Narayan Prasad Ghimire, KATHMANDU: The voice for increasing women’s presence in State mechanism and politics intensified in the recent decades along with the demand of policy and behavioral changes. The demand was not only institutionalized but also addressed after the statutory provisions on proportional inclusion and women’s rights in Nepal.
With the federalism in place, the political parties too are prodded to make party organization diverse and inclusive by ensuring the participation of women, backward and marginalized community to meet the proportional scheme.
Along with various political movements and the women rights movements, the Nepali media too played significant role to propel the voice of inclusion and women empowerment with the representation of women in State agencies and political organizations.
With this in mind, it is relevant to observe how Nepali media, which played significant role to women empowerment, are themselves inclusive in terms of women’s presence. Of late, women journalists and media organizations are whetting debate on need of increasing women’s presence in media by creating women friendly atmosphere- augmenting physical and professional safety and respecting women’s ‘lived experiences’.
At a programme organized by Freedom Forum on ‘Presence of Women in Nepali Print and Online Media’ in the capital city on Tuesday, some speakers demanded change in deep seated perspective of male colleagues towards females, while some encouraged women journalists to be bold, assertive and convincing to compete with male colleagues.
In the event, Gender Monitoring Officer at Freedom Forum, Nanu Maiya Khadka, shared the comparative data on the presence of male-female byline, male-female news source, area of news coverage by male and female reporters, and how the stories on women were presented in the nine national dailies and six online news portals in the recent three years. According to the analytical report she presented, there was 9% female byline and 91% male byline in print media in 2017, which remained same in 2018. Similarly, there was 11% female byline and 89% male byline in the online media in 2018.
In the six months since January 2019, the print media recorded 12% female byline and 88% male byline; while in the same period, the online media recorded 18% female byline and 82% male byline.
As per the report, female bylines were mostly on social news in print media, while on economic news in online media. The content presentation in online media was diverse as compared to the print media.
The print media are dominated by political and government related news (32%); then comes social and legal news (29%), which is followed by the economic news (16%). On the other hand, economic news (17%) comes after politics and government related news (30%) in the online media.
To the report, reporters from various media were univocal that many women leaders in the political parties were afraid to be quoted as news sources, which creates difficulty to show women presence in media. They also voiced that once the physical and professional safety of women journalists were ensured, women’s presence would obviously increase in Nepali media.
Reporter at nepallive.com, Pushpa KC, wondered, “Why don’t media houses arrange breast feeding room, so that women could be regular. Isn’t it a safety issue?”
Other female participants seconded KC’s proposal, arguing that even the government agencies had begun managing breast feeding room for female staffs.
General Secretary of Freedom Forum and former chairman of the FNJ, Dharmendra Jha, viewed why the media houses ignore and disrespect the biological phenomena of women journalists and make it an issue to discourage them from joining media again after marriage and maternity leave. He urged the media houses to abide by the Working Journalists Act, so that both male and female journalists could get justice. It also helps to boost women’s presence in media, he added.
Director at Department of Information, Suman Bajracharya, shared the information that among the total registered journalists at the Department, 16 % were female which is the increase compared to the previous year which recorded only 11%. According to her, online media contributed to the increasing number of female editors. She suggested the media houses that they could frame certain policy to encourage women to media and retain them for long.
Editor at lokaantar.com, Bimal Gautam, observed that continuous monitoring of media content to see women’s presence was first of its kind and it was interesting indeed for the study. He, however, suggested that analytical reports on media coverage on local governance could be more interesting in view of the federal system put in place in the country.
Gender Studies student at Master’s Level, Pabitra Guragain, shared how the colleagues behave with female journalists in media house determine whether they are safe. She suggests that complaint hearing mechanism at media houses can address women’s issues to some extent, which is linked to women’s presence in media.
Editor at the Himalaya Times daily, Govinda Luitel, said it was positive that women’s issues were getting heard gradually in media too. He encouraged women to be bold and share their problems frankly with media management. Remaining silence hinders justice, he added.
Media educator Trishna Acharya said the analytical report on women’s presence in Nepal media prepared by FF could be a solid base for further research, and it must be linked to academic discourse.
Editor of The Himalayan Times daily, Prakash Rimal, however, said every page is equal for editor, and the study could be broadened to see women’s presence in managerial section of media in addition to byline and news sources.
FF Executive Chief Taranath Dahal was of the view that though the study was not comprehensive, it has tried to give a true picture on Nepali media. It helps bring change in media, hoped, suggesting media houses to introduce gender policy.
Advocate Pabitra Raut urged the media houses to ensure women journalists’ presence in the editors’ team, so that they would have equal say in management and news. Unless media management and editorial team are not shared by woman as well, women’s presence in media could not be increased quickly, she asserted. RSS
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