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Investigative journalism

Access to information against corruption

Bidhya Rai (24) made headlines when her story on corruption in the western part of Nepal was published in the local daily Kantipur towards the end of last year. She was able to use the tools she had been taught at the workshop on access to information (ATI) as a journalistic tool organized by Centre […]

portrait of Bidhya Rai sitting om a brown couch sitting on here phone
Bidhya Rai is young, but already known in Nepalese journalism.

Bidhya Rai (24) made headlines when her story on corruption in the western part of Nepal was published in the local daily Kantipur towards the end of last year.

She was able to use the tools she had been taught at the workshop on access to information (ATI) as a journalistic tool organized by Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ – Nepal) and JMIC early in the autumn.

ATI is the best tool for investigative journalism in Nepal, she says during a meeting in the CIJ office in Patan, near Kathmandu recently. But it is time consuming and expensive, she adds.

She is one of 11 participants who have been working on their stories after the start-up workshop. A colleague helped her, and she was assisted by CIJ. The work took several months:

picture of Kantipur site on a mobile
Kantipur – one of the most important newspapers in Nepal

“Nepal Tourism Year 2020” was approaching, and Khaptad in the hilly far west was one of the most attractive areas to visit. She went there to see with her own eyes – that no roads, no toilets, no infrastructure was in place, in spite of all the money that was supposed to be spent there. Then she started searching for documents, first on paper:

picture of paperwork
Lots of paperwork in investigative journalism

She wrote a letter to the information officer in the government office, and submitted an application to get access to information. The law obliges the office to answer in 15 days. When she received no reply, she followed up by email to the chief officer, the information commissioner, the Chief Minister of Tourism, Nepal Tourism Board and the local development committee. On the way she also had to paid some money, according to the Code of Conduct.

Bidhya Rai used a “Press Book” to find an important person, and later localized him through Facebook – because he had posted some photos from the area. It was not easy,  it was almost the end of the year, so it was very hard to get the information, she summarizes today. She even wrote an article about it; the difficulties of implementing the law on access to information in practice.  Unfortunately she has not had the change to follow up and find out about the impact of the story, but hope this will be possible later.

portrait of Baburam Bishwakarma, smiling in his office.
Baburam Bishwakarma, CIJ´s Assistant editor

CIJ´s Assistant editor Baburam Bishwakarma has followed the work:  – Our country is contaminated by corruption, by greed, by people who do not want to work, he says. CIJ is a fair, independent, transparent, accountable organization, according to him: We are all journalists. We need more investigative ground-breaking evidence-based stories to stop malpractices and punish wrongdoers. CIJ board member Robin Sayami agrees.

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