To help the journalists become more aware about the need for resilient reporting during disasters and associated issues, the Federation of Nepali Journalist, Gorkha and the Government of India-funded Nepal Housing Reconstruction Project provided an orientation to media persons from Gorkha on 18 September.
“Terrible #earthquake in #Nepal. Just saved ourselves.” “Don't know how many killed. Roads are blocked already:” This message by @Gunaraj was one of the tweets that popped up on social media within seconds after the 7.8 magnitude Gorkha earthquake in 2015. People had no idea what was the scale of damage. Social media then became the primary medium for people to relay any information about the earthquake.
Most media houses, however, were unable to disseminate news on the disaster, except a few state-owned media like Radio Nepal and NTV that were housed in quake-resilient buildings. It was only sometime later that other media came into operation and began to push forward their reports. The days that followed the disaster were proof of the significant role the media plays not only in informing the public about the event itself, but also of how relief and recovery processes were progressing. It also laid bare the fact that most journalists and media in Nepal were not adequately prepared for such a task.
Today, over three years later, journalists—particularly those working in the epicenter of Gorkha—are in the process of digging out still persisting problems and challenges in the recovery process. To help these journalists become more aware about disaster related issues and resilience the Gorkha chapter of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and the Government of India-funded Nepal Housing Reconstruction Project provided an orientation to media persons from Gorkha on 18 September.
“With locally-elected representatives now on board, disaster management is gaining pace and media persons should support the process with responsible reporting, promoting awareness on disaster-related issues,” said Rajan Raj Panta, mayor of Gorkha Municipality. Along the same lines, the Chief District Officer of Gorkha, Narayan Prasad Bhattarai pointed out the necessity of taking a holistic approach to disaster mitigation and resilient development.
At the orientation, media expert Gunaraj Luitel reminded Gorkha journalists of the importance of cultivating a "nose for news" while reporting not only of the disasters but also other issues. “Be watchdogs not lapdogs,” he told participants, pointing out several cases where the concerned authority has faltered, and others where locals have started rebuilding using reconstruction grants from the Government, but without following the national building code. Also highlighted during the discussions were issues of community settlements and fund management, as well as the difficulties of data collection, as raised by Anupama khanal, one of the participants.
The Sustainable Development Goals recognize the urgent need to reduce risk of disasters, and it was along those lines that the orientation was organized, not only to encourage reporters track the progress of recovery activities, but also to ensure that the next time disaster strikes, journalists are better prepared to report in a timely manner and keep the public informed. “The earthquake taught us a great deal about the need for readiness in our profession,” said Kishor Jung Thapa, chair of FNJ Gorkha. “With trainings like this, we feel we will be able to report much more effectively on the post-earthquake recovery process as well as on similar events in the future.”