Introduce COVID-19 relief package for journalists

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KATHMANDU: Media stakeholders including journalists, media experts and educators have urged the Sudurpashim province government of Nepal to introduce a relief package for journalists affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  They were speaking at a provincial level webinar on ‘Media for Prosperity and Development’ organized by Media Action Nepal (MAN) on June 12, Saturday.

Sudurpashchim Province’s Minister for Internal Affairs and Law Purna Joshi,  MAN Chairperson Laxman Datt Pant, Provincial President of the Federation of Nepali Journalists Yogesh Rawal, Media Educator Yam Bahadur Dura and, Chief Executive Officer of Karni News Unnati Chaudhary shared their insights and observations in the webinar moderated by MAN Sudurpashchim Coordinator Uma Kant Joshi where they talked about the state of media in the Sudurpashchim province and the situation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rawal informed that 74 journalists in the province had contracted the coronavirus and one had lost his life to it. He also shared that many journalists were out of work and a considerable number of media organizations in the province had closed down due to the difficult financial situation created by the pandemic. “The media were already in a fragile condition before the pandemic. Now, it has been completely knocked down. So, I urge the provincial government to introduce a relief package for working journalists,” he added.

Similarly, Chaudhary pointed out the lack of inclusivity in both newsrooms and media content. She expressed sadness at the lack of women in top editorial positions even in state-owned media and claimed that this had caused female issues and voices to be sidelined. Chaudhary also requested the provincial government to bring women-friendly policies and regulations for the communication and media sector.

After listening to the speakers, Minister Joshi praised the journalists of the province and the country for their important work in keeping people informed during the current pandemic. But she lamented that media personnel, along with politicians and human rights activists, appeared divided when covering issues of social justice. As a result, real victims often go unheard. She also requested the media to give space to positive news to foster a positive mindset and attitude among the public. “The provincial government would include the media sector in the upcoming budget and would collaborate with reporters and news organizations in formulating a mass communication policy,” she assured.

Chairperson Pant stated that development had moved beyond physical infrastructure and now included topics like social justice, inclusivity and equity, which the media must realize. “The provincial lawmakers should be mindful of Nepal’s international commitments when drafting press and communication laws,” he added. Also, he highlighted the need for media literacy, both to journalists as well as the general public so they can distinguish between social media content and actual news.

This webinar is part of a series of virtual interaction programs that Media Action Nepal is holding in each province from June 12 to June 25, 2021, focusing on the various aspects of Nepali media and how they have been impacted by COVID-19. The next Karnali province-level webinar will be held on Monday, June 14.