BY D. M. THAPA
We regularly read in newspapers and also see on TV programmes some sensational news. But we never hear about what happens after that. While the TV channels may not have time or the manpower needed to do such follow-up on what they call “breaking” news, the newspapers definitely have the time and manpower for such things, as follow-up is considered an important part of such stories in newspapers.
I remember writing for an English daily quite many years back about an event which had taken Kathmandu by storm, though it had nothing to do with politics, smuggling, crime, money laundering or such things which are more dominant now.
The event which caused such an uproar was that a “two-headed” snake was seen at a pond in the outskirts of Bouddha. Devotees thronged to the pond to pay their respects. Mostly Hindus and some Buddhists who believe in snake worship could be seen thronging the pond when I went there to report about the event.
Naturally the worshippers offered money, I myself threw a coin, though outside the pond and I could see others offering much more money. Naturally a committee had sprung up instantly and when I spoke to the person who seemed to head the so called “temple committee”, he told me how the pond would be cleaned, a temple be built on the site, a priest would offer prayers and food to the revered snake and so on and so forth. I was touched by his commitment and also the enthusiasm of the people in donating funds for this temple project. An Australian expert had even come to interview me in detain about what I had seen and what the people who had come to worship there had told me.
After some time, gossip mongering started and some even claimed how the snake was a fake. After about one year, I again went to the same place to do a follow-up story and was not surprised to see no big temple, but was indeed startled to see that not even a stone had been placed where worshippers could offer flowers, milk and money to the snake God. No one was there and the place had a neglected look as if no one had come there for a long, long time. I tried to find the members of the “committee”, specially the one I talked to and no one could be found. Naturally I could not talk to the more than half a dozen worshippers with whom I had asked questions at the first time, as they could have come from anywhere.
So I wrote a piece about the present condition of the pond which had created so much interest and curiosity in the minds of the people, one year after the event took place. I tried my best to tell about the present condition of the pond, but queried only in my mind as to what happened to all the money that was collected.
Anyway, that was that and it was then.
But now, when we have so many news outlets and “professional” people, trained and taught to write or broadcast stories on issues which create a ripple but they do no such follow-up stories. Specially news about gold smuggling, stealing land, corruption, gruesome crimes and the punishments handed out and so on and so forth, the people are still curious to know what happened afterwards, but the media keeps mum. A few keep following on the stories for just some time and others project simpler news in the form of “impact news” or any other name they can give, both in TVs and newspapers.
But don’t give any follow-up stories, even human interest stories, which the people are keen to know about
What happened to the people or the gold itself, when 33 KG of contraband was smuggled inside the country. Several people even died after investigations were started, but no news about what happened to their families or to the gold. What happened to a “kidney doctor” who was arrested with a lot of incriminating evidences, but was whisked away quickly by Indian security forces even as our own Deputy Minister of that time was saying the man would be tried under Nepalese law. What happened to a criminal who shot a prisoner with a high security prison in Kathmandu? Is he still in jail or out on simple bail? What about the swindler who cheated ordinary people poor quality apartment buildings? What about the manpower agents who have duped thousands of poor Nepalese? What about those people, including a popular Buddhist singer and a so call “journalist” who actually works for the interests of foreign powers, who have cash deposits in many foreign banks? From where did they get such money? What about the erring officials, not those who take small amounts as bribes, but those big ones who have been investigated by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA)? What about the CIAA officials themselves who make weak cases which the government prosecutors lose? There are only a handful of individuals caught being involved in big time corruption, but they have also been given light jail sentences and are made to pay a pittance as fine.
But to come back to the media, they either hush down such events or completely ignore doing any follow-up of such cases.
The Western media is fed by their governments and they influence world opinion to a large extent, sometimes even inciting people to indulge in conflict and bring turmoil to their own land when powers with vested interests are not happy with the way things are going on, either politically or in materialistic gains. The Nepalese media in turn learns from such international media outlets, be it TV channels, news agencies, newspapers or now even the social media. In the name of a free media, they work either for partisan gains or other benefits provided by foreigners. These are the very things which foreigner tell professional media persons not to do, but the entice them to follow such a wrong path in different ways. What we can say now, at least to the Nepalese media persons is, at least try to be professionals, as told to us by a written Code of Conduct. As far as ethics and objectivity are concerned, at least till there exists cunning journalists benefiting themselves by fulfilling the interests of their benefactors, they are far off goals in the profession.