06 March 2007

Media Literacy Initiatives in Nepal

By Harsha Man Maharjan

Is there the campaign of Media Literacy in Nepal? Do you heard about this in Nepal? Media literacy tells citizens about the socio-political and economic aspects of media products. It makes citizens aware of media construction of reality and makes them aware of both good and bad aspects of mass media.

Nepali government never paid interest in this kind of campaign. Academic education of Journalism and Mass Media began in 2033 v.s. In the late years of 1980s king Mahendra was experimenting with his so-called one party democracy. No need to doubt that that time the government kept citizens from real facts by bombarding them by government propaganda. Mainstream media were in the control of the government. There was no chance of beginning media literacy in Nepal at that time. Non Government organizations were not powerful at that time. Government sector has not started this campaign even today.

There is only an example from Ngo side. Asmita publication organized media literacy training in 2005 among about 800 women of Morang and Rupendehi districts. It even published a booklet, Upayogi Media: Sakriya Upobhokta(Useful Media: Active Consumer). Asmita named it series no. 1. But 2 never came. The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) funded this project.

Manju Thapa of Asmita thinks Media Literacy is the field that we have to emphasize in Nepal now. But no NGO seems in the front. Asmita even lack funding on this issue. Media experts Vinaya Kasajoo and P. Kharel see the need of the campaign of Media Literacy in Nepal.

In Nepal’s context Media Literacy is important. People have blind faith in Mainstream media these days. This media gave full support to April revolution of 2006. No doubt the King gave these media no other option then to fight back against king’s tyranny. But these media are for profit. They never dare to fight against the interest of media owners and advertisers.

It is right time to inform Nepali citizen about the real nature of media. Media products are always constructs. These products use heads of people with different interests. Even limitations of their technology, economy make these products biased. They prioritize certain belief, ideology etc. Citizens must know how mass media construct reality, what influences media owners and advertisers have in media, why these products are made, the nature of Media: whether they are mainstream or alternative, commercial, community etc. These sorts of media information help citizen to evaluate media products.

The issue of ownership is important. Even government has media in its control. The state media always favor government and criticize its opponents. Citizen must know the limitations of the state media. Private media too have limitations. Now a problem of ownership concentration is evolving. Kantipur Publication owns radio, tv, online. This is also related to cross media ownership. With out studying the need assessment and consequences, recently government has given license to Kantipur to start five FM radio station of 1 kw each in Birgunj, Nepalgunj, Bharatpur, Pokhara and Butawal. Accumulating this much power in a media organizations is bad for democracy. As Ben Bagdikian says in his book, The New Media Monopoly, media power is political power.

One can question: Kantipur Publication, Kantipur FM, Kantipur Television Network, kantipur Online are separate media organizations. They might appear so. But in reality they are under one organization. Please visit its website Kantipuronline. They are kept under one organization. http://www.kantipuronline.com/aboutus.php
Nepali citizens must know this fact. Media literacy informs them about the chances of assaults from mass media. Actually this makes Nepali citizen active and helps in democratization of Nepali polity.

Lack of Government organizations and NGOs’ interest in Media literacy movement shows that they want to leave Nepali people vulnerable to assaults of media. These organizations knowingly and unknowingly are conniving with these media. They don’t want to empower Nepali citizens.

In global level media literacy began in 1960s. In some countries it begins from kindergarten to 12 class. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_literacy

Now we have no other way. Government Organizations and Ngos must begin the campaign of Media Literacy as training or media education.

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