Government withholding info about public concern while media houses, in race for breaking news, drop ethics

As the pandemic has turned people’s lives upside-down, general public seeks timely information about new developments.

Though the government issued an official notice regarding the prohibitory orders in Kathmandu Valley, it has not publicized any decisions taken by the Council of Ministers in the past week.

Usually, the government spokesperson holds a press conference once a week to officially inform the media and the public about decisions taken by the Cabinet.

News outlets have been publishing that the Cabinet had decided to extend the ongoing week-long prohibitory orders in Kathmandu Valley by another seven days.

No official notice regarding the same has been published, neither has the government hosted any press conference.

Similarly, various media outlets have published that yesterday’s Cabinet meeting decided to halt all domestic and international flights.

Media houses publishing this news, however, have varying information about the decision – some say that the Cabinet had decided to ban all domestic flights from Monday midnight and all international flights from Wednesday midnight; some say no decision has been made with regards to international flights; some have published a deadline while others are without a timeline for the so-called ban; and some say that only incoming flights from India, Brazil and South Africa will be banned.

The reason for inconsistency in information is the lack of an official notice from the government.

Media houses have been citing some ministers as their sources for the information, which certainly results in inconsistent details.

Meanwhile, amidst more confusing flow of information reporters have no option but to ring up politicians or people with political influence – nepotism and capitalism at their best as major media houses compete for breaking news — to gather information which should anyways be in public domain.

General public resorted to panic buying, contributing to larger crowded areas, when the district administration office of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur suddenly amended their notices regarding the opening hours of department stores.

Those who decided to stay in Kathmandu and not return their hometowns assuming that they can survive as the prohibitory orders are only for a week have now been left to fend for themselves amid uncertainty.

The least the government could do amid a pandemic was manage a smooth flow of mass communication by setting up one-door policy for dissemination of information related to public concern.