Democracy and the press nurture each other. That is the experience of our country. We don't have to look at other countries' histories to know that autocracy takes the press downhill while democracy ushers in development. If we count the date since the first publication of Gorkhapatra, journalism in Nepal is a century old. But 90 of those 100 years remained under autocracy and the press stagnated.
Journalism in Nepal spent the first 45 years appeasing the Rana regime and the remaining years of the same duration in the service of Shah kings. It was the 10 years of democracy that fostered the growth of broadsheet dailies, community radio stations and television channels. It was the same democracy that raised the sense of duty and responsibility of media persons, and free journalists are now being singled out for pressure.
A Nationalist Journalists Federation has been set up led by P Kharel, who was the communication coordinator for the king during his Jakarta, Boao and Doha visits. Understandably, this federation will serve as the royal mouthpiece. The king is trying to set up a barrier between monarchists and democrats. Through his yes men he has given everybody a choice-the king or democracy. As if the two can't coexist. But few had guessed that the king would even try to divide civil society into democratic and monarchist camps. The king has proved the thoughts of even such a minority right.
Since the Federation of Nepali Journalists and those affiliated with it raised their voices for peace, democracy, press freedom and human rights, the king went ahead to set up his own federation with sycophants who would help him hide the present conditions in the country. Except for the capital, the rest of the country is reeling under violence and conflict. The Nepali press is now facing a challenge. This new fake federation of journalists will be churning out propaganda. All journalists need to remain vigilant against these efforts to subvert press freedom.