Sunday, December 29, 2013

Assault on Female Journalist: A Blow to the Press Freedom in Ukraine

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Ukraine was in the international headlines last week for the massive and widespread protests against president Victor Yanukovich for scrapping a deal with EU.

Looking back nostalgically to my student life in the former Soviet Union,  I fondly remember  my six months of stay in Ukrainian cities of Odessa and Donetsk respectively during my preparatory faculty for learning Russian. Besides Odessa and Donetsk, I had the opportunity to visit some other Ukrainian cities: Kiev, Voroshilovgrad, Vinnitsa and Zhdanov etc.

Many former Soviet republics including Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan etc have been vulnerable to abuse of journalists. A number of journalists have been murdered ruthlessly in Russia and fatal assaults on journalists still continue in Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Uzbekistan and so on.

After the downfall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has seen a lot of vicissitudes in political, socio-economic and journalistic sectors.

But I was particularly concerned by the news stories about a Ukrainian female journalist who was savagely beaten recently in suburb Kiev.

Tatyana Chornovol suffered attacks because of what she wrote. The intention of the perpetrators is palpable: Do not write anything against the government and its corrupt ministers or else there will be consequences.

The perpetrators wrongly think that through terror and intimidation, they will silence the journalists. Unfortunately, this has not happened so far. Many journalists have even sacrificed their lives for the cause of truth, for dignity of journalism.

According to the New York Times (Dec 26, 2013), "just hours before she was ambushed, Ms Chornovol published a blog post about a 'country manor' being constructed for Ukraine's embattled Interior Minister, Vitaly Zakharenko, in the village of Pidhirtsi."

There is no doubt that the brutal assault on a Ukrainian female journalist is a cruel blow to the press freedom in Ukraine. Stern action against the perpetrators will provide some solace or justice to Tatyana.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gorkha Bharat Jeevan and Moti Ram Bhatta

By Rabin Man Shakya. Ph D
Former Lecturer of Journalism at Peoples Campus, RR Campus

When there is no freedom of expression and no press freedom owing to the repressive and authoritarian nature of the rulers, the newspapers and magazines have to be brought out either illegally or have to be printed abroad, or the publications will be able to play only sycophantic and lapdog role.

That was exactly what happened in the Czarist Russia. Lack of press freedom during the Czarist regime in Russia prompted Alexander Herzen and Nikolai Ogarev to launch "Kolokol" (the bell) the first Russian censorship-free weekly newspaper published in London (1857-1865) and Geneva (1865-1867).

Therefore, absence of freedom of expression and press freedom and fear of Rana autocracy were the reasons that prompted some of the progressive-minded Nepalese intellectuals to start journalistic activities not from within Nepal, but from abroad.

Actually, the history of emergence and growth of Nepalese journalism is interrelated with the activities of the Nepalese immigrants in British India.

The founder of the Nepalese journalism is considered to be Moti Ram Bhatta, a Nepali poet, who brought out the first Nepali monthly publication "Gorkha Bharat Jeevan" in the year 1886 AD.

The magazine "Gorkha Bharat Jeevan" which was a monthly literary magazine was printed at Bharat Jeevan Press, Banaras in British India. Although, it was launched by Moti Ram Bhatta, the editor of the magazine was Ram Krishna Varma.

One of the first Nepalese advertisements was related to Gorkha Bharat Jeevan which was published on the cover of "Gorkha Hasya Manjari" also printed by the Bharat Jeevan press in Banaras in 1888.

Since "Gorkha Bharat Jeevan" was the first and pioneering publication venture by the Nepalese in India, there is no doubt that this magazine championed the cause of enhancing and enriching the Nepali language.

Was it a historical compulsion or just a mere coincidence that the first Nepali magazine was brought out from British India?

Given the authoritarian and repressive nature of the Rana regime, it was just futile to expect of a first publication from Nepal, just as it was not possible for Herzen and Ogarev to bring out first censorship-free Russian publication "Kolokol" from Czarist Russia.

