Quarterly report (July-Sept) on anonymous sources in newspapers

South Asia Check / November 6, 2018

During the three months between July 1 and September 30, 2018, among the six major national dailies that we monitor, Annapurna Post daily used the most number of anonymous sources in the front page reports. It used a total of 100 anonymous sources in the front page reports during the period.

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 Annapurna Post, the dailies using the most number of anonymous sources included Nagarik, The Himalayan Times and Republica respectively. Kantipur used the least number of anonymous sources during the period. In the three months, it used 63 anonymous sources in its news reports.

During the three months, the front page reports of the six dailies used altogether 493 anonymous sources.

Most of the news reports on the front pages of the newspapers were on politics. But anonymous sources were mostly used in corruption-related news reports (in 104 instances) during the period. Nagarik and Kantipur were the first and second national dailies respectively using the highest numbers of anonymous sources in their news reports related to corruption; Nagarik used anonymous sources in 43 instances and Kantipur in 24 instances in such reports.

Economy is the second topic in the Nepali newspapers where anonymous sources are used in highest numbers. During this period, anonymous sources were used in 74 instances in economy-related news reports in the six newspapers. The Himalayan Times used the highest numbers of anonymous sources in economy-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 “Lack of CEO hits reconstruction work” published in an English-language daily stated the following:

According to an official, NRN [National Reconstruction Authority] secretary has sent directives to its employees telling them to continue the old policy of reconstruction until a new policy is introduced.

“The directives of the secretary must be endorsed by the executive committee. That wasn’t done as there was no CEO,” said an NRA official.

Similarly, another report headlined “Deadline to enact laws may be missed” published in an English-language daily stated the following:

A top official of the parliament secretariat said if normal procedures were followed, the parliament would take one to three months to pass the bill.

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 the newspapers publishing such reports.

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

This material is copyrighted but may be used for any purpose by giving due credit to southasiacheck.org.