With the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown imposed in Nepal since March 24 as the only measure to contain the spread of coronavirus, entire media activities were disrupted. Media industry faced huge crisis for survival. Working journalists witnessed tough time to continue their profession. Employers failed to pay them. Some journalists even thought of quitting the profession. Health crisis on the one hand and the financial on the other, the working journalists underwent unimaginable plight. It also resulted in the dearth of news and information and deprived citizens of their right to information. Worryingly, as it is said democracy dies in darkness, corruption and financial irregularities grew alarmingly at all three layers of government. Mishandling of COVID-19, plights of infected persons, poor quarantine facilities, lack of safety materials were rife.
With this in the background, Freedom Forum introduced stipend to the working journalists so that they could continue their profession, earn a living though little, adopt safety measures, help survive media, bring forth issues of public interests ranging from corruption and wrongdoing. FF hope its initiative helped a lot on survival of small media.
Total 121 feature stories by 120 male and 3 female journalists surrounding COVID-19 were published in various media outlets. Stories were focused on the financial, economic, social, health areas with reference to COVID-19 pandemic. Stories highlighted the content such as financial irregularities in the name of relief collection and distribution by the public agencies. The stories covered misuse of fund used to prevent and control coronavirus at federal and provincial levels.
Some of the stories that got highlighted during this period: Corona epicenter Kapilvastu: More than 11,000 people sent home due to inadequate RDT, Isolation and Quarantine: The Fear of Death, Isolation and Quarantine: The Fear of Death, Misplaced Priority in Province budget, Mismanagement of Corona affected who enter via India. Corona panic: no treatments, death in quarantine without treatment, 2 hours walk to take online classes and crying for relief: the struggle of the poor and dalits; society did not accept those who returned after winning the corona: contempt and stigma!
Other stories, ‘the decision of the federal government to give house rent exemption is unheard of, the local level says: we have only heard the speech on TV’ became hugely popular. It was the story about federal government’s decision to waive rent during the lockdown issued by the government which created disputes between the local level, landlords and tenants.
The feature story with headline, ‘Wealth in Corona epidemic: Salary from MPs to ministers increased, now 71,000 for Chief Minister.’ also drew attention.