Nepali Times
Moving with the times

Day by day, week by week, a year has passed since we started on this project. The idea was to chronicle, analyse and explain the enigma wrapped in a riddle that is Nepal-sometimes even to ourselves. And what a roller-coaster it has been. The news has been flying thick and fast: not a week has gone by without some dramatic event or other shaking the nation. News is the adrenaline of media but sometimes, as Nepalis, we wish the past 52 weeks hadn't been so newsy.

From Maoist massacres, hotel and school strikes, bandhs, Hrithik Roshan riots to a chronic display of political myopia. And then, just when we thought things couldn't get any worse-the royal massacre. The events brought out the best and the worst in Nepalis. We showed how easily we can be swayed by rumours, how gullible we are to political manipulation, how cynical and jaded we have become as a society. But we also showed fortitude, patience, dignity and faith in ourselves at a time of an unimaginable national calamity. Conclusion: Nepalis still don't have the leaders we deserve.

But time does not wait, the story moves on. This week to the rugged and remote hills of Rolpa where a potential turning point in the Maoist insurgency is murkily playing itself out. There is now no doubt that the nation's priority is to come to grips with this crisis because of its implication on development, on governance, on the future of democracy and press freedom, and indeed on the future independence of this nation itself.

There are lessons for us in media from all that has happened since 1 June. Our scriptures say there is only one truth, but it has many faces. A mere listing of facts does not necessarily bring us closer to the truth. In fact, facts often distort reality. Facts, if they are selective, can lie. Silence, too, is a lie when the truth needs to be told. We also learnt that a press freedom guaranteed by the constitution doesn't mean much if it is taken to mean the freedom to deliberately propagate untruth, to self-censor, or to ignore that freedom. The press can only be as independent as it wants to be. But you don't counter lies by jailing liars, you tell the people the truth.

We in the media often blind the public with journalism that focuses exclusively on the operational strategy of politics. We hesitate to take a step back and see it as a power-game. We see politics as an end in itself, as if it will make any difference at all that one crook resigns and is replaced by another crook. Politics should be about effective management of the machinery of government, allowing resources to be invested to guarantee more decent lives for Nepalis. Politics is just a mechanism to find out who can do that most honestly and efficiently.

A public conditioned by media's obsession with politics alone becomes jaded, and is not interested in the truth. Soon it only seeks the information that feeds its own prejudice. And when the truth becomes an official secret, the public has no recourse but to resort to rumour. On this week that we complete our first year of publication, we reassert our commitment to professional and independent journalism. We will use our freedom to be fair.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)