*I value your opinion.Please provide your feedback by posting a comment below.
**Shakya is also State Education Director, NRNA-USA Oregon Chapter, Portland, USA.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

While in Rome, Do as the Romans Do.

By Rabin Man Shakya

Yesterday, I read a story in the New York Times, under the headline "Outrage in India, and Retaliation, Over a Female Diplomat's Arrest in New York" which begins in the following lead: "The way an Indian diplomat was treated by law enforcement officials in New York last week has touched off a furor in India, where politicians from across the political spectrum expressed outrage and the New Delhi police retaliated by removing security barriers that were meant to protect the American Embassy.

The New York Times story detailed about the diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, the deputy consul general in New York being arrested last Thursday and accused of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her house-keeper and paying the house-keeper far less than the minimum legal wage.

The news made big headlines in Indian mass media as well as in the US media. According to the news, the female Indian diplomat was strip-searched after her arrest, and that she was kept in a holding cell with drug addicts before she was released on $250,000 bail.

Do like what Romans do, while in Rome, goes the century-old saying. Why do rich and powerful people from South Asia keep committing the same mistakes in the US over and over again? I remember Darshan Rauniyar, a Nepali-American, who ran for a congressman seat in the US primaries from Seattle, made the same mistake a couple of years ago.

Law enforcement is very strict in the US; it is not like in Nepal and India where the powerful leaders and tycoons can get away with anything. People living in the US know about it, but even then they keep screwing up again and again.

But, I must say that I was stunned, surprised, and disappointed by what I have learned from the NYT times story, that the Indian female diplomat was handcuffed on the street as she was leaving her daughter at school, that she was strip-searched and that she was kept in a holding cell with drug addicts. This is high-handedness on the part of the law enforcers.

The bottom line of this saga: Hey rich and powerful guys from South Asia, do not dream of hiring Naukers and Naukranis here in the US like in your countries.  

Lottery Makes Big News, at Least in US

By Rabin Man Shakya

News is a piece of information on any incident and accident that is timely, that interests or affects a large number of people in a society or the nation or the world. Dog bites man, no story: Man bites dog, story.

Does the lottery make any news? Not in countries like Nepal and India. But lotteries are big news in countries like the US.

Still , when I worked as a lecturer of journalism in Kathmandu, before moving to the US, I never imagined that lotteries are such big sources of news even though some US journalism textbooks mentioned it.

The prominent lotteries in the US are Mega Million and Power Ball. The Power Ball starts with a $40 million jackpot and Mega Million with $15 million. And if they keep rolling over, it can even reach one billion dollars.

Tuesday's Mega Million jackpot of $648 million was Mega Million's second biggest ever after the 656 million won by three ticket holders in March 2012.

Tuesday's Mega Million jackpot of $648 was won by two people; one in Georgia and one in California.

And the interesting thing about the last Mega Million jackpot is: the sellers of the tickets, the owners of the convenient stores, are also to get one million dollar each for selling the winning jackpot tickets.

The reason that the lotteries make big news is because of the colossal amounts involved in it.

"Lottery fever runs sky-high," "Georgia woman claims half of $648 million mega jackpot" ran the headlines recently in the USA Today.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Media: Watchdogs and Lapdogs

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism, Peoples Campus and RR Campus, TU.

Journalists across the world are facing threats and intimidation for what they write. It has become a common thing for journalists to get minatory words from corrupt politicians and tycoons.

Yes, journalists are trailblazers. The proud representatives of the Fourth Estate provide people with necessary news, views and feedback for the common benefit of the society, community and the nation as a whole.

In fact, a media person is part of an operation that could be confronted by multiplicity of challenges and issues. Because  journalists are formulators and disseminators of news and views, they have a great responsibility towards the people, civic society and the nation.

Despite all the challenges, journalists champion the cause of the common people, society and the nation. And, of course, the threatening behavior and minatory words of the corrupt politicians and tycoons do not have any kind of negative impact on the true and honest journalists who always play the watchdog role.

