It is said that communication is very difficult in the time of the disaster either it may be natural calamities, war or terrorism. Similar case is seen this time in Nepal. The devastating destruction and mental fear of the earthquake of Baisakh 12 of Nepal had also created the same environment. As the people are deprived from the communication during this hard time but the media and the journalists were also influenced from it, although some main stream media tried their best to reach to the public just after the quake and after 2 or 3 days of the quake.
While talking about the functions of journalism, the one responsibility that always gets revolved round in our mind is it is provided with the social responsibility and watch dog function of the society which in other words means a job dedicated towards the public. So, public journalism is not a new term in this field. In this regard, Kharel (2012:86) argues that the journalist’s responsibility, public journalism’s advocates argue, is to improve the dialogue on civic issues, to help create a public capable of serving as a positive force in the process of governing. So, journalism has a great role in the case of disaster in regarding with people. This is very serious and sentimental situation and timing for everyone, either government, political parties or general people. The responsibility of the journalists will get doubled at such undesired happenings. So, journalists should always be prepared how to deal if such situation gets occurred. It should also make the people and government aware to get ready for such disaster any time.
In my observation, Nepalese media tried to do their job during the earthquake. It can be said so because they tried to perform the duty of informing the people in that hard time too despite of various obstacles and barriers in one hand but in the other, they may have failed to fulfill their role of public journalism in a complete sense. Many of the media were focused on the issue of relief and rescue that was either provided or not provided by the government. During this time, the main challenge was most of the journalists could not reach to the influenced areas because the respected media house could not afford that and the journalists also himself/herself could not afford to go there through owns attempt. Either the journalists went for reporting in those places through Army’s helicopter or with the INGOs and foreign nations help. So this could be the one reason that they could not perform their job transparently. It can be said that they only did one sided reporting. Two sorts of angled were mostly given to the reporting during that time, one is overwhelming the government task of relief and another is blaming the government for not reaching in the affected areas. Besides that very few media did some sorts of public dedicated journalism during that time.
Radio Nepal was mostly devoted to public voice at that time. It had provided its service to the people just after some hours of the earthquake. It was become very popular during the earthquake. As it was not possible to go to everywhere for the journalists/reporters just after the disaster occurred in that day, they applied citizen journalism. They made general people as the reporter and they encouraged people to report or inform the information of the place he/she belongs to by telephoning and doing SMS. As it was a listened all over the country, it gave variety of information from various places at that time. It got a big appreciation for working so efficiently in the earthquake and also being good pal to the people. Besides radio Nepal, other electronic media (especially radio and FM) i.e, Ujjyalo FM also had practiced this. Television was impossible to be run at that moment. So, only after 2-3 days they started their broadcasting. Although they started but they only broadcasted national songs and news for many days of the earthquake. Print media were also couldn’t give their publication regularly. Only some main stream media like Nagarik, Kantipur were published. But they also published news and views from the politicians and geologists and scholars. Very few media covered the motivational issue of uniting local people to help one another in the disaster for making shelters and for rescues from the influenced areas. For this, media could hire local correspondents at this time to maintain public journalism but they could not do so.
The media not only informs the public, but it also works towards engaging citizens and creating public debate. But empowering the victim and making the debate and discourses from the victim’s side is very rare in Nepalese media. This practice is also seen in this Nepal earthquake’s phase. The issues of relief were mostly made political. When the victims shared their story and problem, then it was shared as sympathetic one rather it did not become the weapon to create national discourse and a voice to question the accountability from the main stream media. This might be the reason that there was an editorial regarding with the performance of media during the Nepal earthquake by The Kathmandu Post on May 6. It was written, “Soon after, all fingers were pointed at the Nepali media, with the hashtag #GrowupNepalimedia. The Nepali media’s obsession with politics, its distortion of facts, and of late, imitation of Indian media were prominently discussed. Indeed, Nepali media has a long way to go. With regards to the current reporting on the Great Earthquake, many of us seem confused about how to go about it. To a public traumatized by a 7.9 magnitude quake, first, we sounded baffled ourselves, and then, we turned into cynics. It was only in the last few days that we were able to offer the perspective that was lacking earlier.” These lines also express that how poor and back Nepalese media were in the current reporting of the earthquake and it side by side also explains that it is also not so strong in practicing public journalism at that time.
Public journalism is the widely used practice in the time of disaster in the world wide context. It is also known as civic journalism. “Civic journalism is an effort to reach out to the public more aggressively in the reporting process, to listen to how citizens frame their problems and what citizens see as solutions to those problems…. and then to use that information to enrich news stories. Civic journalism is practiced by newspapers and radio and television stations in many parts of the U.S. and around the world.”) So, this sort of journalism provides a real platform for the voiceless people as the mainly suffered groups are voiceless in this calamity. The main responsibility of main stream media and journalist during the disaster is to give priority to the people’s voice and to encourage them to share their problems and also their attempts that have been done at their own level. Because at the time of disaster, the foremost thing that anyone can play a role is the public themselves. So, it is very important to encourage them, motivate them rather than only using them for the spicy story as the Indian media did. Media should have the apathy towards the victim and should be ready how to deal with them respecting their emotions and pains. They should act as a reliable company in this painful time so that they might feel easy to share their story with them. So, informing society is needed in one hand during such time but they are also provided with the duty of motivating and encouraging people, giving hopes to the people, not only frustrations.
Thus, the practice of public journalism is the today’s need for Nepal in the field of journalism so that it can create debate, empower people and give due space to local voices.
Kharel. P, 2012. Media for Participatory Democracy. Kathmandu: Supravaha Prakashan P. Ltd.
Taking a hit, 2015. Retrieved on 15th June, 2015 from
What is Civic Journalism? Retrieved on 15th June, 2015 from http://democracyplace.soundprint.org/civicjdf.html
Wikipedia, 3 November 2014. Civic Journalism. Retrieved on 15th June, 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civic_journalism