Media must report conflict issues in a factual manner: Study

Published On: June 16, 2023 10:06 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, June 16: The media have a key role to play to maintain and promote reconciliation and peace in the society and, for that matter, they must report issues of conflict in a factual and accurate manner, a study report released today stated.

The report "Conflict-Sensitive Journalism and Communication in Nepal" found out 0.26% of news stories, opinion pieces and editorials, out of a total of 14,422, to be insensitive to conflict. The research, carried out by the Media Action Nepal as part of the GIZ's Civil Peace Service program, provides baseline information on the current situation of Conflict-Sensitive Journalism in Nepal and offers key suggestions to promote conflict sensitivity in Nepali media.

"The mainstream media seem sensitive about communal issues and censor news stories about cases of conflict between different religious communities. But the new media, mainly online media outlets, seem insensitive to communal issues and risk of making the matter worse," the study said.

"For a long time, discussions on conflict-sensitive reporting were confined to the mainstream media. This has entirely changed now with the emergence of online news platforms. The so-called mainstream media alone do not set the narrative. Online news media also set the narrative on certain issues," the report further stated. Those working for online news media, however, lack a proper understanding of conflict-sensitive journalism, the study concluded.

Even as different types of conflict remain at the local level, media coverage of those issues is limited with journalists in need of proper knowledge, skills and tools, the report said.

On media capacity-building, the report said that journalists and editors have not received any training after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government of Nepal and the rebel party in 2006. "Before the CPA or during the conflict, there was a flood of training on how to cover the conflict. After the war was over, conflict-related training was not imparted to journalists."

The study was jointly launched by Chairperson of Media Action Nepal Laxman Datt Pant, Chairperson of Minimum Wage Fixation Committee Sangita Khadka, Communication Registrar of Bagmati Province Rawati Sapkota and Chairperson of Advertisement Board Laxman Humagain.

Speaking on the occasion, Pant, who is also the lead researcher of the study, said that media persons should not merely cover the consequences of conflict, but also report its root causes and solutions.

The book launch was followed by a panel discussion joined by CEO of Freedom Forum Taranath Dahal, senior journalist Namrata Sharma, former Commissioner of Truth and Reconciliation Commission Manchala Jha and Editor of Annapurna Express Kamal Dev Bhattarai. The experts agreed that conflict reporting in Nepali media has been mainly gendered and male-dominated in absence of an inclusive newsroom leadership.

One of the recommendations of the study calls on media houses to lay the ground for institutional initiatives to prioritize conflict-sensitive journalism. "For this, media institutions, academics, civil society organizations and journalists should together work on an appropriate working modality," it further said.

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