Prime Minister and Vice-chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Baburam Bhattarai has sought cooperation from the media, in general, and state media, in particular, in the process of completing the ongoing political course. Speaking at a meeting with the chiefs of state media organisations the other day, Prime Minister Bhattarai also assured necessary support from the government while asking the official media to work more professionally by giving priority to government policies and programmes. The prime Minister is right in reminding the official media of their role and responsibility to the country and the people, and his remarks have answered the question that has long been raised concerning what the status of the official media should be. In the past, voices had been raised from different sectors that there should not be any state media in a democracy. But Prime Minister Bhattarai has clearly and openly defended the role of the state media in Nepal.
The role of the official media is definitely important in a country like Nepal as the private media is often motivated more by profit than their social responsibility and obligation. Despite their crucial role, however, official media organisations are suffering from multiple challenges. They may be state-owned organisations, but the official media are getting less priority from the government. The official media face acute financial difficulties due to the reduced priority and support of the government. If the country needs an official media, the state should support it and equip it financially. Prime Minister Bhattarai has, of course, assured of increased financial support to the official media, which is a matter of satisfaction. However, these assurances need to be translated into action, and they should be reflected in the budget.
After Jana Andolan II, a serious debate has kicked off in Nepal regarding the structure and ownership of the official media. This is a good debate, and a fruitful conclusion is expected from it. However, such debates should aim at improving and reforming the organisations not destroying them. There is no doubt about the necessity of restructuring the official media. But in the name of restructuring, their history should not be destroyed. Nepal has official media both in the print and electronic sectors, and their role in the development and modernisation of Nepalís media history is very significant. The Gorkhapatra is not only the oldest newspaper of Nepal but also one of the oldest in South Asia. Thus, the Gorkhapatra is a national history and heritage, and its preservation and promotion are the responsibility of all. Different options and models have been put forth by different people and experts for the restructuring of the official media. These options include autonomy, privatisation and running under a cooperative system. So far as the Gorkhapatra Corporation is concerned, a cooperative model might be most suitable for it.