Nepal: Culture of silence among journalists on the rise – myRepublica
Babita Basnet, the editor-in-chief of the vernacular weekly, Ghatana Ra Bichar, was heavily trolled by a bunch of people for one of his recent posts. His article called for a political review of a law relating to rape cases. She cited a few examples of teenage rapists she had visited in prison and interviewed. According to his article, they were in a relationship with their girlfriends, but were later accused of rapists and sent to prison.
The timing of the article put her in the soup. A filmmaker had been arrested on charges of rape of a minor. So people thought she was trying to protect an attacker. According to her, the intention of the article was not to protect the author but to reconsider the issue and the relevant laws.
“I couldn’t visit social media sites that time because of the troll,” says Basnet. “It was a bad time not only for me, but also for my family members who were worried about me.”
Basnet is not the only journalist to have experienced such a situation. Cyber-harassment of journalists is a recent phenomenon in Nepal. Compared to previous years, journalists are less active on social networks. Every year, their engagement on social networks decreases. They visit these sites for information, but do not want to share ideas because it may encourage them to useless attacks in cyberspace.
“Silencing journalists is the biggest threat in recent days,” says a digital media expert who does not wish to be named. “Now politicians want to silence journalists by making lucrative deals or intimidating them with the help of their executives. Ultimately, both methods discourage independent journalism.”
Organized cyberbullying began when then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli ordered his executives to attack his critics like wasps. Within days, they formed a “cyber army” to hunt down journalists and writers who criticized the government. There have been a series of attacks on journalists and writers by people close to the government.
There is also a risk of hacking journalists’ social networks and email accounts. Some of the mainstream media social media accounts have recently been hacked. Even the social media account of www.myrepublica.com was hacked and then restored with the help of Twitter.
Hacking the social networks and email accounts of journalists or media houses would endanger the lives of sources and their journalistic work. Journalists contact various people to gather information. However, they do not disclose the identity of the source. But information revealed by hacking or other means would risk the lives of journalists.
In recent days, the publication of phone numbers of female journalists as a digital attack is a common phenomenon in India. Nepal has not yet experienced such a situation, but things could go so far.
Experts lament that the current government has failed to correct the regressive laws and bills introduced by the previous government despite the various threats that journalists regularly face. All types of governments are interested in introducing repressive laws against the press and freedom of expression.
“The government is not ready to revise its policies to create a conducive environment for the press,” said Taranath Dahal, executive director of the Freedom Forum. “Journalists are very vulnerable to digital threats. The government can abuse information technology (IT) laws against journalists.”
Dahal further explains, “Journalists are at serious risk from digital surveillance. Yet they are not aware of it. Even human rights defenders are not well prepared to save them and journalists find themselves in such a situation.
Nepal has recently experienced growing political intolerance against journalists. Since the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015, Nepal has practiced three levels of government: federal, provincial and local.
All levels of government are considered intolerant of journalists. Either they attract journalists or they threaten not to write anything critical of them. “They either want to bribe journalists or threaten them,” Dahal said. “These methods are chosen to silence them.”
On Monday, Freedom Forum released its annual report which said: “Journalists have been threatened by local officials, ministers, government officials and security agents while covering the news, corruption, crimes and other irregularities. Therefore, journalists need additional physical and professional resources. security to carry out their tasks in this regard.
The growing culture of silence in the press ultimately discourages democratic exercise. Moreover, it will impede the people’s right to know. Journalists regularly practice self-censorship due to social media and other threats.
“Once I was heavily trolled, my colleagues suggested I not write about such topics,” Basnet says. “Such a situation ultimately affects people’s freedom of expression.”