Lately accountability of Nepali media has eroded and asks for serious attention from the public. The perfect examples are the successive mistakes made on late singer Amber Gurung, and Dr. Meena Singh Khadka. A national media company committed erroneous journalistic behavior, and yet it decided to hide away its mistakes.
The problem with not being accountable only showcases its lack of professionalism, questionable human resources, and disregard to the public. The above-mentioned media made no public apology. It only resorted to deleting of the news link. What they forgot is that readers were quick to spread the fallacious news, and also point at the badly researched interview of the so-called individual. The media, perhaps, considers itself to be free from being held accountable or is too drunk in its brand image. If the fourth estate of a nation refuses to be accountable, what can we expect more? Can we really trust its commitment towards fair and true journalism practices?
Committing mistakes in both print and online media is not a new thing but can be learned, and avoided. It is a matter of common sense to perform a background check and a thorough research before publishing a news or interviewing someone. The practice of lying and achieving success quickly is well-documented in the West. If you check the Ranker List then you’ll find around 21 journalists who hoodwinked not only their media organization but even fabricated their sources, made-up quotes and wrote false stories.
All the journalists went to such extreme extent for quick fame and money. On the other hand, media organizations and editors did little to go through their articles or even verify it. The mentioned journalists are American and when they were found guilty punishment was duly served. They were fired and their career ended prematurely. In the case of Nepali media, neither judgment nor apology (correction) was passed on. The astounding part is no one was held accountable for the grave mistakes. Their career had no impact whatsoever. And why would it when the media fraternity per se lacks professionalism?
Nepali media needs to restructure its monetary policy and hire competent people. The problem lies in its belief that paying a minimum amount will attract the best of the best and also retain those who are not mediocre. Journalism in Nepal cannot survive, enhance its quality, and attract the best human resources by simply paying a hefty amount specifically to the main editorial team. A tree won’t survive long just because its roots are strong—if the branches and the upper part are weak, then it will fall sooner or later.
That’s the problem of top to down model in Nepali journalism at the moment. If you ask any journalist, then you’ll know that just by changing the outer structure doesn’t make a difference in their lives as their wallet is still the same. The building might have changed, but the remuneration remains same. So why wouldn’t a Nepali journalist resort to such extreme measures? That they even oversee their own fallacies.
Media accountability needs a serious attention both from the journalism organizations and the government. Most importantly, newspapers need to oversee their writers and try to verify their sources. Even the most experienced journalist and editor can make a mistake. However, the definition purely represents a western belief and might not succinct to the values of a Nepali.
It explains: “Media accountability is a phrase that refers to the general (especially western) belief that mass media has to be accountable in the public's interest - that is, they are expected to behave in certain ways that contribute to the public good.” Perhaps this value hasn’t been imparted in Nepali journalism circle and the torchbearers have failed to pass it on to the next generation. It is erroneous to completely blame a journalist since the source and the interviewee can fake anything and spit out animated flaws.
Accountability in journalism is similar to that of any sector. The ethical values need to be implemented by the media sector first since its independence matters. The government simply passes liberal policies to facilitate accountability in the media sector. Lastly, it is the duty of journalist organizations to ensure that grave mistakes like publishing a false news or covering a personality without doing a background check or verifying the facts need to be put an end to it. Media sector in Nepal, mostly established ones, need to pay their journalists and writers and not simply focus on raising a tower of Babel. Let’s not forget that confusion and frustration will lead workers to speak in multiple tongues, which in return confuses the whole nation.