Freedom Forum held an interface meeting on August 22, 2017 with the objective of sharing FF’s report relating to gender presence in Nepali print media and garnering views from the editors, journalists, rights advocates and policy makers.
During the program, FF’s Gender Monitoring Officer, Nanu Maiya Khadka presented an analytical report on content monitoring of nine major Nepali dailies from January to June 2017. The report highlighted only 6% female bylines and 9.6% female sources quoted in the news contents monitored during the period. Similarly, report concluded that main news pages of national dailies contained more than 50% news related to politics and governmental issues.
Addressing the presentation, Republica daily’s Associate Editor, Thira Lal Bhusal, said that relatively inclusion in media house has improved these years. Journalism as a profession is a challenging task, which obviously is an odd hour job. The social situation of the country also determines the visibility of female journalists in media house. Talking about Republica, lately, there has been increasing number of female journalists though the number is not balanced in terms of gender. “My media’s reporters are free to decide their bylines based on the weight of news,” he stated. Obviously political news covers larger portion of newspaper, getting huge space in the first and second pages.
Moreover, he said major political decisions are taken during the night or evening time, while women reporters tend to go home before 7pm, resulting in more number of males reporting political news. But it does not mean female are incapable of doing that. Generally, women journalists want to write feature news. “The Friday edition- WEEK and the next one are entirely handled by female journalists in my newspaper,” he shared, suggesting FF to incorporate it in the report.
Senior Reporter of Himalaya Times (Nepali), Ms Rama Luintel added, female sources themselves are confused about their opinions and hence, ask to cross check from other sources as well. Number of female journalists who study journalism is increasing but they do not continue to work in media houses and but begin career at I/NGO.
Similarly, stringer with the National News Agency (RSS), Ms Kalpana Poudel, supported Luitel adding that women usually did not like to explore much on political issues. That’s why, the presence of women on this specific part seems weak.
Reporter with the Himalayan Times daily, Ms Anita Shrestha, said most women were fascinated towards feature based news stories.
Adding suggestions to the study, Ms Bidhya Rajput, desk editor at online news portal Setopati.com, that it incorporated the overall presence of female in media. Similarly, women leaders quite hesitate to give information which creates doubt. So, they prefer male leaders over females, she added.
Advocate Ms Poonam Kaphle suggested FF to identify and analyze the root causes behind less than 10% female bylines in news stories in Nepali print media. She questioned why women are discouraged in this sector.
As a political beat correspondent, Mr Ashok Dahal from Republica daily made it clear that female byline in media could be taken as reflection of socio-political situation of Nepal. Sometimes, the odd hour (nature of media) is most concerned by the family of female journalists which hampers their long-term stay in media. Living in a society where females are bound to take care of their family, it is itself a major cause behind their absence in Nepali media, he added.
FF’s vice-chairperson, Sahajman Shrestha, stated that in these recent years, Nepal civil services are likely to be dominated by female counterparts which could be taken as a positive aspect.
Concerning about the theoretical angle of the study, Associate Professor at KU, Dr Sudhamshu Dahal, urged FM to pay attention on deep rooted patriarchy and red tape patriarchy. He also advised to improve the graphical presentation to make the study more impactful. He then suggested checking how the patriarchy is determining the less number of females in media and Who and What define the working hours in media.
Information Officer at Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Mr Dorendra Niraula told FF to incorporate whether the women were included in management of media houses. For an example, he said that in this program, 2-3 women left program because they failed to manage time, that is to say, they were in need to go to office to ensure their early return to home- before evening. “Only female of “voice” and “choice” are highlighted more than other key points,” he added.
While, advocate Ms Sushma Thapa said although there is a large number of aspiring female journalism students, they were less interested to practice journalism. Why? She wondered, adding that at the same time, why media houses do not provide special incentive to retain them because they face biological constraints.
Editor of the Himalayan Times (Nepali), Govinda Luitel, said, “We need news- not how balanced the news sources are. Working as a journalist is quite challenging job indeed.” Again, reminding a past experience he quoted one of the female reporters as saying, “No, I don’t stay long to read news at 9:30 pm because my mother doesn’t allow me”. It is a family problem which is constructed by our patriarchy; a major reason behind women’s participation in the mainstream media.
He further said every media has its policy on byline. “If there are males in the post of Spokesperson, how can media quote female,” he questioned.
FF’s Chairperson Hari Binod Adhikari and Media Monitoring Officer Narayan Ghimire appreciated participants’ recommendations to the study.
Chairperson Adhikari mentioned that the study report is an advocacy tool to increasing women’s space in Nepali media.
The program was attended by 26 individuals from media houses, ministry of women, children and social welfare, National Women Commission, advocates and media experts.