NFN called upon a dialogue meeting with media and CSOs' network organizations on February 7, 2019, at Alfa House, Kathmandu. The meeting was organized as an open discussion forum with media person and CSOs leader discussing building enabling environment for CSOs in Nepal and CSOs current position and way forward. The participants were from FNJ, ACORAB representatives from different CSOs, Reporter, Freelancer, and NFN executive members and staffs.
Mr. Ram Prasad Subedi, NFN, Secretary-General, welcomed the participants and delivered the opening remarks. He further highlighted how CSOs and media have always been the complimentary block of actor for sustainable democracy, development, and governance, both need to have ongoing critical as well as constructive functional relationship. The meeting with media is to strategically reinforce the agenda of CSOs space, roles and enabling the environment.
Jit Ram Lama, President of NFN, shared that it's high time for CSOs and Media to recognize that the time has come to take leading initiatives for widening and maintaining independent, safe and enabling civil society space through close coordination, cooperation and advocacy actions with the government. The NFN has been also working hard to maintain public trust and credibility through strengthening the performance by making open and transparent, engaging and responsive, and continually learning and being accountable to the public. NFN always strive towards building CSOs to make them able to analyze the situation of enabling the environment and able to take advocacy actions to protect their freedom, independence, and safer space. He further shared CSOs position paper and Roadmap which NFN has developed and revised time and again. Lama also shared the minimum standard of CSOs internal governance and self-regulation document for discussion.
Ramesh Bista, General Secretary, FNJ, stated that the media has been playing an important role in enhancing transparency and good governance in developing countries by contributing to the increased public debate on issues surrounding the formulation and implementation of government budgets as well as in supporting greater transparency of public revenue. The civil society groups may establish ties with political parties and the state, but they must retain their independence, and not seek political power for themselves. He further highlighted that FNJ had learned through their protest after the media council bill that how the government wants to shrink the space of freedom of expression.
Subash Khatiwada, President, ACORAB, stated there is a need to change in our consultation process. We always long to have a consultation with likeminded so the message of the consultation did not reach who needs to understand our concerns and issues. So, we all together need to reach to the other side that has a negative image for us. If you succeed in reaching them there will be a huge difference in the perspective.
Participants during the meeting have shared that civil society and the media need to play an important role in building a culture of integrity in our country and its society. While civil society has a key role in bridging the government bodies and the people at the grass-roots level, the role of the media is like a watchdog by exposing the corruption in society and providing accurate, balanced and timely information that is relevant to the public interest. A democratic state cannot maintain stability unless it is effective and legitimate, and has the respect and support of its citizens. For this purpose, transparency is the key factor, which can be ensured by an effective role of the media. Further, they highlighted that many key challenges have emerged in the surveillance and advocacy work of both civil society and media.
Existing laws and legal frameworks of Nepal tend to restrict CSOs in many ways. Media and CSO coalitions are needed to create a self-regulatory mechanism as agreed by the CSOs and policymakers to ensure full representation of women and the marginalized population. This is important to create an environment of confidence among all – CSOs, policymakers and the public. CSO movements in Nepal have been successful in defeating several rules and regulations restricting CSO activities. Through these efforts of CSOs, the governments can become more accountable, honest, accountable, transparent and responsive to the public demands, which will win the support of the people and strengthen their legitimacy.
Jit Ram Lama urged all media and CSO representatives to be united and Safeguarding press freedom and building enabling environment for CSOs is inevitable. For this, dialogue, cooperation, and trust between the government, civil society, and the media are necessary.