After a series of exposes on VAT bill fakers was uploaded to mysansar.com in April, the Press Council sought clarification from the popular blog site, acting on a complaint.
The blog named an industrialist and also listed other tax defaulters. The personal assistant of the businessman filed a complaint, which led the Council, as is the practice, to demand a clarification. However, this time the answer was sought not from a mainstream newspaper but a blog site which does not fall under the Council's jurisdiction.
The Press Council Act of 1992 is silent on blogs and its code of conduct is not binding for bloggers. My Sansar, nevertheless, responded to the call and defended itself saying it had investigated a relevant story that the mainstream media dared not cover.
The case jumpstarted a discussion among bloggers about whether the Press Council can, or should, add blogs to its existing mandate. Blogger Ujjwal Acharya says that the Council's terms of reference can include blogs.
"Compulsory registration for blogs is against the standard norm. But the choice of registration with the Press Council should be left to bloggers, and this would also make them eligible to receive government ads," says Acharya.
Across the world, privacy and defamation issues are clashing with the free-for-all on internet sites, leading to calls for regulation. This is being fiercely resisted by bloggers and citizen journalists who say the mainstream press is seriously compromised by commercial bias and advertising pressure.
If Nepali blogging sites start accepting revenue from government ads, would they have dared to carry the fake VAT item? The national broadsheets did not touch the story, and bloggers may not either in future if they are beholden to government regulators or to corporate interests.
Mainstream journalists are prone to question the credibility of blogs, while ignoring the limitations to their own ability to cover certain stories. For example, the fake VAT bill story was largely ignored by the mainstream press, probably in order not to offend powerful advertisers, and the story was diverted to the resignation of Finance Secretary Rameshore Khanal.
Few dared to point out the names of people and business houses involved, which included a CA member and a telecommunication giant. The discourse veered so much towards Khanal's honesty that the dishonesty of the businessmen involved was not discussed.
Nepal has no dearth of well connected business reporters, many of whomÂ have gone on to become editors in national dailies and weeklies. But it is rare to see stories of corruption in high places in their papers in which the Big Boys are involved.
Blogs like My Sansar were able to speak out only because they are not constrained by the market economy of media. Blogger and owner of My Sansar, Salokya says: "How this story is covered in my blog and the newspaper I work for are different. This alone proves the independence we enjoy in blogs."
The problem with blogs, however, is of a different kind. A CNN iReport on the VAT scam following the exposes by My Sansar provoked angry reactions from people for its racist undertones. Salokya's report on My Sansar was bashed for singling out a particular community and engaging in vindictive journalism. When personal biases seep in, they are no less insidious than slants planted by the corporate media. The only consolation with blogs is that the bias is too in the face for readers not to feel manipulated.
It may be tempting for bloggers to demand the privileges of a mainstream reporter: a press card, Information Department ads, membership to an umbrella organisation clearly divided along political lines (FNJ). But there is no free lunch, and the independence bloggers boast of could be compromised.
What would be the difference between the content in a blog and in a national newspaper if they operate under the same restrictive framework of the state?
Many bloggers are already doing better journalism than journalists, even without a press pass. Many don't like being identified as regular journalists, or with the kind of work the mainstream does.
Bloggers say they respond to a higher calling and adhere to values of independence, free expression and citizen vigilance. Blurring the line between citizen and mainstream journalism may obliterate independent voices that may sometimes overstep the bounds, but are more likely to strengthen democracy by protecting the public's right to know.
I like this.
01 JULY 2011 | 2:49 PM NST
The blog named only a few names. Would not even NT dare to publish the complete list or is it also towing the line of the mainstream media?
01 JULY 2011 | 4:12 PM NST
And, if Nepali Times truly dares, especially its editorial board, it'll have to adapt some harms along with some net gains.
