28 September 2007

Few Aspects of International Nepal Solidarity Network: Interview with Its Creator Sage Radachowsky

By Sage Radachowsky and Harsha Man Maharjan

Sage Radachowsky of Boston, USA created the website, INSN and manages the technical aspects, as well as doing a lot of the editorial work and some original reporting.
Here is unedited interview

Harsha: Hope. INSN got new life after hiatus of few months?

Sage: I think the change in the political situation may be causing renewed interest in INSN activity, including the website. Perhaps the lull inthe process has been broken, with the CPN (M) pulling out of the government.In my personal life, I have been focusing on getting my life in order,and doing my carpentry. I have been dealing with personal life issues,which took all my time, and I could not continue spending time on thewebsite. There were several other people helping greatly with thewebsite, but not all of the time. There was also nobody coming forwardto be a Nepali editor, and because I am not fluent, I could not edit or approve articles in Nepali.There will be an INSN meeting today, which may decide whether thewebsite will revive.

Harsha: Why it was closed at that time?

Sage: It was inactive because of lack of interest among the website team, andtime pressures in everyone's lives to do other work.

Harsha: How INSN came into existence? With what motive?

Sage: INSN came into existence with a meeting in Kathmandu among Nepali andforeign activists who all were interested in democracy and peace. Thereis not a firm and fixed agenda, but there is a general consensus of political views that is large enough to work as a coalition and anetwork for the common causes.

Harsha: Is it a blog or a website?

Sage: It is a website, but it allows comments on the articles, so it may havethe feeling of a blog when there is an active discussion about anarticle. It also has served as a place where documents of all kinds could be found -- from the CPN (M) statements to statements and articles but various NGOs and other organizations.

Harsha: Who were engaged in this website in the beginning?

Sage: Many people in INSN have helped greatly from the beginning. I don't wantto make a list myself, because I would omit many people. But it is surethat Usha Titikshu has provided many photographic essays, and Bela Malikwas instrumental in giving an editorial direction, until her sudden illness one year ago. We also have regular contributors such as Maheswor Shrestha, Pramod Dhakal, and Moti Chamling. For a while, Rewati Sapkotawas providing timely news articles. We have also had help in translating from Nepali to English from several people, and technical help fromseveral people.

Harsha: We know Royal government cut internet connection for about a weekon 1 Feb 2005. http://insn.org/ow INSN could post comments and web links related to the coup next day? How It worked after 1 February 2005?

Sage: I flew out of Kathmandu on the day after the coup, and from Boston andGeneva I was able to make posts related to the royal takeover. I also had exported photographs and information with me in a USB drive. There was a great amount of information about the coup from other sources inthe international media as well, even while the internet was blocked within Nepal. The embassies and UN also had internet connections viasatellite, which helped in getting information from Nepal.

Harsha: How did you take the blocking of website? Did this action popularize the site ?

Sage: We took the road of publicizing the blocking of the website, along with Samudaya.org which was also blocked, to protest about censorship in thepress generally. We stand for freedom of information and freedom of the press, so it is natural that we apply the same principle to our ownwebsite. We also used the numerical IP address of the website() to allow people in Nepal to access the site. Thegovernment of Nepal had forced the internet service providers to blockthe name of the website, but they were not able to block the numeric URL.I think that being censored did popularize the site. This is good,because it proves that censorship does not work easily. If some personor group is speaking truth or providing an open forum for dialogue, thenit is clear that shutting it down is a symptom of autocracy, and it only proves that the emperor has no clothes.

Harsha:How it was operated in time of blocking?

Sage: When the website was blocked, it was operated normally, except that alllinks were changed to the numeric IP address instead of "insn.org ", andwe publicized the numeric address to allow people to view it.

Harsha: Do you think that people forget INSN while speaking about media's role after 1 Feb 2005 Royal coup?

Sage: I don't know. I don't think that the INSN website is a major mediaoutlet about Nepal. I think it has a role and a place as a grassroots outlet for opinions and information, but it is not a major media operation like Kantipur or Samaya or any other publications. In my opinion, it is more for consumption by the international audience, whogets their news about Nepal on the internet, and who also want to see the statements from NGOs and the special photo essays and point of viewof INSN.org.

Harsha: Can you tell us through which process an article goes before it ispublished?

Sage: Some regular writers simply get approved by a single person on thewebsite team. When there is an article from a new author, it may be sentto the INSN website email list for comments from many people, and then there is a general consensus to publish it or not. It is often apractical matter, where whoever receives the article makes their own decision. On occasion, there has been internal controversy after anarticle was published. Then, the article was removed until we had someinternal discussion about it. There is not a single formula, but ingeneral, the INSN.org website publishes many points of view, even when it may not agree with many of the website team's opinions. We prefer topublish and then have discussion, instead of having some kind of "partyline" or single point of view.

Harsha: Tell us about your readers.

Sage: Judging from the comments, readers seem to be many non-resident Nepalis around the world, as well as non-Nepalis who are interested in Nepal.Some seem to be Maoist supporters around the world, while others seem tobe very strong anti-Maoist people. Most seem to be somewhere in the middle, however. There are also many readers who do not post comments,who may work in NGOs or government offices who do work relating toNepal. Many people report in personal communications that they have used INSN.org as a resource in learning more about the situation in Nepal.The website team has been proud of fulfilling this role.

Harsha: Tell us more about INSN team.The INSN.org team is a subgroup of the INSN network.

Sage: There are about 30people on the INSN.org website team, although most of those people donot work actively. Some have worked very actively for a short period of time, and others have provided opinions and comments when they havethem. The website team seems to be about one third Nepalis in Nepal,one third non-resident Nepalis, and one third non-Nepalis both insideand outside Nepal.

INSN.org was banned
Access to this website was blocked in Nepal on 1 July 2005 by the Royal Nepal Army's orders to Internet Service Providers. See RSF statement , INSN.org statement , and Kantipur Online article . We are mirrored at for access in Nepal, if your provider blocks access. This ban was lifted in May 2006 after the partial victory of the People's Movement. If you cannot access INSN.org from your ISP, please call them to ask to unblock access, and let us know, email webmaster@insn.org.


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