Although reputation is a lifetime's earning, one can destroy it in a fraction of a second. This is the reason many countries formulate harsh laws to protect the reputation and dignity of individual citizens, placing huge amount of money as a penalty or compensation for defamation as a criminal act.
Nepal’s legal system also has similar provisions: any form of malicious campaign against an individual is regarded a criminal act. Even Press Council Nepal's Media Code of Ethics state that publishing malicious news targeting individual personality is unethical.
Published by New Business Age Pvt. Ltd and edited by Madan Lamsal, Arthik Abhiyan has printed a series of fabricated news stories and opinion pieces driven to tarnish the image and reputation of NIBL chairperson Prithvi Bahadur Pande, Chief Executive Officer Jyoti Prakash Pande and NIBL.
After a fabricated news campaign by the daily, NIBL Chief Executive Officer Jyoti Prasad Pande, a person known for his gentleness and clean image in the financial sector, registered a complaint against Aarthik Abhiyan Daily at Press Council Nepal seeking a remedy.
Meanwhile, Press Council Nepal directed Arthik Abhiyan Daily to publish the rejoinder sent by Nepal Investment Bank on the series of commentaries and news items published in the daily against its chairman and chief executive or give the reason within a week why should the rejoinder not be published in the newspaper.
The Council issued the direction to the daily on the complaint filed by chief executive of Nepal Investment Bank Jyoti Prakash Pandey saying the publication of a series of malicious, distorted and fabricated materials tarnished his personal image and prestige in the society as well as the image of the bank. CEO Pandey complained that the paper declined to publish the rejoinder on the malicious news.
Issuing a statement, Press Council Nepal directed Arthik Abhiyan to publish the rejoinder sent by Pandey and bank within a week or inform the council within a week why the rejoinder should not published. As Arthik Abhyian is listed in A category of Press Council Nepal, Aarthik Abhiyan has to clarify the stand or to face action of the council. Non-abidance of Council’s direction may reduce the category of Arthik Abhiyan Daily.
Despite issuing the directives, Press Council Nepal must have realized the damage made by the newspaper on the personality of Pandey. So, all concerned should take steps not to encourage such media.
According to Press Council Nepal Act, the council can issue an order to the concerned newspaper and seek clarification on the complaint filed by individuals. If Press Council finds the incident to be in violation of the code of conduct, it can deduct the marks during the process of categorization of newspapers as a punishment.
Although Press Council Nepal has issued Media Code and Ethics, it does not have enforcement powers. The media code says journalists should not mention the name of persons unrelated to the event, use editorial contents for personal benefit, and distort facts and/or present facts in such a way that it leads people into believing something that’s not true. Media should not harm individuals publishing malicious news. Journalists should immediately publish correction in case the concerned report is wrong.
CEO Pandey, in his complaint, said that the paper published malicious and distorted news to tarnish his image and his personality and harming his social prestige.
According to Press Council Nepal’s annual report 2015/016, it received 51 complaints and observed three cases regarding the violation of code of conduct by media persons and media houses. Out of them, 28 were referred to concerned parties and 14 were sent to the pending action list. As Press Council Nepal has a limited role, it has failed to regulate the media from writing malicious news.
In the past, most of the complaints used to be against the tabloid weeklies. The trend has reversed as there are a lot of complains against the broadsheet dailies, online, radio and television channel as well.
Nepal has also got an act to protect the individual from such malicious attack. Nepal Defamation Act 1959 regards slander and act of defaming the personality of individual as criminal activities punishable with a penalty, with minimum rupees.
Taking advantage of the weak Defamation Act, Right to Privacy and Media Code of Conduct, some media might have been prone to tarnish the personality and image of persons like Pandey's and institutions like NIBL's.
As per the complaint filed by Pandey in Press Council Nepal, Arthik Abhiyan has been coming out with all kinds of slanders and fabricated news about the NIBL, thereby harming his social status and prestige.
With 12 broadsheet dailies in a country of 28 million population, with 70 percent of literacy and low purchasing power, some media might have followed the unfair practices to survive in the market.
As media run out of money, they use third degree journalism, publishing the news harming personality and character of persons, who decline an unusual favor for the media persons.
As Nepal does not have a strong defamation act with huge compensation, individuals are always victims of media character assassination campaign. The recent campaigns against Nepal Investment Bank Ltd (NIBL) and its senior executives show flaws in the legal system, which has failed to protect the prestige and character of common citizens and reputed organizations from malicious campaign for blackmailing.