“Leave politics alone, for your own safety!” My experience as a journalist in Kathmandu

JournalismHi, I’m Freddie, the latest of the four new recruits to join BlueSky. The reason for my delayed arrival was due to a journalism internship I was completing in Kathmandu, one that represented a stark reminder to me that the health of the UK press is not in the terminal state of decline that many suggest.

I returned from Nepal to news that David Cameron had been signing off his texts with the acronym ‘LOL’ to Rebecca Brooks (which he understood to be ‘lots of love’), further exposing the cosy partnership that exists between the tabloid press and politics in the UK. Of course we have every reason to begrudge this situation where politicians often pander to the attention of journalists, however some nations dream for a system where what the media prints has a genuine effect on government. Few places exhibit this better than Nepal where my experiences with the media were chaotic to say the least.

Nepal has endured a turbulent political history. To this very day democracy exists only in name, a constitution has yet to be agreed on and government corruption is high. The press in Nepal are accustomed to strict censorship and intimidation; to my alarm I learnt that an investigation into the murder of a Nepali journalist was on-going during my visit. When I first spoke to my editor in Nepal and expressed my interest in covering the tense political climate in Kathmandu, my request was met with a direct warning to stay away from political journalism for my own personal safety and instead concentrate on the burgeoning heavy metal scene there, an experience that will not be forgotten in a hurry!

The Nepali press has digressed into a climate where journalists are merely PR men for whichever politician offers them the most appealing bribe in return for good coverage. It is no secret that most politicians in recent history have employed the use of PR to improve their image amongst the electorate; however in the UK this is accompanied by a powerful and inquisitive media that holds politicians accountable on a daily basis. My experience in Nepal acted as an awakening to the fact that an entirely free press must be viewed as one of the most precious aspects of a functioning democracy, and one that despite the recent calls to curb the power of in the UK, must be protected at all costs. For Nepal, with a deadline set for the 28th of May for their constitution to be written, I can’t help but feel that reporting on heavy metal should perhaps be put to one side, despite how much I enjoyed the communal head banging.

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