There were and still there are lots of examples where the victims of accidents or disputes have been rescued with the help of journalists and media outlets, where reporters took up the gauntlet against injustice, corruption and different kinds of malpractices rampant in the society.

Well, there are good things as well as bad, good people and bad ones. In journalism sector too, not all media people are trustworthy. There are some journalists who misuse the profession. Media's power to bully people who have broken no law is dangerous to all of us. Media outlets and journalists do not have the right to become 'police' or judge. That is why there were no dearth of cases when yellow press faced a journalistic reckoning.

In case of Nepal's journalism, there is still a journalistic stigma attached to the weekly newspaper journalism, as many of them are brazenly pro-corrupt leaders and tycoons thereby playing the lapdog role.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Kamaal of Drones

By Rabin Man Shakya

Drones were and are still widely used by the CIA to kill the jihadists. It looks like the US has the strategic plans to wage and win a battle against the jihadists with the help of the drones.

Drone fired missiles have so far killed a number of al-Qaeda leaders and other prominent jihadists. The killings of some prominent jihadists accomplished an important task for the drone warfare although the US has been castigated domestically and internationally for the drone activities. That is because a number of innocent people have also been killed by the drone strike as a result of failure of intended target.

Drones are used by other security agencies for spying activities and eavesdropping.

Drones have different capabilities and potentialities in different sectors.

That's why Inc. was in the headlines not long ago for the idea of selling the drones.

Wah-re-wah, the kamaal of drones!

Even the journalists and media people are exploring the drones' news gathering potential!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Is It an Example of British-Style Press Freedom?

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Is it a British-style press freedom for a government to intimidate and put pressure on an editor for publishing materials leaked by Edward J. Snowden, a former US security analyst now self-exiled in Russia?

A news story published in the New York Times under the headline "Editor Describes Pressure After Leaks by Snowden" on Dec 4, 2013 has raised questions about the limitations of press freedom  in one of the most democratic country in the world - Britain.

According to the NYT news story, Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, said that the governments' measures "include prior restraint," as well as visits by officials to his office, the forced destruction of Guardian computer discs with power tools and repeated calls from lawmakers "asking police to prosecute the Guardian for disclosing the classified materials in news articles."

Well, freedom of press has been disputed and contradicted since modern printing press began in the 15th century, because printed words have great power to influence people.

Yet, no one disputes that the Guardian's top editor was pressured and intimidated by the British government for his genuine and true journalistic venture.

Today, this great power of words is greater and more effective than ever because of ubiquitous activities of the mass media, social media and the internet juggernauts.

Different kinds of governments place different kinds of limits on the press. There is no doubt about the maneuverings of authoritarian and communist regimes to limit the press freedom. But even the Western democratic countries too believe the power of words could be used to oppose them.

The recent activities of the British government vis-a-vis the Guardian newspaper demonstrates the truth that even the democratic governments have taken some kind of control of the press to use it in their own interests.

Alan Rusbridger suffered intimidation and harassment because of what the Guardian wrote.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

UCPN-Maoists' Utopian Arrogance Shattered

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Dismal performance in the elections or just the show of public hatred for Maoists? Either way, the leaders as well as the activists of the UCPN-Maoists are reeling from the results of the Constituent Assembly elections held peacefully recently in Nepal.

The entire CA elections has been unfairly castigated by the UCPN-Maoists. The statements of the UCPN-M leaders about ostracizing and boycotting the CA elections after the defeat is palpable nonsense. UCPN-M has so far been taking one after another contradictory decisions after the election fiasco. On Monday, it has decided to take part in the newly elected CA. In fact, the knee-jerk reactions shown by the Maoists on the election verdict was totally inappropriate and unsubstantiated. This is a testimony that the UCPN-M is not serious about the election verdict and people's mandate.

