27 February 2007

Media Politics in Nepal: Media Issues Media Hate and Love

By Harsha Man Maharjan

Here media politics has nothing to do with political parties. What I say media politics is the politics of main media organizations in Nepal. My focus is to know which media issues they give emphasis and which they neglect.

I am sharing my experience of going through news cutting we have in Martin Chautari Media Documentation Centre (http://www.martinchautri.org.np/)
We have news cutting on different media issues.
I tried to figure out the volume of articles and news according to subjects: State Media, Working Journalists., Foreign Direct Investment in Media and Media Monopoly.

Cuttings on the welfare of working journalists were the lest among the four. This is the subject on which journalists related organizations conducted seminars in five star hotels. How journalists could voice their grievances in their own media. They even can not publish their grievances and problem in others’ newspapers.

We know that media sector flourished in Nepal after 1990. But the condition of working journalist changed very little. We know only few organizations treated their journalists according to the Working Journalists Act 2051 v.s. Today journalists are voicing to amend this act. They think that this act has a loophole that provides media owners to use journalists in contract. Few weeklies, state owned newsapapers published news, articles on the issue. I think this is the most neglected issue among the four. It is because journalists have no platform in newspapers to write about this issue.

Then came Media monopoly. Here media monopoly means the monopoly of the Kantipur Publication. Even state owns all media. No government should own media.
Monopoly of the Kantipur Publication is not clear if go through its owners. Kantipur FM, Kantipur TV, ekantipur and Kantipur publication are different entities. Yet even lay people know that they born out of the Kantipur Publication. This is a threat to democracy. Past action of Kantipur publication and its sister media organizations showed this in past. It urged government to declare the state of emergency in 2001 to tackle the Maoist Insergency. It backed a fraction of Nepali congress onces. It used all its effort to provoke the audience to take against THT and waged a war to fulfill its vested interest.
Other dailies: Nepal Samacharpatra, Rajdhani, Gorkhaptra etc allied with the Kantipur Publication in the issue of foreign direct investment. They opposed it in the issue of media monopoly. Actually it is this issue that faltered 2001 campaign of Nepal Media Society against The Himalayan Times (THT) on Times’ alleged foreign direct investment. These dailies wrote editorials, made news against Kantipur’s monopoly. They urged government to make laws against media monopoly.

State media came after media monopoly. In this issue even state owned newspapers Gorkhaptra and The Rising Nepal have published news, article. All media organizations urged government to left its control. It is funny that even almost all Ministers of Communication spoke on different occasions that these state media were free to perform their job. But this is yet to happen. The High Level Media Recommendation Commission formed in 2006 under the chairpersonship of Radheshyam Adhkari has requested to privatize Gorkhaptra Corporation and change Radio Nepal and Nepal Television to Public Service Braodcasting. It remained mum on Rastriya Samachar Samiti,(National News Agency) a news agency. People related the GP and RSS criticize the commission. So government formed another Higher Working Team to Study the Restructuring and Autonomy of State Media on December 2006. The team includes Badri Bahadur Karki, Kunda Dixit, Dhurba Hari Adhikari, Nirmala Sharma, Tej Prakash Pundit, Ram Sharan Karki, Madan Kumar Sharma, Jaya Sankar Mahato etc. It has a mandate to make a report o the issue in two months.

The huge chunk of news cutting was on foreign direct investment. This issue hugged newspapers even before The Himalayan Times got published. Only on the rumor of its publishing, big newspapers published editorials, news and article. Except The Himalayan Times, other broadsheets gave the most emphasis on the issue. These newspapers even formed an organization named Nepal Media Society in 2001. These newspapers carried editorials, news and articles on the activities of the Nepal Media Society against the The Himalayan Times. This society even provoked the readers to take against THT. Due to this, copies of THT were burned in different places.
Nepal Media Society (NMS) waged a war on the pretext of THT’s old news that said Buddha was born in India quoting an Indian scholar. But in reality activities of Nepal Media Society came after THT decided to cut its price. A price war between The Kathmandu Post, a English daily of Kantipur Publication and THT when THT came to existence. Profit guided NMS’s activities though they tried to show something else.
Readers must know this. For this government or non government organizations need to give media literacy training to readers. Readers has to know how journalists make news, what advertisement and public relation can do to journalism and other issues of mass media. It is time to begin the campaign of media literacy.

