nepal Twitter Users Survey 2019: Summary of the Findings.

The survey, conducted in November 2019 among 542 respondents, is the continuation of a similar survey conducted in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

The survey is on three broad areas: 1. demographics of Nepali Twitter users, 2. Twitter users’ opinions about the microblogging platform, and 3. psychology of Twitter users on use of Twitter.

This year’s report also consists of a special section on disinformation.

To download the report, go to Resources / Download page.

‘नेपालमा ९५ प्रतिशत इन्टरनेट प्रयोगकर्ताले मिथ्या सूचना प्राप्त गर्छन्’

सेन्टर फर मिडिया रिसर्च– नेपालको सर्वेक्षणले नेपालका अधिकांश इन्टरनेट प्रयोगकर्ताहरूले मिथ्या सूचना प्राप्त गर्ने देखाएको छ । सर्वेक्षणमा सहभागीमध्ये ९५.५ प्रतिशत इन्टरनेट प्रयोगकर्ताहरूले विशेषगरि यूट्युब, फेसबुक र ट्विटरजस्ता सामाजिक सञ्जालमा मिथ्या सूचना हुने गरेको बताएका छन् ।

सेन्टरले सन् २०१९ को नोभेम्बरमा गरेको नेपाल ट्विटर प्रयोगकर्ता सर्वेक्षण २०१९ मा सहभागी प्रयोगकर्ताको जवाफले यो अवस्था देखाएको हो ।

‘नतिजा अचम्मलाग्दो होइन तर लगभग सबैजसो इन्टरनेट प्रयोगकर्तासम्म मिथ्या सूचनाको पहुँच हुनुलाई गम्भीरतापूर्वक हेर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ’, सेन्टरका अध्यक्ष ऋषिकेश दाहालले भने, ‘त्यसैले आम नागरिकहरूलाई मिथ्या र सही सूचना छुट्टाउन सहयोगी हुने किसिमको प्रभावकारी र बहुआयामिक योजना निर्माणका लागि सम्बन्धित सरोकारवालाहरूले ढिलो गर्न हुँदैन ।’

मिथ्या सूचनाको स्रोत सामाजिक सञ्जाल

सर्वेक्षणमा सहभागीमध्ये ९५.५ प्रतिशतले बितेको एक साताको अवधिमा इन्टरनेट प्रयोग गर्दा मिथ्या सूचना भेटेको बताए । बितेको एक सातामा मिथ्या सूचना नदेख्नेहरूको सङ्ख्या नगन्य थियो । र, धेरै नेपालीहरूका लागि मिथ्या सूचनाको प्रमुख स्रोत यूट्यूब रहेको छ । मिथ्या सूचना प्राप्त गर्नेमध्ये ८५.६ प्रतिशतले यूट्यूबमा गलत सूचना देखेको बताएका छन् । यो तथ्यले ‘नेपालमा यूट्यूब चलाउनेहरूले आफ्नो च्यानल बढी चलाएर पैसा कमाउन पनि विषयलाई बढाइचढाइ गर्ने र मिथ्या सूचनासमेत दिन्छन्’ भन्ने जुन आरोप लाग्दै आएको थियो, त्यसलाई केही हदसम्म पुष्टि गरेको छ ।

फेसबुक र ट्विटरबाट पनि मिथ्या सूचना फैलिने गरेको सर्वेक्षणले देखाएको छ । दुई तिहाइभन्दा धेरैले फेसबुकबाट र आधाभन्दा बढीले ट्विटरबाट मिथ्या सूचना प्राप्त गरेको बताएका छन् । सत्र प्रतिशतले भने अन्य वेबसाइटबाट र एकदमै थोरैले पत्रपत्रिकाबाट मिथ्या सूचना प्राप्त गरेको बताएका छन् ।

पत्रपत्रिकाबाट मिथ्या सूचना प्राप्त गरिएको भन्ने सम्बन्धमा उत्तरदाताहरूमा मिडियामाथिको विश्वासले पनि भूमिका खेलेको हुनसक्छ ।

‘नेपालको सन्दर्भमा विगत एक दशकभन्दा बढी समयदेखी विभिन्न संस्थाहरुले गर्दै आएका सर्वेक्षण प्रतिवेदनहरुले मूलधारका मिडियालाई सबैभन्दा विश्वासिला संस्थाको रूपमा देखाएका छन् । पछिल्ला दुई वर्षमा भएका सर्वेक्षणले मिडियाको विश्वसनियता ९० प्रतिशतभन्दा बढी देखाएको छ’, मिडियामाथि विश्वसनीयताको विषयमा अध्ययन गरिरहेका मिडिया अनुसन्धानकर्ता तिलक पाठकले भने।

