Quarterly report (April-June) on anonymous sources in newspapers

South Asia Check / September 5, 2018

(April-June 2018)

During the three months between April 1 and June 30, 2018, among the six major national dailies that we monitor, Kantipur daily trumped the others in terms of the use of anonymous sources in the front page reports. Kantipur used altogether 145 anonymous sources in the front page reports.

South Asia Check tracks the use of anonymous sources in the news reports published on the front pages of six leading national dailies of Nepal – Kantipur, Nagarik, Annapurna Post, The Kathmandu Post, Republica and The Himalayan Times. While the first three are Nepali language newspapers, the last three publish in English.

After Kantipur, the dailies using the most number of anonymous sources included Nagarik, Republica and The Kathmandu Post respectively. Annapurna Post used the least number of anonymous sources during the period. In the three months, it used 55 anonymous sources in its news reports.

During the three months, the front page reports of the six dailies used altogether 653 anonymous sources.

Most of the news reports on the front pages of the newspapers were on politics. Anonymous sources were also mostly used in politics-related news reports (in 150 instances) during the period. Republica and The Himalayan Times were the first and second national dailies respectively using the highest numbers of anonymous sources in their news reports related to politics; Republica used anonymous sources in 39 instances and The Himalayan Times in 32 instances in such reports.

Diplomacy is the second topic in the Nepali newspapers where anonymous sources are used in highest numbers. During this period, anonymous sources were used in 143 instances in diplomacy-related news reports in the six newspapers. The Kathmandu Post used the highest numbers of anonymous sources in diplomacy-related news reports.

Quoting anonymous sources in news reports is normal. Regarding the use of anonymous sources in news reports, ‘Journalist’s Code of Conduct, 2016’ issued by the Nepal Press Council states the following:

“Source should be quoted for the reliability of the news. However, while quoting the source, the name and identity of such source should be kept confidential so as to avoid any serious damage to the source.”

The identity of news source should be protected only if revealing the source’s identity can cause serious harm to him/her. But some news reports published during this period have quoted anonymous sources even when there is no apparent need to do so.

For example, a report headlined “Swiss pilot’s license revoked over safety” published in an English-language daily stated the following:

“According to source, Segessenmann [pilot Jung Segessenmann] had received a flying license from CAAN at the recommendation of Manang Air back in March and he had been flying a Manang air Helicopter.  His breach of safety rules occurred during a flight from Kathmandu to Rasunga, Gulmi. ”

“The weather was bad. An investigation was initiated following a complaint that the instructor pilot had taken the helicopter deep inside the clouds,” said a CAAN source.

“Helicopters are supposed to be flown without entering the clouds. This is a mandatory flight safety rule,” said a senior CAAN official.

Similarly, another report headlined “Govt to monitor foreigners” published in an English-language daily stated the following:

“An immigration security officer told that detailed information of foreigners will be gathered by Crime Control Information Mechanism.”

In these news reports, the use of anonymous sources looks unjustified because revealing the identity of news source would not cause any harm to the source.

Haphazard use of the anonymous sources diminishes the credibility of news reports and newspapers publishing such reports.

Click here to download the statistics prepared by South Asia Check on this issue.

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