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Nagaland media examine role amid pandemic

By Our Reporter Updated: Nov 16, 2020 11:46 pm

Press clubs in Nagaland celebrate National Press Day; responsibility of Fourth Estate as watchdog re-emphasised

Monalisa Changkija
Monalisa Changkija

Our Reporter/ Correspondent
Dimapur/Kohima, Nov. 16 (EMN):
Newspapers in Nagaland — and by extension, journalists — were provided a sobering reminder of the fundamental truth concerning their role by one of the senior-most journalists in the state, as the Fourth Estate here finds itself being forced to self-introspect in the midst of a ravaging pandemic.

“Clearly, pandemic or no pandemic, our roles and responsibilities do not change — in fact, they need to be vigorously enhanced and revitalised,” said T Monalisa Changkija, the editor of Nagaland Page, on Thursday in Dimapur.

She was invited as the theme speaker during the National Press Day celebration organised by the Dimapur Press Club (DPC). The event coincided with the DPC’s foundation day. Changkija was asked to speak on the theme: ‘Role of media during Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on media.’

She said that the Fourth Estate in Nagaland has lived up to its roles and responsibilities and met the expectations of the people.

“This, despite the constraints we faced every day and continue to do so. In the process, we have exposed our government’s lies about the quality of our healthcare delivery system and enabled the people’s grievances and angst reach our government’s ears. Much neglect and corruption were exposed but our failure lies in our inability, or unwillingness, to further expose specific instances of neglect and corruption and hold the government, or those directly involved, accountable.

“The collapse of our healthcare delivery system occurred simultaneously with the exposure of defectiveness and incompetence of our over-all civil and police governance, which not only threw light on various other neglect and corruption but also gross civil and human rights violations. This in turn exposed how ill-trained our personnel in police force are. Once again, we stopped at exposure and failed to hold anyone accountable. This definitely reflects that justice was denied to the people,” she said.

Changkija said that the media must also do social auditing of issues related to government departments to ensure transparency and accountability in the public domain.

“If we lose sight of, and let our guard down from constitutional provisions and the imperatives of transparency and accountability of those in power, we will fail in our role as the watchdog of society and negate the very reasons for our existence. This, no society, no democracy can afford,” she said.

Changkija said that the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the media across the globe. “As it is, even before the pandemic, with newer technologies, older media forms were confronting insurmountable challenges and numerous newspapers, magazines and journals folded-up across the globe, or forced to skeletal survival. But of graver concern is the laying-off of journalists,” she shared.

Local papers’ circulations and revenues have reduced drastically, which have severely impacted journalists and non-journalists working in the local media, Changkija said.

“Today they are facing challenges and struggles that demand our grit and their ability to evolve into a stronger institution, which meets the needs and challenges society and state are confronting now without compromising on the core values of the Fourth Estate in a democracy…ultimately, much will depend on our individual integrity, expertise, sensitivity, humility, maturity, knowledge, wisdom, vision, inclusivity, commitment and our ability to swallow our egos to prevail over these trying times. We can do this and we must. You see, we are morally obliged to leave behind an institution and a legacy that those who come after us will be proud of and take recourse in,” she reminded.

Guest speaker, Rajesh Soundararajan, Deputy Commissioner of Dimapur, said that even as the menace of fake news is prevalent everywhere, the credibility of the media here is unmatched and unparalleled.

He lauded the efforts of media professionals in the state in authenticating information, adding that he has seen many instances of irresponsible journalism elsewhere in the country.

‘Ethics remains absolute’

In the state capital, Kohima Press Club (KPC) observed the day by organising a panel discussion and various competitions among its members.

The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging years for journalism as media houses the world over try to salvage the impact of the pandemic.

Fake news is widespread and the reliability of journalism has taken a hit, as ‘quick’ online news has become the requisite to compete with challenges of the day.

H Chishi, senior journalist and one of the panellists, shared that journalists in Nagaland are doing “a praiseworthy job” but are facing an ‘info-demic’, a crisis that media houses have been battling more so than ever.

Accountability and code of duty, and the overreaching impact of credible journalism have, thus, become more pertinent than ever, he said and urged his colleagues to uphold truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality.

According to another senior journalist, Kopelo Krome, the key is to “maintain our integrity,” to be an independent voice of the people, as members of the press fraternity. “We make and unmake the government,” he said while cautioning the Fourth Estate not to be diminished or manipulated by the three estates — judiciary, legislature and executive.

On the other hand, Narayan Bahadur pointed out that investigative journalism needs to be pursued with ‘balance’ and not be susceptible to the forces that often come attached with a close-knit community.

Emilo K Konyak, while sharing her experiences, stressed on providing factual reports, ‘which is the cardinal principle of journalism’. She challenged the journalists to strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts, and cross-check the report to avoid misinformation

Speaking truth to power, Vibi Yhokha Sophie said, is one of the core values of journalism; and issues that need attention, news coverage from other districts other than the epicentres, should be addressed.

‘Times have changed but ethics remains absolute. And journalistic ethics has become even more relevant in this digital age and post truth era,’ she reminded.

According to Sophie, ‘there is a need to contextualise and make issues more relatable. It is one’s duty to make the significant, relevant and relatable for the citizens and society’. There is a growing need to understand the idea of journalism from a specific local perspective and context, she added.

‘We need to keep redefining and reinventing ourselves; at the same time, one must remember that journalism is also about writing the unpopular, the uncomfortable,’ she said.

The KPC also organised ‘article and photography competitions’ based on the theme. Vishü Rita Krocha took the honours in article writing while Zhovezo Resu clinched the photography award. The ‘KPC Impact Journalism 2020’ was awarded to two journalists—Atono Tsükrü Kense and Sarah Naam.

‘Reflects bare truth’

Mokokchung Press Club (MPC) celebrated the event with Limawabang Jamir, Deputy Commissioner of Mokokchung, as special guest.

The DC said that ‘media is the mirror that shows us the bare truth and harsh realities of life’. He encouraged the MPC members to be fearless, to stand for truth and impartial journalism.

By Our Reporter Updated: Nov 16, 2020 11:46:01 pm