‘यस हिसाबले नेपालमा आम सर्वसाधारणले मूलधारको मिडियालाई अत्याधिक विश्वास गर्छन् । त्यसो त मुलधारका मिडियाबाट कमजोरी नहुने होइन, बेलावखत भइरहेका पनि छन् । तर, गल्ती गरेमा प्रायः भुलसुधार गरिहाल्ने र क्षमायाचना समेत माग्ने गरेका कारण पनि सर्वसाधारणले यी मिडियालाई बढी विश्वास गर्ने गर्छन् ।’

यस्तो परिस्थितिमा त्यस्ता मिडियामा फाट्टफुट्ट मिथ्या समाचार आइहाले पनि सर्वसाधारणले त्यसलाई सही नै भनेर पत्याउने अवस्था रहेको पाठकको धारणा छ ।

समाजको लागि मिथ्या सूचना समस्या

सर्वेक्षणमा मिथ्या सूचना हाम्रो लागि समस्या हो कि होइन वा भविष्यमा समस्या बन्न सक्छ कि सक्दैन भनेर पनि सोधिएको थियो । दुई तिहाइभन्दा बढी लगभग ७४ प्रतिशतले नेपाली समाज र राजनीतिका लागि मिथ्या सूचना समस्या भइसकेको बताए भने १२ प्रतिशतले यो भविष्यमा समस्याका रूपमा आउने विचार व्यक्त गरे । थप ११ प्रतिशतले भने यो समस्या भइसकेको तर थाहा नभएको हुनसक्ने बताए ।

यसरी हेर्दा लगभग ९७ प्रतिशत उत्तरदाताहरूले मिथ्या सूचना हाम्रो समाजको लागि समस्या बनिसकेको वा बन्नसक्के विचार व्यक्त गरे । बाँकीमध्ये दुई प्रतिशतले यो नेपाली समाजमा समस्या बनिनसकेको र एक प्रतिशतले भविष्यमा पनि नबन्ने बताए ।

उत्तरदातामध्ये ८७ प्रतिशतले इन्टरनेटमा आउने मिथ्या सूचनाले चिन्तित बनाएको बताए भने पाँच प्रतिशतले चिन्ता नलागेको बताए । बाँकीले यस विषयमा कुनै मत जाहेर गरेनन् ।

सरकार र मिडियाको प्रमुख उत्तरदायित्व

उत्तरदातामध्ये धेरैले इन्टरनेटमा मिथ्या सूचनालाई न्यूनीकरण गर्न सरकार र मिडियाको प्रमुख भूमिका हुने बताएका छन् । चालीस प्रतिशतले मिडियालाई र ३८ प्रतिशतले सरकारलाई सबैभन्दा बढी उत्तरदायी भएको बताए। एकभन्दा धेरै उत्तर दिन मिल्ने प्रश्नमा ३२ प्रतिशतले प्रयोगकर्तालाई र ३० प्रतिशलले सूचनाको माध्यम सबैभन्दा बढी उत्तरदायी हुनुपर्ने बताए ।

नागरिक समाजलाई मिथ्या सूचना न्यूनीकरणमा सबैभन्दा बढी उत्तरदायी ठान्नेको सङ्ख्या २२.५ प्रतिशत र अन्य सरोकारवालालाई नौ प्रतिशतले उत्तरदायी ठानेका छन् । अन्यमा शैक्षिक संस्था, समाजिक सञ्जालमा सक्रियहरू र तथ्यजाँचकर्ताहरूलाई उत्तरदायी मानेका छन् ।

‘अहिलेको इन्फोडेमिक अर्थात मिथ्या सूचनाको महामारीको युगमा तथ्यजाँचको महत्त्वपूर्ण भूमिका हुन्छ तर उत्तिकै महत्त्वपूर्ण भुमीका सरकार, राजनीतिक दल, सञ्चारमाध्यम, नागरिक समाज र शिक्षक, स्वास्थ्यकर्मी एवम् अगुवाहरूको समाजमा सूचना साक्षरता बढाउन गरिने प्रयासको पनि हुन्छ’, सेन्टर र माईसंसारको संयुक्त प्रयासमा सञ्चालन गरिएको नेपाल फ्याक्ट चेकका सम्पादक उमेश श्रेष्ठले भने ।

सेन्टरका पूर्वअध्यक्ष भुवन केसीले आउँदो निर्वाचनहरूमा मात्रै नभएर नागरिकका राजनीतिक एवम् सामाजिक मुद्दाहरूलाई नै प्रभाव पार्न सक्ने मिथ्या सूचना नेपालको लोकतन्त्रका लागि नै ठूलो खतरा भएको बताए ।

‘हामीले नागरिकका स्वतन्त्रतालाई हनन् नगर्ने गरी मिथ्या सूचनाका विरुद्ध ठोस र प्रभावकारी योजना बनाउन सकेनौँ भने हाम्रो लोकतन्त्रले ठूलो जोखिमको सामना गर्नुपर्नेछ’, केसीले भने ।

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नेपाल ट्विटर प्रयोगकर्ता सर्वेक्षण २०१९ को नतिजा यहाँ उपलब्ध छ।

’95 percent Nepali internet users exposed to disinformation’

Most Nepali internet users are exposed to disinformation, a survey by the Center for Media Research – Nepal (CMR-Nepal) revealed.

