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Editorial: Up for sale?

Editorial: Up for sale?
A couple of days ago, Speaker Dev Raj Ghimire made the headlines.  His remarks that Nepal’s journalists are for sale created some stir in the gradually calming waters of Nepal’s fourth estate. If getting media publicity was his intent, he should pat himself on his back.   Interestingly, the Speaker’s ‘quotable quote’ came during his meeting with a delegation from the Federation of Nepali Journalists that had gone all the way to the Parliament Secretariat last Friday to meet him. 

The harsh remarks coming from Speaker Ghimire during a courtesy call perhaps show how disenchanted he is with the independent media. 

Had it not been for ‘up for sale remarks’, the free media could have thanked itself, at least, for making the helmsman of one of the three organs of the state uncomfortable. The lion’s share of the credit would surely have gone to the FNJ. What a proud moment that would have been! Lambasting the remarks, FNJ demanded that the Speaker either substantiate the allegation or apologize for such irresponsible comments.  With no word coming from the Speaker since then, the chapter remains pretty open.  The Speaker is neither the only high-profile figure to attack the media, nor he will be the last. Not so long ago, it was on the cross-hairs of an up-and-coming politician. Before him too, many politicians have spared no opportunity to target the media.    Whenever such attacks come from vantage points, the independent media faces increased hostilities on social media and much beyond, putting media houses and journalists associated with them at heightened risks. The media has seen it all, in Nepal and beyond.    While the Speaker should have been more specific instead of coming up with a generalized remark against the entire fraternity, his remarks should prompt some soul-searching.  How effective has the FNJ been when it comes to playing the role of the umbrella organization of journalists? What can it do to raise genuine concerns of journalists related to their safety, security and livelihoods more powerfully? Have its office-bearers indeed been playing apolitical roles, snapping their umbilical cords with political parties of different hues and shades? Introspection makes more sense at a time when the free press is facing increased threats in the region and much beyond, from the state and non-state actors enjoying the support of the government, in many cases.  Soul-searching should not end there, though. High officials like the Speaker have it in their powers to make the state more accountable to the public. As the permanent opposition, the free media can play a crucial role in this, especially in times of soaring inflation and plummeting faith in the state.  Some management Guru has rightly said: If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.