Birthday Blog. A reporter on his job in a changing political scenario of the country.
By Dinesh Wagle
“Are you pessimistic?” was one of her many questions that particularly put me in defensive position. “No, I am not,” was my instant reply. “I am not pessimistic at all.” Then I started explaining to the Japanese TV network NHK’s reporter who had come to film my reporting and blogging activities for her audience why I am still optimistic about the future of Nepal. “But look at this headline, this sounds so pessimistic,” she said, in a conversation that took place a few weeks ago in Kathmandu, pointing out to a printed version of my last year’s birthday blog on her table titled “A Melancholy Report of a Reporter.”
Today, exactly after a year, it’s again my birthday. I do not celebrate birthdays though, when reminded by others like today, I keep doing the math. I was born on the day of Falgun 17, 2035 (March 1, 1979) and with the sunrise of today, I enter 28th year of my life. [I did nothing special. Updated myself on the ongoing court drama on Dan Brown and his meghaselling ‘The Da Vinci Code’ in the Internet for my article and watched George W Bush on TV landing in New Delhi. It is a coincide this year that both Falgun 17 and March 1 fall in the same day just like Magh 19 and Feb 1 did four weeks ago!]
I have no complain with my life. I have my family with me, and a job that also happens to be my hobby to feed myself. But then whenever I contemplate a little more into the situation of myself, my family, my neighborhood and the society at large, I always feel compelled to think that it could have been better. Then I try to think where went wrong and exactly when that went wrong. Then I turn political because I see everything heading toward the political end. Despite all those corruptions and irregularities, financial statistics, and economic indicators force me to conclude that, we were heading toward prosperity in those days of democracy.
Where we have arrived at? Look at today’s headline. Army wants to operate 10 FM stations. Remember the other day’s headline? Information Minister tells independent radio broadcasters that the government is unable to provide security to those stations that air news. The government that is unable to provide adequate security guarantee of investments in independent media sector is quietly providing tax-free environment for the army to operate propaganda machinery. Will a man like me who joined the profession hoping to do free and fair journalism be happy with these headlines?
Journalism is not just my profession but my hobby since my college days. So it is also an inseparable part of my life. That is why whenever I talk about my life, journalism comes. And I have no hesitation to say that journalism remains one of the most challenging and riskiest jobs in Nepal. After the restoration of democracy, this profession got appeal and glamor and attracted college-going youths like me. The image of ‘jhole journalist’ rapidly evaporated with the coming of professionally managed, colorful daily newspapers, 24-hour FM stations and TV channels with modern newsrooms. I have seen journalists of previous generation getting astonished with the development and changes that this profession has seen over the years. We have seen increased level of professionalism and expanded amount of investments in the industry. I have closely observed the change in attitude of my sources toward me and my profession over the years. Now they deal with me in a more respectable manner.
It is not only because I am a member of a new breed of journalists in the country that sees Rang De Basanti in Jay Nepal Cinema and takes part in serious political rallies with same enthusiaism and understanding and writes news in a high-tech newsrooms filled with computers connected to the internet 24-hours a day but also because the level of understand of society regarding journalism has tremendously increased and the reach and influence of media has phenomenally risen. That is why even the army wants to be in journalism, that is why even army feels the need of operating separate radio stations.
It might seems that the freedom level for media has risen today compared to the situation immediately after the Feb 1, 2005 royal takeover. But it is like what they say hidden prices in marketing. Nepali media can not freely report the ongoing conflict, it can not freely report what is exactly going inside the high walls of Narayanhitti Royal Palace and it regularly faces threats from ministers and officials nominated by the king’s government blatantly ignoring the provisions of the constitution. Minutes before I came in front of this computer, I was watching American journalist Karl Bernstein of the Watergate fame in BBC World’s Hard Talk program. He was talking about how news value in American journalism was under threat and how networks like FOX, that sometime create news, were getting popularity in the market. “As journalist, our job is to offer news we find truthful,” he said. And I try to bring his word in Nepali context. Professional media were offering the news they find truthful and they were becoming very successful in their mission. Suddenly a break came in the form of king’s intervention in 2002 that was most visible in February 2005.
But there is silver lining. People are starting to understand the difference between the bright days of freedom and the dark days of tyranny. And this gives me power to defend myself against the questions posed by the Japanese reporter. “To fight with tyranny and grow up with the news of guns have become part of our life,” I said. “I consider myself as a man with a certain responsibility toward the society. All indications suggest that we are heading toward final push. Once we go through that, bright days are waiting for us.” She appeared to be convinced by my answer.