The election verdict falls in line with the discontent and disillusionment of the people with the Maoists. There is also utopian arrogance  at Parisdanda that justifies any deeds or misdeeds of the Maoist leaders. That utopian arrogance has been shattered. UCPN-M has to learn and re-learn from the mistakes, from the misdeeds, from the defeat. One has to accept the people's verdict. Thus, UCPN-M needs to do some soul-searching of their weaknesses and shortcomings and come up with honest plans, programs and strategies.

It needs no telling that the present election and non-political government was created with the support of UCPN-M and political parties across the broader political spectrum. However, through this election, the people of Nepal loudly spoke for the idea that geography, not the ethnicity, should be used to divide the country into zones. And through the verdict the people also showed their support to continue with the parliamentary system of governance, and not the presidential system.

However, some Maoist supporters have wrongly commented in the social media sites that UCPN-M's election fiasco is a part of a grand design to destabilize Nepal,

Now that the much-awaited second CA election has been conducted peacefully and successfully with more voters turnout so far (more than 70 percent of eligible voters), the people are expecting that the new constitution has to be delivered as pledged by the leaders and parties so that the Nepalese people can be successfully extricated from the pains and worries of the lingering political transition.

The political stalwarts have to prove their mettle, earn the lost self-respect, trustworthiness and take up the vital responsibilities. This can be justified only when the political parties are able to give the people a new constitution.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

News Travels Faster on the Internet

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya

It goes without saying that news travels faster on the Internet than than on any means of mass media. I remember when I was in the former Soviet Union for ten years (1979-1989), the news used to travel very slowly, much more slower than today's generation can imagine.

The Soviet authorities had tight control over the print as well as electronic media. TV news program "Vremya" (Time) and "Segodnya V Mire" (World Today) broadcast international news, albeit with communist bias. And foreign radio stations like BBC were virtually jammed by the Soviet authorities all the time.

I remember I used to be so much excited when I found a small piece of news about Nepal in the Soviet newspapers Pravda, Izvestia, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Trud or Zarubejhom etc. But that happened once in the blue moon.

Even during those Cold War days, the Soviet newspapers Pravda and Izvestia etc were sold in newspaper kiosks in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Geneva, Brussels etc. I saw the Soviet newspapers on sale in Western capitals with my own eyes. But no Western newspapers were allowed to be sold in the former Soviet Union.
But the mouthpiece of US Communist Party "Peoples' World" and British Communist Party newspaper "Morning Star" were available at the newspaper kiosks in the big cities of the former Soviet Union. As I craved for international news, I used to buy and read "Peoples' World" and "Morning Star".

Far from home and the motherland, I always yearned for home news and other information from Nepal. But sometimes time went by so fast and I did not see hide nor hair of Nepal news for months. Today, news on Nepal and the whole world is just a click away.

Today's younger generation gets more news and more information more quickly on their i-phones, laptops, notebooks or tablets than we ever could have imagined. Well, better later than never, as the saying goes.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

News Corp's Advertising Revenue Also on the Decline

By Rabin Man Shakya

Lately.  American newspaper industry is plagued by continuous decline in advertising revenue. The major chunk of newspaper industry's advertising revenue has been diverted to internet juggernauts and social media behemoths.

News Corporation, global media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's powerful and affluent media empire could not remain untouched by the internet and social media onslaught.

Throwing light on the News Corporation's revenue falls, the New York Times quoting the Reuters reported on Nov 12, 2013:"The News Corporation, controlled by Rupert Murdoch, reported a steeper-than-expected 3 percent decline in revenue in the first quarter that it was split from Fox, its more profitable sibling entertainment business."

The NYT story under the headline "News Corp. Revenue Falls Well Short of Forecasts" went on to say:" A steep drop in Australian newspapers took its toll on the company, which publishes The Wall Street Journal and The Times of London. News Corporation said net income attributable to common shareholders was $27 million for the quarter ended Sept 30, the first of its fiscal year.That compared with a loss of $92 million in the same quarter last year."

"Shares of the company fell more than 2 percent in after-hours trading on disappointment over the $2.07 billion revenue figure, which missed a Thompson Reuters forecast for $2.2 billion in revenue", added the NYT story.