1. malediction of nothing-yet-to-profit people
2. if any, may have to endure the preclusion of ad sponsors
3. will have to lose the favor, if its other business interests impinges
4. will have to shake its entrenched trend of blaming Maoists only since the biggest monster would not be political Mao's imitators, but economic Anti-tax plagues.
5. may have to ace serious infliction from ministries' portfolios, thereby animosities from the groups having business interests to foist upon people and skimming the blood of profits
1. People genuinely concerned about the real progress inside the country will cherish Nepali Times more than ever, christening it 'the dawn of new Nepal'--a bit flattering it is, and it really, is, too. :D
2. if "what NT did" is propagated through right medium, readership will groundswell, bringing in the smile of Kunda, as well as an added responsibility to the entire NT Team, especially Rubeena and Kunda
3. people who think NT is not that much a leader in new progressive moves will be shocked and wronged by the new-founded realm of journalese
4. goodwill will be bestowed upon the NT for being the first major weekly to dare the real truth instead of confusing verbal artifices and nasty bunch of editorialese.
5. a good smile from me
Whence it started, it's just inchoate in its manifestation: The Truth is morphing into the unblemished reality. The 'archetypal reality' of Plato is vernacular than ever.
Kunda and Rubeena, I know how difficult it is to dare some odd spade-works out there. Though I'm a simple citizen, I pledge you to risk your business and come through it. Please do it! A simple act, it'll set a nice precedence.
01 JULY 2011 | 5:30 PM NST
ilike +1 Mainstream media are under the giant sharks. Individual bloggers needs to be protected from these scammers! Well done MySansar!!!
01 JULY 2011 | 9:23 PM NST
"What would be the difference between the content in a blog and in a national newspaper if they operate under the same restrictive framework of the state?"...."Constrained by the market economy of media." ...."Salokya's report on My Sansar was bashed for singling out a particular community and engaging in vindictive journalism."
I find the article very interesting and revealing. Why should the state need a restrictive framework now? If the media can be so manipulative, both the blogs and mainstream, then how are we to judge the quality and the truth in reports being published?
Secondly, it is interesting that media houses depend so much on a patronage network. What is the nature of this patronage network, was there a deal between the media and I/NGO proprietors and politicians, does everybody get a share of the loot, is that why they are all collectively sabotaging this country? Is this a continuing arrangement?
Thirdly, if the government, the politicians, and the media and business have a you scratch my back I scratch yours arrangement then what other arrangements do they have that they cannot get out of?
The causes of mayhem and destruction in this country are increasingly becoming evident despite the Oligarchy's efforts to cover their dirty linen with excessive propaganda.
What do they all want? How much money will sate their greed? What is their ultimate objective, and what did they hope to gain from all this confusion?
01 JULY 2011 | 11:10 PM NST
bold article rubeena
01 JULY 2011 | 3:54 AM NST
7. chandra gurung
mysansar is very popular blog, precisely because of its independence. Granted it sometimes write in slightly racist tone against a particular community, but it remains the best among the vernacular blogs, and hope Umesh only improves from here.
01 JULY 2011 | 4:15 AM NST
8. Andy G
It is a great insight on how what information reaches people and for every person to be a moral judge on what they read. Blogging is a personal point of view though and not news. Thats what so great about it but your point about whether blogs can be news because of personal bias and racist tones, is justified. I have myself read what these articles have said and agree to that ting being there. It may be right and justified, but thats only a persons or a certain sections view. What news writers can do is to build on these various biases and create actual news and the truth. With respect to this issue, what I never heard was what this so called selfish business community had to say for themselves. What we hear is only a quarter of the whole circle, sensationalised, on news or on blog.
And that is my problem with news and with bloggers. No one in the Nepalese media wants to complete that Circle. No one wants to ask that most important question of WHAT or WHY. Actions speak louder than words but every action can also be interpreted in a lot of ways and thats why the basis is important.
So what would be refreshing would be voices like NEPALI TIMES completing this circle through their unbiased medium and factual approach. That is, what will take this country forward.