The survey results show that 95.5 percent of internet users receive disinformation, largely through social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Nepal Twitter Users Survey 2019 was conducted by CMR-Nepal in November 2019 and results are based on 542 valid responses.

“The results have some fascinating, and probably not so surprising, results,” says CMR-Nepal chairperson Rishikesh Dahal. “This is very concerning as almost all internet users are exposed to some kind of disinformation.”

“This shows there is an urgent need for the stakeholders to devise an effective and multi-layered plan to help citizens distinguish disinformation from valid information.”

Social media major source of disinformation

A huge majority of the respondents, 95.5 percent, said they have seen disinformation online in the last seven days. Those who had not seen disinformation online in a week were just a handful.

And, for most of Nepalis, the main platform where they believe say saw disinformation is YouTube. A total of 85.6 percent said they saw disinformation on YouTube.

This validates claims that ‘YouTubers’ are not only sensationalizing issues but also feeding misguided and fake information to garner more views, thereby earn more.

Facebook and Twitter are not far behind as more than two-thirds said they also saw disinformation on Facebook and more than half saw disinformation on Twitter.

Only 17 percent saw the disinformation on other websites, many of them stating websites like news websites, and very few, less than half-a-percent saw it in newspapers.

There could be a trust factor playing in as people tend to trust newspapers more and probably believe what they see on newspaper are true.

“In Nepal’s context, many surveys conducted by various organizations in the past decade showed mainstream media as a most trustworthy institution, up to 90 percent public ranking media as a trustworthy institution,” says Tilak Pathak who studies public trust on media.

“It’s not that the media does not make mistake. They do make mistakes, but they also correct errors and apologize to the public, thus keeping in the public trust,” says Pathak.

“Therefore, even when there is disinformation in mainstream media, the general public trust it and may have not identified them as disinformation.”

Disinformation: a problem for society

The respondents were also asked whether disinformation is already a problem or will be a problem for our society.

More than two-third (73.6 percent) Twitter users believe that disinformation is already a problem for our society and politics.

A little more than 12 percent think it will create problems in the future and further 11 percent think it may already have been a problem.

In total, 96.5 percent of them think disinformation is or will be a problem for our society.

Only a very few, 1.6 percent, believe it not a problem now and 1.1 percent believe it will not create a problem in the future. Rest either did not reply to the question or blamed mainstream media for disinformation.

Most Nepali Twitter users (86.5 percent) said they are concerned about fake news, misinformation, and disinformation online. Only five percent said they are not concerned while 8.5 percent were neutral.

Government and media are responsible to tackle disinformation

Most Twitter users put media and government as the most responsible agencies to tackle disinformation online. About 40 percent of all respondents put media on the most responsible side whereas 38 percent put the government on the most responsible side.

About 32 percent considered users as most responsible, whereas 30 percent considered platforms as most responsible.

Those considering civil society as most responsible to tackle disinformation online were 22.5 percent. Some, about 9 percent, considered there are other agencies most responsible. Those also choosing others listed educational institutions, influencers, and fact-checkers.

“Fact-checking initiatives are very important in the infodemic era, but equally important are efforts from government, political parties, media, civil society, and society’s opinion leaders to spread critical thinking and information literacy among the citizens,” said Umesh Shrestha, the editor of NepalFactCheck.org, an initiative of CMR-Nepal.

CMR-Nepal’s former chairman Bhuwan KC says disinformation is set to pose a big threat to Nepal’s democracy as it could not only impact upcoming elections but also public debate and understanding of political and social issues.

“Unless we devise a concrete and effective plan to tackle disinformation without impacting people’s freedom, our democracy could suffer a big blow,” KC says.

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To download the results of the Nepal Twitter Users Survey 2019, click here.

Announcing webinar series on disinformation and fact-checking

CMR-Nepal will host a series of webinars ‘fake or fact: disinformation and fact-checking’ to raise awareness among the general public on the issue.

The webinars, the first of which will be on September 6, are free to attend and are targeted to journalists and the general public. Continue reading “Announcing webinar series on disinformation and fact-checking”

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