Is blog under Press Council jurisdiction?

| 16 Comments

Recently, Press Council of Nepal (PCN) issued a letter seeking clarification from MySansar, Nepal’s most popular blog. This is first time that PCN has recognized the presence of a blog. This incident should also encourage the government – and its agencies – to have a policy about online media.

THE STORY

MySansar.com published a series of blog entries – including one by Om Thapa that was reproduced with permission from a weekly, Janaastha, on Binod Chaudhary. Chaudhary is a noted industrialist leading the Chaudhary Group (CG). The blogs were about alleged tax invading by CG in the light of the action initiated by the Ministry of Finance on tax invasion and fraud by 27 companies. The ministry has not yet named the companies, but the blog claimed CG is one of them.

The blog entries also claimed that CG also ‘forced’ Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari of actions leading to resignation of finance secretary Rameshwor Khanal. One of the post also criticized mainstream media for publication Chaudhary’s article claiming that the big percentage of the tax that the industrialist claimed to have paid is in fact the taxes collected by people during sales of their products.

CG STRIKES BACK

The first response of CG was writing a lot of comments accusing the blogger of being biased and drunkard. I know Umesh Shrestha, the mysansar blogger, for many years now and I have never seen him drink – even socially, and that led him to check the IPs of the commentators and he found that those comments were coming from the network of CG.

He exposed the IPs leading to criticism by bloggers and tweeples for unethical practice – but that’s another story.

Then CG moved to PCN. Mahesh Pant, the executive assistant to Binod Kumar Chaudhary, wrote to PCN requesting necessary action claiming that mysansar.com ‘attempted character assassination of Chaudhary by flowing wrong, one-sided and misleading information using profanity’. Pant also asked PCN to ensure that such information would not flow in the future.

MYSANSAR’S REPLY

Mysansar.com sent a written clarification to PCN saying that the published blog posts were not wrong/misleading or biased rather they were based on facts made available by confidential sources. It also said that there is no substantial proof or logic in complaint filed by Pant.

PCN is yet to decide on the issue. However, it’s likely that the code of conduct monitoring committee will not close the case.

QUESTIONS ARISEN

Although mysansar.com did a laudable job by replying to the PCN, the ‘blogs’ however are not under PCN jurisdiction according to applicable law. The Press Council Act, and the Code of Conduct that PCN has formulated, is silent on blog. The government and/or PCN doesn’t have a policy regarding blogs.

PCN sent the letter using email and it didn’t name anyone. Even the complainer thought that Om Thapa, whose news from Janaastha, were reproduced is the owner of the site.

In such scenario, there are many questions that immediately needed to be looked upon. The most important question is: is blogger a journalist? Going by the way PCN has taken the case, it proves that the blogger is indeed a journalist and thus should have the rights to protect his sources. In mysansar case, the blogger is also a journalist working for a mainstream media. Do all blogger has that right?

The increasing influence of blogs, note that mysansar.com is ranked ahead of many mainstream news site of Nepal, has forced the companies like CG to take them seriously. But a blog can be run and operated outside Nepal, and even if it’s from within Nepal, the blogger can be anonymous, what can PCN do if there are more complaints?

Normally, the code of conduct action by PCN is related in classification and government advertisements. However, blogs are neither classified nor they receive government advertisements. So even if PCN initiate action on valid case, there is nothing they can actually do.

ACTION NEEDED

It’s against the standard norms to ask blogs for compulsory registration. But there also a need that somehow the PCN needed to monitor blogs and bring them under their jurisdiction.

So the need of the hour is to have a clear policy on online news site and blogs. Blogs could have optional registration process, classification and also a pie of government advertisements. The Code of Conduct should also be updated to include the dynamics of online media.

It’s high time for PCN to initiate steps in that direction and that could well begin with round table discussions with online journalists and bloggers.

Author: Ujjwal Acharya

The Radiant Star is a personal blog of Ujjwal Acharya, born 1978, who likes to call himself a professional journalist, hobbyist blogger, sport lover and social media enthusiastic. This blog features personal posts with opinions on media, citizen journalism and blogs of Nepal and tweets at @UjjwalAcharya

16 Comments

  1. Great and Important Issue!

    And now as you are in the executive committee of the council (congrats for that!), I hope you will take your time to address this and other several issues related to blog.

  2. I’m elected to Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) – not PCN but if opportunity arises, I will surely try my best to push for addressing of bloggers’ issues.

  3. While mainstream media houses are loosing their journalistic value influenced by Corporate houses ( Corrupted Houses ) citizen journalism is only the way. So don care about PCN there is no force to do anything

  4. Blog is all about citizen journalism. And citizen journalism is a booming. So, it would be better, PCN stay away from this.

    I don’t know why, they wish to censor everything.