03 JULY 2011 | 1:21 PM NST
9. Vija Srestha
I find it is a place once again to remind to everyone what is the purpose of journalism.
I as a reader should be offered an accurate and reliable information.This includes helping the community to define itself ,creating common language and common knowledge, identifying a community's goals,be a voice and a watch dog and offering voice to the voiceless,sharing knowledge and naming facts as they are ,not running around in circles,not manipulating,extorting the truth,talking about real people and their success in every field ,be it agriculture or any other field and most certainly bring forward villains,specially those who have used our trust ,be it in banking or education,or medical field,any educated person who are in a leadership and abuse their position for personal gains and purpose,anyone who presents facts as half truths avoiding the sharp corners in the name of bizness.We must keep pushing people beyond self complacency,thinking and caring for the whole community not just inside ones yard.
I think Soni has asked the basic ,straightforward question.
'Why should the state need a restrictive framework? If the media can be so manipulative, both the blogs and mainstream, then how are we to judge the quality and the truth in reports being published?'
Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context.
How much of it we have in Nepal?,Journalists.commentators,professionals in every field, bloggers or freelancers,we all have a professional discipline in our fields and this should be the basis for assembling ,presenting and verifying facts in a fair and meaningful way.Transparency and access to the well of information would let us the readers learn the truth.
While news organizations answer to many constituencies, including advertisers and shareholders, the journalists in those organizations must maintain allegiance to citizens and the larger public interest above any other, if they are to provide the news without fear or favoritism towards friends.
Being objective ,independent rather than being neutral .However we often see arrogance,isolation ,out of contest comments , argumentative for the sake of boasting self egos,politically motivated .
Journalism is a form of cartography: it creates a map for citizens to navigate society.Every journalist must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility--a moral compass.This stimulates the intellectual diversity necessary to understand and accurately cover an increasingly diverse society.
It is this diversity of minds and voices, not just numbers, that is what matters and that is in my opinion the purpose of journalism therefore it is essential that representatives of today's Nepali press ,those who hold this map are professional and honest in their fields the same way we are expected to be in our fields but the impression from almost all Nepali press is,there is half truth,with interpretations and facts silenced ,therefore I think journalists are our last hope for truth being told in the corrupt society ,even if the lawlessness is all over and everywhere.
03 JULY 2011 | 3:36 AM NST
10. Indrda dai
Move along. Your story is not contributing anything interesting that we don't know. Were you too scared to name names while writing this story? You said a 'prestigious business house' , you never mentioned it was Bajaj who was accused.
Were you afraid that you'd lose ad from Pulsar bikes? Really? Did your editor censor you down? Did you search anything on this? You write a story that is already stretched thin. It lacks research on your part. You merely 'compiled' the facts. I refuse to believe that you wrote it.
I'd rather see a paper of this repute do real investigative journalism, instead of just yapping about it. Your publishes do that. All the time. I'm sorry to say that I still expect your paper to do this, while I know that it'll not be granted. For obvious reasons.
You lack the courage to do so. Sadly, this is what the journalism has come today. Tsk, tsk.
04 JULY 2011 | 1:24 PM NST
It was just a feature article. But some of the commentators have gone out of the radars to mix up all Nepalese misfortune and aberrant ennuies to spell disaster.
To my mind, a journalist is the messanger, he ain't the god himself. We are ofttime indulged in ethical debates, much more important than the contrversies that different sermonizers on this thread try to pour on journalists in general.
But I beg you all to continue it. Something concrete should for sure materialize at the end!?!
04 JULY 2011 | 1:38 PM NST
12. freedom blogger
#10, Indrda dai why are you blowing things out of proportion and making irrelevant points? This is not a story. It is a column, written not about tax defaulters but about the threats to the independence bloggers enjoy if they register themselves under Press Council. The part about the VAT fraud has come only to show how a blog went on to do what mainstream journalists either could not or were stopped from doing. And how registering can affect this in many ways. Isn't it so obvious? Commentators here at least seem to think so, clear from their comments.