22 February 2007

Fagun 7 (Democracy Day ): A Royal Propaganda and Myth in Nepal

By Harsha Man Maharjan

Zade said this in her blog on Feb 19 2007:

Happy PraJaTanTra DiWas!!
Nothing really. Its just a great day, the sun’s shining ah but again everyone’s after the King’s “Baktabya”. But well, let me not talk of things I have no expertise on..So Happy Prajatantra Diwas Everyone! And For bloggers, I wish this Freedom of Expression Last for ever and ever!! And my day began with this day..So enjoy!! http://zade.wordpress.com/

I don't know how to answer her. I want to write more about Falgun 7. So here is my experience and idea about Falgun 7.

I have celebrated many Falgun 7 as Democracy days.

Nepal celebrated 57th Democracy day on 19 February 2007.

During my school days I used to praise King Tribhuwan for fleeing Delhi, sacrificing his happiness and supporting the Anti-Rana movement. I saw nothing wrong to declare him the father of Democray or Rastrapita or Father of the country. blah.blah.

I got this impression from text books on history I read in my school. My holidays on these occasions thickened my belief. Broadsheet dailies Gorkhapatra and The Rising Nepal publish special issues on the day. They did same this year also.

This praise for Tribhuwan no more remains in me. In fact from few I doubt this notion from few years. It is due to my colleagues at Martin Chautari, a platform of discussions.

Today I take Falgun 7 as a propaganda this country is disseminating from 2007 v.s (1951). It is a myth that I deny to buy. I could only free sorry to PM and ministers to fall in this royal trap. They could not damned this day.

That's why they are still giving holiday on this day. We need to learn real incident.
On Fagun 6, I found a book, Sri Panch Mahendra ra Samakalin Nepal (King Mahendra and Contemporary Nepal) while visiting second hand books on pavements near RNAC building. This book eulogizes late King Mahendra who cashed the cold war situation and pleaded the notion of ‘Bikas’or development in the country which was languishing in darkness. He ruled Nepal for thirty years absolutely. He became a shrewd dictator.

The book’s information:
Writer: Tirtha Raj Tuladhar
Published date: Jestha 29, 2021 v.s
Publisher: Department of publicity, Ministry of

Here writer’s name is unimportant. During Panchayat period the king would not let people know reality. Books like Leo Rose and Bhuwan Lal Joshi’s Democratic Innovation in Nepal etc were banned for presenting real political history of Nepal after 1951.

The books tells also about Fagun 7 and its importance in Nepal. According the book, on Fagun 7 2007 (18 February 1951) late king Tribhuwan made a historical proclamation after he returned Nepal on 4 Fagun 2007 (15 February 1951) from India. That’s why even king Gyanendra could not resist him from giving a statement on this day though it is unconstitutional.
And literally he has dug his own grave.

The book only informs that on that day he declared a Rana-Congress coalition cabinet. But it does not give more information on Tribuwan’s royal proclamation.

I found this proclamation in Grishma Bahadur Devkota’s book, Nepal ko Rajnaitik Darpan.
O. I could not believe what I found in the book. I really did not believe what I found in the book.
On that day, could you believe! Tribhuwan declared that he desired a republic political set up in Nepal formed by election. And he formed the cabinet so that there could be the election.

He never let that election happened till he died on 30 Falgun 2011 v.s (14 March 1955). He cashed internal feud in Nepali congress and made Matrika Prasad Koirala Prime Minister in next cabinet. Tribhuwan also formed other cabinets only in his convenience.

It is Tribhuwan who took direct control of army and assumed the title of Supreme Commander of Chief on the pretext on Vir Gorkha Dal. This dal, backed by Ranas tried to subvert army and overthrow the government. For more detail I request readers to study the book Democratic Innovation in Nepal: A Case Study of Political Acculturation. What u will find is definitely not good face of King Tribhuwan and King Mahendra.

Let the myth evaporate.

WE no more need to celebrate FALGUN 7.

No way. No compromise on the freedom of expression.

21 February 2007

Role of Online Media in Nepal after Feb 1 2005 Excluded

BY Harsha Man Maharjan

1 February 2005 brought crisis in Nepali media. For new media especially blogs and websites it was an opportunity. It is in fact an irony. They flourished when the king smother Nepali media and declare the state of emergency in the country. He ordered Nepali media not to do anything against the letter and sprit of his proclamation.

Military personals performed actions of editors in newspapers, radio etc. In this adverse and undemocratic condition big media houses: Kantipur Publication, Nepal Samacharpatra, Rajdhani, The Himalayan Times etc kowtowed before Military orders. They opted to appease the king than the public.

Only few magazines and weeklies opposed the king’s order in different ways. The media that fully rebelled at that time were few websites:
www.blog.com.np; etc.
Not only people in abroad but also people having online access in Nepal knew about the country from these media.

