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Nepal Government Pushes Journalists to Avoid Critical Reporting on China, Tibet

Nepal is careful in dealing with Tibet issues to avoid offending its powerful neighbor

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FILE - An earthquake survivor reads a newspaper at a shelter camp in Kathmandu, April 29, 2015. VOA

Government officials in Nepal are pushing journalists to avoid critical reporting on China, one of the nation’s largest investors as part of Beijing’s One Belt, One Road project, a Nepalese journalist told VOA.

Anil Giri, foreign affairs correspondent for the Kathmandu Post, said journalists are discouraged from covering Tibetan affairs to mollify China and that government officials shy away from commenting on China-related issues.

China sponsors junkets for Nepalese journalists and “that’s why probably we don’t see lots of criticism about China’s growing investment in Nepal, Chinese doing business in Nepal and China’s growing political clout in Nepal,” Giri said.

He said Nepali government officials shy away from reporters seeking comments on China-related stories.

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Map of Nepal. VOA

Conduct found ‘unsatisfactory’

The sensitivities extend beyond the press. The Kathmandu Post reported earlier this week that the Samajbadi Party of Nepal suspended lawmaker Pradip Yadav for six months for attending a Tibet support conference in Europe last month. The party reached the decision after finding his explanation for attending a program called “Free Tibet” in the Latvian capital Riga “unsatisfactory.”

Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, shares borders with China and India. The border with China along the Himalayas passes through Tibet, which China considers part of its territory, a view rejected by many Tibetans.

China wants to control the movement of Tibetans to India, which started after a failed uprising in 1959. There are now about 20,000 exiled Tibetans living in Nepal.

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FILE – Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi and China’s Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong, second from left, exchange documents during a signing ceremony relating to the One Belt One Road initiative in Kathmandu, May 12, 2017. VOA

Nepal and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on bilateral cooperation under the framework of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in May 2017. Nepal received foreign direct investment (FDI) pledges from China of $57 million in 2015-16, $76 million in fiscal 2016-17 and $427 million U.S. dollars in fiscal 2017-18, according to Xinhuanet.

Such investment comes at a price, said Cedric Alviani, director of the Asia Bureau of Reporters Without Borders.

“For the Belt and Road Initiative to be fully successful” and reach its full potential as envisioned by China, “the population of every country taking part in the project has to be enthusiastic,” Alviani said. “But of course, just like any project led by a foreign country, there are many questions.”

Such questions must be suppressed when a country joins the Belt and Road project, Alviani said, adding, “For this development to become successful, the media must be muzzled.”

Reporters Without Borders has accused China of creating a “new world media order.” The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Nepal is careful in dealing with Tibet issues to avoid offending its powerful neighbor, Giri said.

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Tibetan spiritual leader The Dalai Lama arrives at Gaggal Airport in Kangra, April 26, 2019. The Dalai Lama was discharged from a New Delhi hospital three days after being admitted with a chest infection. VOA

Journalists investigated

In June, Nepalese government officials began investigating three journalists from a state-run news agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) who reported on the discharge of the Dalai Lama from a New Delhi hospital. The agency’s chair, Hari Adhikari, told Indian news outlets that the issue was “very sensational for us.”

Gokul Baskota, Nepal’s minister of communications and information technology, told the Kathmandu Post that he ordered the investigation. “We should be sensitive to our neighbor’s concerns,” he told the newspaper.

Dilliram Batarai, one of four members of a committee assigned by RSS chairman Harikar Adhikari, said, “RSS is a state-run news agency, however, and our investigation will be guided by Nepal’s relationship with China, by the One-China policy, and by Nepal’s foreign policy. So we report to higher authorities.”

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said, “Presumably, the price of friendship for some governments is to prevent anything that reflects poorly on China, and any reminder of the repression in Tibet is something that does reflect very poorly.”

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“Nepal has been shutting down peaceful protests by Tibetans, even when it comes to displaying flags or posters,” Ganguly said. Giri said it is not a lack of Nepali people’s interest in Tibet, but the government’s fear of China that puts discussion of Tibet off-limits.

“There is extreme pressure from China. The expanding cloud of influence or pressure from China over different sectors” means people are afraid to speak openly for the Tibetan refugee community, he added.

But China wants even “the idea of independent journalism to disappear,” Aviani said. “And this might happen in one or two generations if democracies do not react and fight against it.” (VOA)

Next Story

According to a Survey, 3 in 5 Indian Journalists Face Threats

At least four journalists were killed in India in 2019 due to work-related issues

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The results suggest that Journalists face physical, psychological and emotional risks because of many factors like sharp division of ideology among citizens, high voltage political situations etc. Pixabay

About three in five Journalists in India receive threats or pressure at some point of time, mostly through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter as well as private messaging app like WhatsApp, said a survey on Friday.

Of those who faced threats/harassment, 35 per cent believe that they were targeted because of the angle or the way a story was reported by them.

While 29 per cent of the overall respondents disclosed that they received threats once in a year, 19 per cent of the respondents received threats several times a month, showed the results of the survey conducted by Vision Foundation in association with the National Union of Journalists (India).

Out of those who were threatened, around 46 per cent respondents claimed that social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook were the medium, followed by 17 per cent respondents who were threatened via private messaging apps like WhatsApp/Message.

On the other hand, 76 per cent journalists said that either no safety protocol existed in their organisations or that they were not trained for safety issues.

At least four journalists were killed in India in 2019 due to work-related issues.

The “Threats to Safety of Journalists in India” survey involved 823 media professionals, out of which approximately 21 per cent were female.

The results suggest that journalists face physical, psychological and emotional risks because of many factors like sharp division of ideology among citizens, high voltage political situations, impunity for crime against journalists and ethical dimensions of journalism, among others.

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About three in five Journalists in India receive threats or pressure at some point of time, mostly through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter as well as private messaging app like WhatsApp, said a survey on Friday. Pixabay

Ensuring accuracy of news published (74 per cent), followed by reporting exclusive news (13%) and being the first one to publish news (11 per cent) seem to be the top three priorities of the media organisations in which the respondents work, the study revealed.

When asked about the biggest challenge faced by the journalism sector in the 21st century, 33 per cent pointed to increasing attacks on freedom of press, followed by 21 per cent respondents who felt that fake/paid news was the biggest challenge.

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Social networking sites and influencers bypassing traditional media was cited as a challenge by 18 per cent respondents. (IANS)