I suggest you to read many reports and stories as you like to call them, that Rubeena Mahato has done earlier, which are not even an issue in mainstream media, before spewing venom.
Why pollute this forum with personal frustrations and self-defeating cynicism if you can't contribute anything significant?
I mayn't fully agree to this, but I cannot trip you up with more comprehensive line than this. Aware that I'm actually not a real contributor than bloggers and entire Nepali Times, I can still click some letters out here on what I feel.
So any form of journalism, or any forms in its history, is all that narrates on what it does. And if you find it's yet to serve its purpose, then we must really pronounce it as heedful.
The blue kernel of journalism, its purgatory and sanctity, is said to be 'truth'. It may be full small-case truth, or Truth or may even be TRUTH. So as I'm sometimes little bit poetic, I feel journalists must seek what is full capital, ie, TRUTH. After all, what is truth than small-case or big-case. I see instead issues, not quirk, and a bit shady, truth. Where you find truth, is your own recognition of subjectivity. Issues are a bit different. While you may disagree with what you feel, you must constantly seek what it is. Then you'll find what majority thinks and what be done so that majority are satisfied. After all, there is nothing universal, central or trickle-down.
I feel sad so why the present state of Nepali Journalism, if I really leave few publications that's trying really hard, is as moody as I am. It's altogether like the hallucination when I get outrageous, crazy and really creative when I'm tripped in pot.
Cool minds are always inoffensive.
04 JULY 2011 | 5:22 PM NST
Thanks Naresh for publicly admitting you are a marijuanaic. And thanks indrda dai.......what kind of name is that.......for your fourth grader reading comprehension.
Agree with freedom blogger that independence is the issue here. But why are the bloggers not speaking? I think most bloggers oppose this registration , even if it is registration by choice. Bloggers will not be bloggers flashing the government's press pass.
04 JULY 2011 | 6:29 PM NST
15. Anusha Gurung
It's really up to Nepali Times to speak out against the nasty thieves, criminals, and anti-nationals and hurl big stones against their motives. If you don't nip them at bud, why do you expect your name to be Nepali.Times Nepali Times? The Times of Nepal, the time of Nepal.
It is at last how much you really want to be influential in the public psyche.
There is yet a cautionary note. Suppose our great friend Kunda shoved the sublime feeling whether to ink about thugs to a final push, then he must at first establish credible and concrete facts on those corporate behemoths that they really 'crimed' against the established protocols, laws and standards.
If there is credible information he wrested from reliable, primary sources, (may that be secret), it's really not a U-turn or U-bent but a straight line, viz, write about them without any offense to particular person.You ought to plan it should you not blunder in the wide margin. After all, in Economic jargon, one man's debit is another's credit. So you'll be praised by many; few will evince their venomous design to silence or thwart you.
After all, what is a proviso left if not to punish the rash members of the society so that the equipoise isn't shattered, inside and among the broader activities and aspirations of the society? The real truism for 'rentiers', the group of profit-at-any-cost types, has always been: throttle up the general equilibrium, toss off your machinations, and palm off under the masquerade of "hey, is it all right dudes" behaviors. Shake off their chains!! No sorry and nowise regretful such parasites! Truncate their guzzling head!
Observe inside this crotchet of lies, charlatanism, hypocrisies, triple standards, gorgon-headedness, a nexus where left wingers and right alike have become enthusiastically participant, and triumphant. Let their triumph be turned to public ridicule.
Offering no less a leeway, nor a warning, but a suggestion, I've long wished you made a choice. Let Kunda and Nepali Times decide the whole praxis of journalism: become roundabout and ignore the issue, now or in the future, or just dare -- for everything is sided. After all, what is the use of literariness in journalism than take a side, and become fair (though you can never be neutral, as someone puts it). You'll be bestowed the real credibility if you do it. But, side with your subconsciously drifted conscience. My wishes!!