Khoj Patrakarita Kendra (Centre for Investigative Journalism) has published a book, Sankatkalma Samachar(News during Emergency ). It is a content analysis of main print media in Nepal for three months of the state of emergency. It also includes the scenario of FM radios. But it has left online media.

During the book launch on Feb 18 at Yala Maya Kendra, I raised this question. Binod Bhattarai who planned and edited the book told me that it is a small project supported by Danida. First he planned to include only print media. Students of R.R. Campus Rishikesh Dahal and Ranju K.C. did this research. Idea of incorporating radio journalism came as an afterthought. Bhattari thinks role of online media could be another project. However he did not forget to comment that only few Nepali people have access to this media. So it is our duty to write history of online media in Nepal.

16 February 2007

Journalism in Vernacular Languages in Nepal: Challenges and Remedies

Harsha Man Maharjan

In Nepali context, journalism in vernacular languages mean journalism in Newari, Tharu, Maithali and other languages, except Nepali and English. They have similar problems. They lack audiences. Their market is small. Hence their journalism is no mainstream journalism.
Main theme that cover them is Bhasa Anurag (Passion of Language). I encountered the word Bhasa Anurag in Kamal Prakash Malla’s book on literacy criticism in Nepal Bhasa, Nali Swana. He used this word to describe the first stage of literacy criticism that only celebrates earlier Nepal Bhasa writers. At this stage criticizing the writers was impossible. Critics were more emotional. I think that journalism in vernacular languages in Nepal, too are glorifying their past, and using less ink on criticizing their weaknesses.
Today the circulation of the Nepali daily Kantipur is more than 2 lakh. There are many readers in Nepai language. It happens only after long time. It happens only at the cost of vernacular languages.
When the Nepali literary magazine Sarada started publishing in 1991 v.s, there were few readers. Its first editorial requested Nepalis to use the money, they spent buying a cigarette per day on the magazine. You can say literacy rate of Nepali was poor at that time. You are right.
But what I am emphasizing here is other aspect. Kantipur daily could not have boosted on its presentation if government had not invested in the oldest newspaper Gorkhapatra and Gorkhabasha Prakashini Samiti that published text books on Nepali language. Governments opened these institutions to cultivate readers in Nepali language. By doing this the governments neglected vernacular languages. Now journalism in vernacular languages is languished in darkness.
Who is responsible this ?
We are.
Our elites are.
Myopic vision of Nepali elites gave no opportunity to non Nepali speaking people to study in their mother languages. The first report of Nepal National Education Planning Commission published on 1956 says: “The study of a non Nepali local tongue would mitigate against the effective development of Nepali, for the student would make greater use of it than Nepali–at home and in the community–and thus would remain a ‘foreign’ language. If the younger generation is taught to use Nepali as the basic language, then other languages will gradually disappear, greater national strength and unity will result.” (page. 97) In name of nationality state tried to demolish vernacular languages. Owning to this recommendation Nepali became compulsory in school from 2028 v.s. at the cost of vernacular languages. Vernacular languages got chance to flourish only after 1990.
Audit Committee of Circulation (ACC) has a provision which, says the circulation of newspapers in vernacular languages including English are deemed twice that of actual one. Yet scenario is unpleasant. Newspapers in vernacular languages that ACC have in its list are 7 in English, 4 in Hindi, 4 in Newari, 1 in Maithali, ,1 in Doteli. No doubt many are out of the list because they can’t meet the criteria of ACC. Press council has to study the main reasons of this. The government has responsibility to prosper vernacular languages.

08 February 2007

Some Libraries Barring Readers in Kathmandu

By Harsha Man Maharjan

These days I am in a dilemma. I have a question? Why does some body open a library? In Rana period we know Ranas incarcerated few Nepalese for opening a library. We have named it ‘Library Parba’.
Today some libraries are barring readers from using their books. Could you believe this? But it is a reality. It is happening in Kathmandu.
Visit Nepal Bharat Sanskritik Kendra Library Indian library in RNAC, New Road you will find this. It happened on a day few years ago. I used to visit the library whenever I had time. On the day, the guard there bars me from using books. After I kept my bag he requested me to show my student card. I searched my card inside my bag. I showed him my card. Yet he did not allow using books there. He informed me that my card had no valid date. At that time I was waiting the result my BA III year’s result. So I could have a valid card unless I doctored it or get forged card. I put my problem to officials there. They were helpless. At last I stopped visiting there till I joined Masters.
This rule works even today there. The reason they provided me were interesting. It was a way to check unnecessary visitors who jammed the library. According the officials many people entered the library only to drink water, to pee, to watch tv or to meet friends. Can’t people with valid student cards also visit the library to do above mentioned job? I am still thinking over this.
British Council too has a mechanism to check its readers. It allows its non-members to use only few reference materials. This rule applies even in Social Science Baha Library. There only members can use library's books.
This rule does not apply in Tribhuwan University Central Library, Nepal National Library, Kathmandu Valley Public Library, Maartin Chautari Media Documentation Centre, Friends for Peace Library and other libraries.

