The Online Media Operation Directives 2016 is a serious threat to press freedom and freedom of expression online in Nepal as the newly approved directives goes against the core principles of democracy and free press.
The Government of Nepal, on June 14, approved the ‘Online Media Operation Directives – 2016 (Nepali PDF link)’ aimed to ‘make online journalism responsible, respected and bring it within the jurisdiction of Press Council of Nepal’. However, the document gives an overall impression that the motive behind the Directives is not to facilitate the development of the online media but rather the authoritarian style control over the online media, and criminalization of freedom of expression online.
Clause 21 of the Directives gives the state right to disrupt the website if a) online media is found operated without registration or annual renewal, b) materials deemed unpublishable is published or broadcast, and c) any act deemed against the Directives or applicable laws. Clause 6 also states that if the online media failed to renew annually, the service of the online media shall be obstructed according to the existing laws.
This empowers the state’s agency arbitrary power of censorship. The Department of Information is stated as the agency to the register and renew the online media ‘if the documents presented are found satisfactory after necessary verification’. The blocking of website that are deemed to be censored will then be blocked without judicial process on the decision of the Department.
The censorship provision is against the constitutional rights of the citizens; and a violation of the Constitution.
How you feel if someone says: “Eat as much as you can (before the food is ready)” and when the food is ready, you are told: “That’s enough: you are eating too much.”
That’s exactly what is happening with our rights to freedom of expression and opinion!
Citizens around the world living in democratic countries were guaranteed rights to freedom of expression for long. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promulgated long ago in 1948 by UN General Assembly, has explicitly stated it in Article 19.
All democratic nations around the world have copied, rephrased/translated and pasted the text in their constitutions. As citizens we’ll thought well we’ve individually rights to freedom of expression and opinion.
We didn’t have a powerful medium through which we could effectively exercise the rights and we were made to believe media is mediating the rights on behalf of us.
But we are being deceived!
The Internet emerged as a powerful medium that every individual around the world could use to exercise the rights to freedom of expression and opinion. When blogging emerged, it was evident. If blogs were difficult to set up and continued, then social media (on internet) is the easiest tool to use to express ourselves.
(In October/November, 2012, I traveled around the country to train journalists on use of social media. The training, held by Equal Access Nepal and funded by UNDP’s project, was held in Biratnagar, Kathmandu, Pokhara, Dhangadhi & now I am in Nepalgunj. Each training lasted two days and included around 30 journalists. Here is one of the reading materials I wrote for the training. I will upload some others soon.)
Journalists can use social media to aid to their work as journalist and to improve their professional skills. Here are six things that journalists and their organizations can do with social media to aid to journalistic processes:
The six things discussed here are 1. Seek idea and information, 2. Cultivate sources, 3. Verify Information, 4. Publish / Distribute News, 5. Promote Write-ups / get feedback / measure popularity.
Internet has been the most revolutionary convergence of communication tools. The greatest beneficial aspect of the internet as a communication tool has been the possibility for each and every person with internet access to communicate globally. Communicating to the world has never been as easy as it is now. Loads of services, also collectively known as social media, such as blogs, microblogs, photo/video sharing and social networking allow users to publish information and/or comments on available information so easily that time and again users tend to forget the bigger impact that those information or comments may have.
Distribution channel will change in future and we have no control over what people will use. They may use something we don’t know today. At the publishing house, we have to specialize on producing good stories.
When I was in Hamburg, Germany to attend the first of three phases of the Journalism in Digital World at the International Academy of Journalism – Intajour, one of the big question amongst the fellows there was ‘how the upcoming technology going to change journalism.’
The advent of the Internet followed by the development of mobile devices- such as smartphones, e-readers and tablets – which people increasingly use to read the news has to change journalism someway, many of us believed. For a media house, and journalists the possible further development of new platforms poses a big opportunity (to become early adopter of profitable venture among upcoming developments) and a threat (how to remodel journalism to perfectly harness the capability of the platform).
“This is the historic beginning in citizen journalism. Today, Nepali bloggers began a new chapter by signing their own code of conduct.”
The comment by chief commissioner at the National Information Commission, Vinaya Kasajoo, was the most encouraging one for all bloggers agreeing to become signatory of the Code of Ethics for Bloggers today, July 27, 2011.
Social communicators, or the social media users especially Tweeple, followed the CA term extension night, May 28, with great enthusiasm contributing to frequently updated information and opinions. Following tweets on the night provided both information on what’s going on and opinions on what people were thinking about the events – sometimes the frustrations and many times humorous side.
This is an attempt to use storify.com to create a story about May 28 ripples on Twitter:
With growing popularity of blogs in Nepal, many issues concerning blogs are emerging. One of the issues that needed to be immediately addressed is on ethical aspects of the blogs.
Blogs, by nature, is free. But as Rebecca Blood put it: The blog’s greatest strength – its uncensored, unmediated, uncontrolled voice – is also its greatest weakness.
While believing that blogs should remain free – uncensored and uncontrolled, it’s also worthwhile for bloggers to be responsible. As CyberJournalists.net states: Responsible bloggers should recognize that they are publishing words publicly, and therefore have certain ethical obligations to their readers, the people they write about, and society in general.
Code of Ethics is not strict principles that every bloggers should adhere to; rather it’s a standard guideline that bloggers can voluntarily follow. Code of conducts are formulated and followed by bloggers themselves. Following ethical publishing practices not only make the blogs standard but also convey a message to the readers that they can be trusted.
At the time when the term Facebook generation is increasingly being used to refer to youths uninterested in political and social responsibilities, youths have came together to use the social media for constructive political and social engagements.
Many consider that Nepali youth in today’s urban societies normally detach themselves from politics, social responsibilities and look for opportunities to go abroad. While not completely false the ongoing political instability, decade long Maoist conflict, lack of opportunities and development have contributed to the rise of pessimistic thoughts among the youths. Equally true is the fact that the youths, at least some of them, have refocused themselves towards constructive engagements with an aim of contributing to the social and political causes.
Through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, they have found a tool to give life to their initiatives; which can be accredited to the events around the world, the rising popularity of social media and most importantly, the trendiness of the social media that matches the youth’s curiosity.
Use of Facebook and Twitter is still considered by many as a detachment from what is happening around. Looking at someone, who is constantly checking on Facebook and Twitter updates on their laptop and/or mobile phones, the detachment, seems obvious. But when the social media feed them the information on what is going on around them along with opinions to their peer groups, it is safe to say that social media is just a new way of communication of the society.