News & Events

Event Date:
Event Type: News & Events
Event Location: IIDS

Movie on the House (MOTH)

On Friday, 26 December, 2021, the Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS) showcased its first Movie on the House (MOTH) screening with the documentary, ‘Fake: Searching for Truth in the Age of Misinformation’ in the IIDS campus. The documentary is about the importance of media literacy in the age of misinformation, where claims and counterclaims spread like wildfire. The area expert invited for the event was Mr Bhusan Dahal, a well-known Nepali media personality. The program was moderated by Dr Sucheta Pyakuryal, Director of the Center for Governance and Academic Affairs, IIDS and was facilitated by Bidushi Dhungel, KU-MPPM Scholar and Samar SJB Rana, Senior Research Assistant at IIDS.

IIDS’ MOTH series is a monthly film/documentary screening which is followed by an interactive discussion with an area expert. This series is targeted especially for Kathmandu University’s Master of Public Policy and Management (MPPM) students and is open to professionals and students from other institutions as well.

The program commenced with Dr Pyakuryal’s introductory remarks, acknowledging that the documentary ‘Fake’ is a western-centric documentary, but the practice of misinformation is not, and the misinformation- endemic is not exclusive only to the west. She said the discussion that followed would be helpful in contextualizing the issue and creating a discourse on how we in Nepal can be vigilant as informed citizens.

The Pandemic of Fake News

Dahal in his preliminary comments after the documentary called it “self-explanatory”, and that the lessons drawn from it are crucial especially for a young democracy like Nepal. Dahal noted that statements made by a politician tend to get amplified by various media scribes who may be biased or unbiased towards the politician. Subsequently, the stories penned by the mentioned media scribes then get to shape narratives and build public opinion on the subject.

Dahal stressed on the fact that freedom of speech is a major of pillar democracy and with freedom of speech, at times, fake news and disinformation can emerge. He further added that the media cannot be curtailed even when it produces fake and harmful news and mentioned, “If you want democracy, you live with it (fake news and disinformation).” But at the same time, he emphasized that it is paramount for us as the audience to be aware about the source of the news we consume and ultimately the onus is on the consumer to verify the information. He asserted that the media has a professional and moral responsibility to ensure that the information it disseminates is truthful and does not spread malicious hate.

Business Houses and Political Parties’ sway with the media   

On the question of the influence corporates (sponsors) have on the media, both Dahal and Pyakuryal answered that it is apparent that the media has been seen running behind money instead of being credible. Furthermore, the market has wrapped its tentacles around media which is also known as the Forth Estate. Pyakuryal pointed out that individualistic profit seeking are traits of the capitalist market, which is sadly very prevalent nowadays. She added that when we realize that our collective freedom is more powerful than our individual freedom, freedom of speech will be curtailed automatically. This will be something the current generation needs to work on actualizing.  

When posed with the question on the media houses’ accountability on neutrality of their journalists factoring in their political inclination, Dahal mentioned that media houses, journalists and individuals have compromised neutrality by weaponizing the media. Dahal asserted that there should be some minimum qualifications around eligibility to work in the media, but that he was also wary of how conversations around media regulations spark furor over the curtailing of democracy.

MCC’s Mystification

Perhaps the most heated debate at present regarding the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) and the media’s role in conveying and contorting its information was also touched upon in the discussion. Dahal stated that the role of the media should be to objectively dissect the MCC dossier but the media itself doesn’t seem to understand the agreement completely. He elaborated on how the media has projected a partisan view on the matter, and that the divided media has ultimately caused a divided public opinion.

Decentralization of Disinformation

When discussing how the rural population is an easy target for propagandas, and what kind of policies were needed to ensure their media literacy, Pyakuryal assured that federalism would be the key to creating informed citizen. The ongoing federalization process when complete would make it easier for government entities to ensure that the rural population gets reliable and truthful information. This ultimately will help to dispel disinformation through decentralization of services and information.

Event Summary was prepared by Aayushma Thapa Magar. Research Intern, IIDS.

Watch the Q&A session here