This year, the theme for the World Press Freedom Day is information as a public good. The virtual event brought out the voices of many journalists, who expressed the numerous challenges they face in their jobs, only aggravated by the COVID pandemic. According to an FNJ survey, about 4% of journalists have lost their jobs, while about 6% have been sent on unpaid leave owing to the pandemic. But despite the challenges, they expressed their commitment to ethical journalism and reflected that press only strives in an environment where there is freedom.
Speaking at the Chief Election Commissioner Honourable Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya shared that the journalists play an important role in ensuring every citizen’s access to information, including during the pandemic. He emphasized, “Free and fair elections are a prerequisite of democracy. And free and fair media is a prerequisite of elections.”
The President of the Federation of Nepali Journalists, Mr. Bipul Pokhrel, highlighted the urgent need to formulate a policy that ensures the safety of journalists during pandemics. For this, he emphasized the need to collaborate with numerous stakeholders.
UNESCO Director Mr. Christian Manhart, addressing the event, shared that independent media is a strong indicator of development, good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights. Similarly, UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Ayshanie Medagangoda-Labé echoed that UNDP remains committed to achieving the sustainable development goals. Furthermore, and in relation to elections and press freedom, she expressed, “There is always room for misinformation to spread during pandemics. And this is where the important role of the journalists come in, in ensuring factual information is available to everyone – that it is indeed a public good.”
At the event, the Honourable National Human Rights Commission Chair Top Bahadur Magar launched the South Asia Press Freedom Report and Federation of Nepali Journalists Annual Press Freedom Report at the event. The report includes chapters on how COVID-19 has impacted journalists; the various political arrests of journalists; cyber-bullying against journalists; how South Asia fares against the journalist-safety indicator.As per the Press Freedom Index 2021, published by Reporters Without Borders, Nepal’s position has risen six places higher thank the last year to 106 out of 180 countries.
To celebrate this important day, a virtual event led by the Federation of Nepali Journalists, and supported by Election Commission, UNESCO and UNDP was organized on 3 May. There were over 80 participants at the event who joined the celebrations, including from the National Human Rights Commission; and development partners in Nepal.
Pooja Pathak from Jana Namuna Madhyamik Vidhyalaya, Karnali Province won the second prize. Ms. Srijana Sapkota, Amar Madhyamik Vidhyalaya, Gandaki Province and Ms. Sapana Bhandari, Damkada Secondary School, Lumbini Province won the third prize. The top three winners will be receiving workshop from Rato Banagala Foundation and UNDP Nepal to enhance their creative thinking/writing & personal development.