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Chasing headlines and media amnesia

Urban dictionary describes media amnesia as a condition whereby you forget everything that is relevant in real life because you are so engrossed by events happening on Facebook/Twitter/gaming/email/SMS etc. Utpal Parashar reports.

world Updated: Aug 11, 2011 00:51 IST
Utpal Parashar

Urban dictionary describes media amnesia as a condition whereby you forget everything that is relevant in real life because you are so engrossed by events happening on Facebook/Twitter/gaming/email/SMS etc. But another kind of media amnesia also exists.

It’s a condition whereby media outlets like newspapers, news channels and news agencies forget about issues that were hogging headlines till recently as soon as other important events surface. All of us in the media industry suffer from this anomaly at one time or the other.

We rake up issues and pursue them relentlessly with zeal of activists for some days. But as soon as a new more ‘interesting’ issue crops up we drop the previous one like a hot potato. This cycle keeps getting repeated and the public left wondering about end results.

It suits those in power as well. As soon as scandals or scams are reported their first reaction is usually silence followed by denial. Then come assurances about action and finally a commission or committee formed. What happens to them rarely comes out into the open.

We are non-discriminatory amnesiacs. Issues of all kinds somehow get erased from our front pages, prime time news and web pages as we keep running after the next big news. But it’s disturbing when issues concerning media also get wiped out from our memories.

Two months ago Khilanath Dhakal, a journalist with Nagarik, a national daily survived a murderous attack in Biratnagar by members of Youth Force, the youth wing of Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), the party headed by Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal.

The provocation was Dhakal’s reporting about an attack by YF cadres on a police team in a district court. The reporter sustained grievous injuries and stayed in a hospital for weeks. Not surprisingly, there was outrage everywhere.

A parliamentary committee asked the government to nab all accused, journalists took out protest marches and reams of newsprint spent on how journalism is an unsafe profession in Nepal. Two accused were arrested, but the main perpetrator, Parshuram Basnet is still free.

The PM is helpless, hands of police are tied by political bosses and Basnet’s followers are now demanding that him and all other accused be declared innocent. They even called a ‘bandh’ on Tuesday accusing the police of lodging a ‘fake case’.

Amnesia can be a good excuse for most, but those supposed to act as watchdogs can’t afford to fall sick to such ailment. If that happens, the cost of treatment will come at a heavy price.