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Nepal Monitor: The National Online Journal

"You-have-to-show-me-journalism" Needed in Nepal

Nepali journalists should exercise their power in the most responsible fashion, says JAMES MORIARTY, the US ambassador. He adds: A watchful, fair, you-have-to-show-me-journalism will be needed as media cover unfolding events in coming months.

Moriarty says the claim that the United States wants to retain the monarchy in Nepal is flat wrong. He suggests media focus on the signing of the treaty is not enough, journalists must also explain how the Maoists ignored or broke with impunity earlier agreements.

Text of the remarks by U.S. Ambassador James F. Moriarty to the First National Congress of the National Network for Weekly & Fortnightly Papers of Nepal (NNWFPN) at Pokhara, Nepal, on December 1, 2006:

Namaste. Thank you for this invitation. Congratulations on the creation of this network, and on its first Congress. May you enjoy many more.

I often meet with journalists from all kinds of media. I met with some editors of your organization only a few weeks ago. Regular and open dialogue between journalists and officials is central to a robust democracy.

John F. Kennedy, who worked briefly as a journalist, was once asked how he viewed the press from his perspective as President. He quipped, “Well, I am reading it more and enjoying it less.” This is humorous, but also insightful. Free and independent media must sometimes ask difficult questions. In a vibrant democracy, where politicians face the voters to attain or stay in office, politicians pay attention to media, and they address issues that affect the great mass of media listeners, viewers, and readers – otherwise known as voters.

But like all humans, reporters and editors are not perfect. I am reminded of this whenever I read articles that claim the United States wants to retain the monarchy in Nepal. This is flat wrong. We have said repeatedly: The people of Nepal should decide the future of the monarchy. Period. The U.S. has no preference – I repeat, no preference – whether Nepal retains its monarchy. Please repeat this message to your readers.

As journalists, you play a vital role, especially at this historic moment. The Nepali people want to know and understand what is happening. I hope you will exercise the power to inform and influence your readers in the most responsible fashion.

In the United States, one of our Midwestern states, Missouri, is known as “The Show Me State.” This comes from a phrase, “I’m from Missouri, you have to show me!” The phrase underscores a famed, no-nonsense skepticism. Words and promises are not enough for the man or woman from Missouri. Seeing is believing for people from Missouri.

When it comes to politics, “You have to show me!” is good advice. It is especially useful for journalists. Many in Nepal are inspired by the peace agreement, signed just 11 days ago. This was historic, and Nepalis are right to be proud. Yet since its signing, media continue to report that aspects of the agreement, and earlier agreements, are ignored or broken with impunity by the Maoists.

Words can make us all feel warm and positive, especially when they promise a commitment to peace and justice. But words can prove hollow if they are not matched by deeds. So, a watchful, fair, you-have-to-show-me-journalism will be needed as Nepal’s media cover unfolding events in coming months. My own government takes a similar attitude in evaluating the Maoists. Until their actions match their words, until they lay down their arms, renounce violence, and practice mainstream politics like the other parties, the United States must view the Maoists as terrorists, regardless of whether they are part of Nepal’s government.

Your political leadership has set an ambitious agenda for the country and the people. A detailed peace agreement, supplemented by an arms accord, has been signed, laying out key steps that must be met by all involved. An interim constitution is about to be announced, which will establish the operating framework for an interim government. New Election Commissioners have been named to conduct the nationwide election of representatives to a Constituent Assembly, which will produce the new Constitution.

The United States heartily welcomes all these steps. We want to see a Nepal that is peaceful, prosperous, and democratic. This is why we welcome the peace process and urge its proper implementation. The 11-year-long era of the gun – and living under the shadow of the gun – must end. Forever.

The United States, moreover, supports a robust and effective role for the UN in the peace process. My country also will continue to contribute to Nepal’s long term development, just as we have for 55 years ago. True, having Maoists in the interim government will pose a challenge to our assistance efforts. Until the Maoists abandon violence, we will have to make sure that they do not benefit from our assistance.

Ultimately, Nepal’s future is in its own hands. The tough choices, hard work, and difficult compromises must be undertaken by the Nepalis themselves. Nepal’s national longing for peace, prosperity, and democracy will demand patience, sacrifice, and commitment. And we all know there will be setbacks and challenges along the way.

I mention challenges not to depress you about the difficulties of writing a Constitution and launching a new government. Instead, I want to underscore the enormity and seriousness of Nepal’s task. To repeat, as publishers and editors, you can help Nepalis grasp this large challenge while supporting the creation of a new Nepal. This will require objectivity, fairness, and professionalism. But if you do this, , then you will perform a great service to your readers and to your country. Both as journalists and as patriots.

Jaya Nepal!
Thank you.


The official version of this statement is available here.

Posted by Editor on December 2, 2006 11:42 AM