Contempt of journalists
The ejection of reporter Khadka reveals the contempt the bureaucracy have for journalists
MAY 01 -
Journalist Ghanashyam Khadka’s expulsion from an open hearing presided over by Justice Girish Chandra Lal and Justice Tarka Raj Bhatta on Monday at the Supreme Court can only be described as being in contempt of journalism and journalists. Justice Lal evicted Khadka, who was on reporting duty, on the grounds that he
didn’t like Khadka’s appearance; specifically, a t-shirt with a design pattern. The eviction could be justified if the Supreme Court had a “dress code” for journalists in place and it was applied uniformly.
The incident happened during a hearing whose verdict also cleared the path for the appointment of former chief secretary Lokman Singh Karki to head the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). As we have said repeatedly in the past, if the parties and the government go ahead with Karki, it would be in contempt of the second Janandolan. Karki’s role in suppressing the movement has been well documented by the Rayamajhi Commission and he was acquitted for gold smuggling on technical grounds. Furthermore, the Lamsal Commission has also charged Karki with accumulating wealth beyond his means. It is extremely important to remember that Justice Lal told the packed courtroom that he had “received pressure from above” to wrap up the case that very day. Such “pressure from above” suggests the extent to which Nepal’s judiciary, which has consistently emphasised the independence of its decision-making, finds itself in a compromised position.
However, the issue is greater than what happened to an individual journalist. The court’s attitude on Tuesday, paradoxically, was even less friendly. Instead of realising the importance of the people’s right to information, the Court decided not to honour press passes, requiring addtional ‘visitor passes’ to attend hearings that are, by the court’s own classification, open. The timing of the new requirement seems meant to further harass journalists. But it is not just the judiciary that scorns journalists; the government, too, is not keen to share information. The election government Press Advisor’s standard response to journalists is to invite them to his Singha Durbar office, ostensibly to pay homage with a cup of tea before the man deems you worthy. The Foreign Ministry spokesperson refused to speak to a journalist from the Post for addressing him as ‘ji’ instead of ‘sir’. These instances are not merely anecdotal but symptomatic of the systemic manner in which Nepal’s journalists have to face humiliation from those who occupy senior positions in the bureaucracy. Clearly, the state’s institutions suffer from a thulo manche syndrome that neither acknowledges the dignity of individuals nor understands how vital credible information on public matters is for loktantra.
Posted on: 2013-05-01 08:40