Marshall McLuhan, the mid-20th century media visionary, whose statement “medium is the message” has been frequently quoted in the realm of media studies, predicted that people would be allured to using media as the major content than the content itself. In his book The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man, McLuhan writes: “In fact, all man-made material things can be treated as extensions of what man once did with his body or some specialized part of his body.” His expression implies that human beings tend to envision and produce new technologies relevant and necessary for their times. In the 21st century, the number of media outlets is so overwhelming that it is extremely difficult to figure out their multiple impacts on heterogeneous and highly diversified audiences. However, utilizing media to closely address ground realities in country like Nepal is worth considering.
Since human mind is heavily involved in research and exploration before inventions and discoveries are made, it is not unscientific to believe that all technologies are extensions of mind and body. The Buddha, 2500 years ago, campaigned to convince human beings that mind, indeed, is the forerunner of all good and evil things. It is the truth that we have experienced. A positive mind produces positive things. A negative mind produces negative things. It is the mind that calculates the meaning of something and decides to act. Nepali stakeholders, including media sector, could unleash their unlimited potential to work for better changes to grapple with existing social injustices and inequalities.
Media is the strongest power of people. Informed citizens are more likely to take right decisions. When elected representatives deviate from their oaths and side with the limited section of power abusers, media must never let people become voiceless, shapeless and powerless. Media becomes the best option for people. This fact is what media experts and advocates need to internalize, expand and reconsolidate in order to reinforce values of democracy from people’s perspectives. Watchful of others, media needs to be self-watchful as well.
As a vital force bridging the state and people, parties and voters and other stakeholders, media covers both good and bad occurrences. This is its nature. Since what media does has varying impacts on numerous stakeholders, breaching the principle of independence would yield unwholesome consequences. No media professionals are expected to breach this basic stance that makes them what they are.
Media has a moral and professional obligation to inform people why conflicts originate and how they develop, also seeking perspectives from stakeholders concerning ways and means to transform them into win-win constructive situations. This is how media and media practitioners exercise to impart power to people.
Vehicle of transformation
Nepal’s peace process stakeholders in 2006 have used terminologies such as ‘social and economic transformation’ in historic Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). Nepal, amidst massive deprivations, really needs transformation. But people’s current perception is that their leaderships are contrarily getting lustful toward expanding their own individual empire, exacerbating public life. Steering back the situation to a right direction is very necessary in this context, and media has a key role in building powerful public opinion for the country’s progressive transformation as pledged by the mainstream peace process stakeholders 13 years ago.
Moreover, media’s role in the mindful process of liberating Nepali social psychology from fatalism is essential. Fatalism refers to a psychological situation of holding on to a rigid belief that one is too powerless to take an initiative for a big change because there are more powerful forces to predetermine things. This belief, in the Nepali context, is not confined to belief in fate, as revealed earlier by Dor Bahadur Bista. Fatalism here has developed into the belief system that prosperity and happiness can be achieved by exporting half of the population abroad, while importing almost everything the nation needs at home. This is where Nepali media sector has to work more boldly and inquiringly toward nourishing Nepal’s production-centric economy, neutralizing fatalism that resides deeper down in the public psyche.
Nepalis need motivation for being more innovative and entrepreneurial. Only with the incapacitation of fatalism ingrained in the Nepalis’ subconscious mind will the country adopt a production economy replacing the all-out non-transparent and non-tax-paying brokerism predominant in the realm of national political economy. Media has the potential to function as a strong change mechanism in this context.
The process of motivating political and social forces involves the task of creating a robust public opinion in favor of comprehensive production economy to guarantee education and health as human rights for the general public. A nation with a stronger background in health and education definitely generates first-rate economic productivity, which ultimately helps to cultivate people’s human dignity and self-esteem. Nepal needs this.
Check and balance
Although media monitors power, formal and informal, within the constitutionally and legally defined framework, media’s check and balance work may at times create inconvenience to some state and non-state actors. However, perceiving media as an adversary force would be an utter mistake in any context. Article 17 (2) (a) of Nepal’s constitution has included people’s fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression. This is also the right of media sector to apply wisely and widely. Similarly, Article 19 (1) equips print and electronic media institutions with broadly powerful communication rights, mainly concerning their unhindered and uncensored freedom to publish or broadcast news and views in the best interests of the citizens. Just because people express their differing perceptions through media outlets, the State is not expected to behave them with hostility.
Furthermore, Article 27 includes the right to information, which states, “Every citizen shall have the right to demand and receive information on any matter of his or her interest or of public interest.” But legally protected confidentiality cannot be violated in this context. In Nepal, media sector has a greater role in exercising the right to information on behalf of ordinary masses, especially the deprived ones because they are unable to voice their plight articulately by themselves. Experience has shown that, despite this constitutional guarantee, it is extremely difficult for ordinary people to use this right in a smooth and unhindered manner. Even media sector itself is apparently facing much difficulty gaining access to adequate information, especially in the light of the newly approved Civil Code that under privacy provisions, seems to weaken media’s role in revealing huge financial scandals.
Although the constitution permits nobody to communicate against the country’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and social harmony in the name of using right to freedom of opinion and expression or communication rights, media sector should be doubt-free that the constitution empowers it to utilize its tremendous potential to work as a mechanism for better changes.