05 February 2007

Madheshi community and Nepali Media

By Harsha Man Maharjan

Madhesh is in fire. A wildfire.
Many think it is an inevitable incident. They think the state has always neglected Madheshis grievances. Others think it a design to bifurcate Nepal into principalities. I too believe Madheshis were living with grievances and they have rights to vent their grievances.
My interest in this issue, made me read Bhaskar Gautam’s unpublished article, Sahabhagita abam Pratinidhimulak Sahabhagita and Madhesh (Participation, Representational participation and Madhesh). In this article he has written on the issues of citizenship, language issue and so-called Nepali nationality. From it I learn a lot about the issue.
History shows 30 years of Panchayat system never left its doctrine of one language and one dress. This way it never heeded people with other cultures. There was no hope for Madheshis in these years. Even 12 years of Democratic exercise did nothing to balm their wounds.
Madhesh always remained as an internal colony of Nepal. 23 Lakhs of them have no nationality, if in Nepal only citizenship proves somebody’s nationality.
Today issues of Tarai rule the roost in Nepali media. For few days Nepal FM is airing morning talk show, Samaya Sandabha on this issue. This FM has even announced special programs on the issue. Op-ed pages of newspapers are carrying articles on the issue. Even Nepali bloggers are thinking over ways to get the first hand experience of Tarai area.
But news of protestors targeting journalists are coming from Madhesh. International Federation of Journalists and Federation of Nepalese Journalists are showing concern over these incidents.
In one Samaya Sandarbha aired this week, Nagendra Pasman alis Jawala Singh, main leader of Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha (Jawala Singh) even blamed Nepali media system for not publishing news of his organization. He told what editors at kathmandu choose as news, contains less information of their activities sent by district reporters. Thus readers get less information of their activities.
Singh is not only one to think so. Even on 22 July 2006 Nepalnews.com has posted a news about an incident. Nepali Madheshi Students’ Front, affiliated to Madheshi People’s Right Forum, burnt copies of The Kathmandu Post, Kantipur Daily, weekly Saptahik and other newspapers and magazines in Janakpur. Front’s chairman Keshav Jha, blamed these papers for giving little space to the issues concerning Madhesis and warned to repeat such action in the future.
Commenting on the incident, president of FNJ, Bishnu Nisthuri, told that newspapers couldn’t be discriminatory in disseminating news. "Any thing that has news value or any good event intended for social development is always covered by the newspapers," he added.
Source: http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article-southasia.asp?parentid=49732

Yes Nishthuri is right it is all about news value and editing.
If we see it straight, it is the principle of editing. Singh being a former vice-president of Federation of Nepalese Journalists, Sirha branch must know that news in newspapers, tv, radio, website only appear after different level of omission. There will not be place, time to include all news send by reporters.
But news value is subjective. Biases of journalists might creep in news selection and presentation. It is never simple as it appears.
people even blame poor representation of journalists of Madhese community for not giving spaces to the issues of Madhes in Nepali media.
In a paper titiled, Youth, Media and Peace that K.B. Bhattachan (Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan ?) presented in a seminar organized by Telegraph in 2005, he writes
There are hard evidences that media professionals are often males, mostly from Bahun-Chhetri castes and some from the Newars. Representation of indigenous nationalities, Dalits and Madhesis is nominal. Representation of Madhesi indigenous nationalities and Madhesi Dalits is almost negligible. Lack of representation of indigenous nationalities, Dalits and Madhesis is due to the ideology, policy and practices of Bahunbad ("Brahmanism"), exclusionary system, racial discrimination, and lack of affirmative action. C. K. Lal is of the view that "equal opportunity," specialization/merit and biased recruitment criteria are the main means used by the Bahun-Chhetris to continue their domination in both government and private media.
Source: http://www.nepalnews.com.np/contents/englishweekly/telegraph/2005/jan/jan26/views.htm
Did Nepali media give this much interest in the concerns of Madhese community before? Many people think Kathmandu-centric media looked at the issue of Mahdese’s welfare through the eyes of kathmanduists.
We must think over this. Yet there is still a question. Will representation of Madhese journalists improve the presentation of Madhese issues in Nepali media? Do you have anything to say ?