KATHMANDU, Sept 30: The Centre for Social Inclusion and Federalism (CESIF) organized a roundtable discussion focused on ‘Geopolitics and Information Disorder in Nepal,’ which took place in the capital on Friday.
The discussion brought together a diverse group of participants, including journalists, researchers, academicians, and members of civil society. The aim was to delve into the prevalent misinformation, disinformation, and fake news within Nepali media, especially within the foreign policy domain of journalism.
The discussion commenced with Arpan Gelal, Research and Program Coordinator at CESIF, sharing his insights on misinformation and disinformation prevalent in the Nepali media sector. Gelal emphasized that misleading or fabricated media content on recent geopolitical issues, foreign relations, and diplomacy had led to public polarization on multiple occasions, with significant implications on geopolitics and geostrategy.
Gelal cited examples, such as fabricated content surrounding the ratification of the United States’ Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact and vaccine diplomacy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Presenting the research findings, Ajaya Bhadra Khanal, Research Advisor at CESIF, highlighted that the study indicated a correlation between higher misinformation levels and more negative portrayals of a country in most cases. This negatively affected a country's global reputation, with an exception noted for one country where more misinformation was linked to positive coverage.
Majority of news reports collated from different news sources in Nepal showed that most news reports were positive towards China, while being critical to India and the US. The study has emphasized the need for expanded research and collaborative efforts to promote balanced and informed discussions.
Editor of Nepal Check Deepak Adhikari had commented on the research and its findings, highlighting the need to combat misinformation, disinformation and fake news in Nepal. Ramyata Limbu of Panos South Asia highlighted the need to conduct further research on issues like disinformation, misinformation and fake news and take necessary measures to contain them.
Journalists, researchers and foreign policy experts participating in the program shared their thoughts on the findings of the study report. They argued that political allegiance of journalists concerned, editorial biases and access to expert speakers to talk to them on various issues were some of the key factors that might have caused some biases in the foreign policy reporting.
Discussing the Chinese presence in Nepali media, Parshuram Kafle, Chief Reporter at Naya Patrika Daily, noted that while there was no direct pressure from the Chinese side in Nepali newsrooms, there was a perceived threat. He also mentioned the challenges of engaging with Nepalese China experts and highlighted their viewpoints on the lack of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) implementation in Nepal.
Furthermore, Assistant Professor Lekhnath Pandey discussed the weaponization of images, cartoons, and memes through social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube to disseminate false narratives and misinformation among the general public. CESIF is set to release its comprehensive research report in the upcoming week, shedding further light on this critical issue.