Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

I was reflecting on a conversation that I had with a dear friend (and reader of this blog) concerning affairs around the globe. We came to the conclusion that one could literally throw darts at the map and find some sort of trouble and strife that we never seem to hear about except in passing. It seems that these local conflicts and problems would get SOME play, given the fact that we have media outlets going full steam around the clock...one would figure that these items from around the globe would eventually make it to the schedule of some U.S. news operation.

This is never the case. The news media today is concerned with precious little that happens outside the U.S., except in reflection of U.S. policy with all its warts never in view. How about news on places in the world where we haven't made a complete muck-up of the place? Is there no validity to the notion that Americans would want to hear what is going on elsewhere? I shudder at the possible answers to these questions, but I figured that I would delve into one of these situations, give some background and analysis and come back to how I got interested in it and how maybe the short attention span of the U.S. media can have some redeeming value. A daunting challenge, but one that I think will lead to greater illumination.

The situation that caught my attention recently is that of the Kingdom of Nepal. First, some background information.

Read the background notes from the State Department.
Also, this is the country study from the Library of Congress.

The situation, briefly, seems to have deteroitated rapidly in the last ten years. Since 1996, Nepal has been confronted with what has been deemed a "Maoist insurgency" who has been stalking the countryside and terrorizing the people and the government. The government, for its part, has become more and more repressive in dealing with the insurgency. There had been progress towards democracy since the 1950's, but since 1990, with a new constitution, the situation was looking up. Recently, however, there have been problems such as a massacre of royals by the crown prince, leaving the remanents of the royal family to rule. The progress toward democracy resumed in 2002, but King Guyanendra was "displeased" with the progress made by the government and in February of this year dissolved the parliament and took over direct rule.

One of the most disturbing developments that came along with the direct rule has to be the repression of the press. Although the "state of emergency" was lifted in April, there have been no moves to restore the free press.

The people of Nepal, just as with any people who live under such conditions, are apalled by the violence and want the government to restore rights and peace to their country. Check out this blog for more information on the "situation on the ground" in Nepal. Also, read the account of Nepalese journalists protesting to regain their rights.

The freedom of the press is crucial in every society, especially one in turmoil such as Nepal; it seems, however, that this is among the first of the rights of the people to be quashed and repressed whenever times get trying. When Maoist rebels and government death squads are stalking each other across the rugged expanses of Nepal, wouldn't some information be preferable to living in fear? This lack of freedom coupled with the fact that the Nepalese people are among the poorest and most disadvantaged in the world (40% live under the poverty line). The people of Nepal deserve information on the dangerous situation in their country.

On paper, Nepal is still a constitutional monarchy but this is a sham since direct rule was declared. Nepal is also a member of the UN and a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees such rights to all people. Of course, this document is violated by repressive regimes all over the globe whose representatives sit in the General Assembly; Nepal is but one recent example of the slide into dictatorship and unjust rule. As I alluded to in the beginning, examples sadly abound.

I was apprised of this situation by a short news clip on the CBS radio news that presented what I thought was a quite evocative image. They reported on a man in Nepal who refuses to follow the national press repression. Every evening, apparently, this gentleman climbs on his roof and reads the news over a loudspeaker to all within earshot. This image of a lone man defying a repressive government's destruction of rights strikes a deep chord at the core of my belief system. Perhaps it does the same for you. In any event, this story, an unattributed fifteen second byte on the radio news for CBS affiliates led me to look deeper into the world that this one Nepalese man inhabits.

It is, perhaps, these almost "throw-away" items of the behemoth that is the news business in America that can end up mattering the most. It is up to all of us to be aware of these situations around the world, where strife is the order of the day and rights are threatened. It is incumbent upon all of us with access to more press outlets to raise awareness of these situations in which people are being oppressed and their rights trampled upon. With the strength of our words and deeds we can promote justice and fairness the world over. We have been given much with freedom of the press, speech and other such guarantees against government encroachment. Much should be expected of us. Our government may engage in foreign policy, state building and regime change in misguided ways for strange motives. It is up to us, however, to oppose these moves when they are inappropriate and raise the clarion call to bring attention to rights wherever they are threatened.

Freedom of the press and speech are not American inventions nor should they be a Western monopoly. They can and must spread and we must be the ones to do it.


Aaron Cynic said...

"It is, perhaps, these almost "throw-away" items of the behemoth that is the news business in America that can end up mattering the most."

Makes me think of the movie "Men In Black," where they refer to the tabloids as their hot sheets.

Seriously though, good points. That's the exact reason why I do zines, go to conferences, and have my own blog. The problem with the media is very similar to the problem with politicians. People have become so relient on "experts" in both these fields that we trust anything they say. Granted, we take it with a grain of salt and glass of cynicism, but at the end of the day most are too apathetic or tired to do anything about it.

The situation in Nepal is playing itself out in a dozen other countries. It's playing itself out in Iraq, where our armies closed down their presses because they were printing stories which questioned American policies.

I agree that freedom of press and freedom in general are not inherintly American and should spread across the globe. But you can't spread freedom with bombs and state repression.

The ones who spread freedom will be those who have the courage to stand up to all governments and oppressors and demand total control over their lives.

Stephen Vincent Giles said...

(My first response to an article in my good friend's blog. This is a bit inarticulate and I am known to have a non-sequitor way of thought. So beware.)

Support public media. Please don't leave it up to the government or the government's corporate allies.

When practicing objectivity, there can be no polarizing. We are being fooled into thinking that news media is either liberal or conservative. Don't give into this juvenile point of view.

News items are being sensationalized like a 3-D movie. Forcing the American people to view the excitement through their dualistic red and blue glasses. Refuse to be forced into this "either/or" way of thought. View the world as it is. And know WHAT IS before it is caught up, twisted about, and molded into a tool for some political agenda.

Support public media.