Nepal: “It Was a Real Test for Me to Demonstrate Impartiality”

April 2, 2016

GPJ-NepalKATHMANDU, NEPAL — My mother has suffered from kidney failure for the past seven months. I take her to a treatment center for dialysis twice a week, and I meet kidney patients each time.

I’ve met children as young as 6 and adults as old as 80 who are diagnosed with complete kidney failure. I see family members break down in tears and ask the doctor whether their loved one can be cured. I see some patients leave mid-way through their treatments to return to their homes in rural districts because they run out of money to cover their medical bills.

Some patients told me that they didn’t know they had kidney disease until both of their kidneys failed. I became interested in finding the reason for the rise in the number of kidney patients inNepal.

Doctors gave me a lot of information, and I went to the Department of Health Services of theMinistry of Health and Population to learn how the government is working to prevent the disease.

But when I pitched this story idea to Manori Wijesekera, Global Press Journal’s Asia regional editor, she rejected it.

“Your mother is also a kidney patient,” she said. “The story about kidney disease written by a reporter whose own mother is suffering from kidney disease cannot become neutral.  Such a story can easily become biased. Emotions may drown you while you write the story.”

But she was quick to advise that I do additional research on kidney disease and take a different angle on the topic. She told me to speak with sources who aren’t connected at all to my mother’s treatment.

Initially, I was very much disappointed that I could not pursue my original story idea. But then I realized how important it is to maintain fairness in journalism. I am aware of the ethics of journalism and the importance of impartiality in any story, but it was obvious from the words of my editor that she had to remind me about the ethical concern of a reporter doing a story about a problem that plagues her family.

Still, I thought it was a real test for me to demonstrate impartiality and maintain neutrality. I went to other hospitals in search of doctors, patients and their relatives. These people also told me that the number of kidney patients is increasing at an alarmingly high rate.

Finally, my editor was convinced I had a good story angle and gave me the nod to go ahead with the formal reporting.

In this whole reporting process, I really felt the importance of fair reporting in journalism. That has encouraged me to become even more responsible in the future.

Sagar Ghimire translated this blog from Nepali.