    As you said, “It’s high time for PCN to initiate steps in that direction and that
    could well begin with round table discussions with online journalists
    and bloggers.” Yes, it is.

    And I condemn the steps taken by PCN against mysansar.com

  5. This is genuine issue raised. Actually this is a question is blogger journalists? are new media or social media users journalists? Lets see how NPC and FNJ acts to addressing such emerging challenges.

  6. blog is personal property and it is unethical for them trying to censor on blog, beside this mysansar has already stated it is a blog not a news site , even mainstream media now fail to put exact and true news recent example is of anuja

  7. online media should be independent, (preferably) public. Of course online media person (blogger, tweeters or any form online user) should have their responsibility along with power that should be governed by national IT laws. Unless an online user is also a mainstream journalist and specifically uses online media as a complement to the mainstream media, I believe they shouldn’t be treated like journalists or acted upon by mainstream laws.

  8. A blogger is not a journalist who are paid by a corporation. Even a most detested journalist can survive (a living example – Aashis Luitel) – a most detested blogger can never survive. The whole idea of journalism fails at that point.

    It’s good that Umesh replied to PCN’s letter (yes, he is a journalist). I wouldn’t expect anybody else to do the same.

    Online ‘journalism’ doesn’t need ‘uninvited regulators’.

    While positive suggestions and recommendations are welcomed, setting boundaries will be futile.

  9. Pingback: Is Nepal’s Press Council a Toy Now? | Nepal Blogs

  10. Bhumika Ghimire (@bhumikaghimire:twitter ) has a blog post on the issue:

    http://bhumikasa.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/is-nepals-press-council-a-toy-now/

  11. Ujjwal ji – this is genuine issue. Personally I would say that this does not fall under the jurisdiction of Press Council. agreed with other comments below that blog should be freed of censor and regulation. But the other side is we as a blogger also have social responsibility as content of blog is also appeared in the internet so how it become public interest. To hear how other (traditional media users and NPC) think of this issues I have an idea. As you are also elected member of FNJ, I can imagine you should understand this much better than other member in FNJ that bloggers are journalists or not. Hence, I would propose to have a discussion at large where rep of NPC, FNJ chair and member should join and discuss this issues whether blog is under the jurisdiction or not. Do you mind if we (Equal Access, MeroReport) should initiate idea of having collective discussion sometime early next week where EA should take lead in inviting you, Umesh ji and other bloggers plus we should invite NPC, FNJ people at the same forum. This is emerging issues for Nepal so I realized the need of having constructive debate instead of saying yes or no. We should initiate. I have already spoken to NPC and Shiva dai and found they both are interested to move forward. What do you say?

    Binaya Guragain – Program Coordinator, Equal Access

  12. Binaya ji, it would really be a nice initiative to help PCN/Govt step towards clear policy towards online media. I suggest that online news website journalists should also be included so that discussion will cover emerging online media. I, as a blogger and FNJ member, will always be there for any initiation on online media.

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  14. Ujjwal ji, this debate has been proposed to be held on coming Monday. I will send you with invitation tomorrow. and definitely, I will include online journalists in the participants lists. Thanks for your flexibility. PCN and FNJ member also expected to join this discussion.

  15. ALSO NOTE: The crimes committed by right-wing dictators have always been easier to track down than the crimes against humanity committed by communist leaders, so the figures for communist leaders like Stalin and Mao increase almost yearly as new secret documents become available. To this day, the Chinese government has not yet disclosed how many people were executed by Mao’s red guards during the Cultural Revolution and how many people were killed in Tibet during the Chinese invasion of 1950. We also don’t know how many dissidents have been killed by order of Kim Il Sung in North Korea, although presumably many thousands.

  16.  I do not want to take direction away from your post – sorry for that but it had to be mentioned at this point in time. 

    As for the Chadharys – I also heard that the budget was actually being made in the Chaudhary niwas NOT the Finance Ministry. 

    It is time to lock these chaps away as well – we are beginning to lock up corrupt politicians and MP’s and now it is time to lock away corrupt industrialist who are part of the problem for this nation. 

    Chaudhary group has been trying to sugar coat their image these days – we know they have stumbled upon good fortune after the palace massacre and had direct access to the illegal wealth of the late Queen and King- but with no one living from the immediate family with the knowledge to claim it, the Chaudhary’s who were just the bag men and arm’s dealers to the royalty all through the Panchayat and later have ceased the opportunity and ceased the funds as well – why do you think they have grown from being one of the largest defaulters until 2005 to becoming a “billion dollar company” worldwide literally overnight. People do not build billion dollar (In rupees 75 arabs) empires in a couple of years from being a major defaulter. So now the Chaudhary’s are running the biggest cover up in Nepal’s business history by sugar coating these funds which belong to the nation – as all of the former royal’s property had been trusted so too should all these international funds – but the greedy Chaudhary’s keep paying people off and running a great scam. 

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