Even the Wall Street Journal said in a news story on Nov 12, 2013:"The results highlight how newspaper publishers continue to grapple with a steady decline in print advertising revenue, as advertisers and readers defect to the Web."

Well, the challenges facing the newspaper industry in the advanced countries like US, Britain, Canada, Australia and so on are indeed formidable, since the fourth estate in these countries has to compete with the emerging but already ubiquitous fifth estate (social media).

It looks like the newspaper industry in the advanced countries  is fighting a losing battle against the social media.

The newspaper industry in these advanced countries was on the crest of a wave until the first decade of the 21-st century.

The newspaper industry of developing countries like Nepal, is, however, still safe from the social media and blog journalism, although they are already making inroads in the Nepalese journalism.

Well,  the equation may change in favour of the social media and blog journalism even in countries like Nepal on the third decade of this century, if laptops, tablets and i-phones become cheap and ubiquitous.

Nepali Journalism, Nepal Pukar and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

Who was the first chairman of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists ? Who was the first and last Nepali journalist to take an interview with  late Nikita Khrushchev, the then general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) ?

The answers of both the questions are late Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, the former prime minister of Nepal and one of the senior leaders of Nepali Congress, popularly known as Kisunji among the rank and file of the Nepali Congress.

Actually, speaking of the history of Nepalese journalism, absence of conducive political conditions and fear of omnipotent Ranas had prompted some of the progressive-minded Nepalese intellectuals to start the journalistic activities not from within the territory of Nepal, but from abroad.

Although publications like Gorkhapatra, Sudha Sagar, Sharada, Gharelu Ilam Patrika, Udyog etc were published in Nepal during the Rana period, political materials were not allowed to be published in those publications.

Obviously, political reporting was prohibited in Nepal until the Rana regime was toppled down in 1951. Political journalism kicked off in Nepal after the political change in 1951. The political parties were well aware about the usefulness and influence of the print media. Therefore, a number of political parties started launching the newspapers.

Newspapers like Nepal Pukar and Nava Nepal were being published by the Nepali Congress while Nepal Communist Party started publishing the newspaper Nava Yug, just to mention few of them.

The importance that the Nepali Congress gave to the print media can easily be extrapolated by the fact that senior party leader Krishna Prasad Bhattarai was made the editor of the newspaper "Nepal Pukar"

 By the same token, Bhattarai was the first president and founder of the Fedaration of Nepalese Journalists, the umbrella organization of the Nepalese journalists, which was then called the Nepal Journalists Association.

Late Bhattarai was one of the members of the Nepalese journalists delegation that visited the former Soviet Union in 1957. It was during this visit that late Bhattarai took an interview with late Nikita Khrushchev, the former powerful general secretary of the then CPSU, becoming one of the first few foreign journalists to interview the top Communist leader of that time.

* I value your opinion. Please provide your feedback by posting a comment below.
**Shakya is also State Education Director, NRNA-USA Oregon Chapter, Portland, USA.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jung Bahadur Rana and Giddhe Chhapakhana

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism at Peoples Campus, RR Campus, TU.

There is no doubt that the newspapers and the printing press have some kind of 'symbiotic' inter-relations. Although digital journalism is making inroads in newspaper industry, print journalism is here to stay.

Speaking of the printing press and history of Nepalese journalism, the preliminary accounts  of Nepal's journalistic chronicles demonstrate the fact that the first Rana prime minister Jung Bahadur Rana upon return from his Britain visit had brought with him a hand printing press in 1851.

It is to be noted that the Ranas came to power after Jung Bahadur Rana successfully orchestrated a coup d' etat in 1846. The autocratic rule of Rana oligarchy lasted for more than a century (1846-1951).During the period of century-old Rana rule, Nepal was Britain's sycophantic ally and was a big supplier of Nepalese manpower for the British colonial army.

True, no newspapers and magazines were published in Nepal during Jung Bahadur Rana's regime. Nepal's first weekly newspaper "Gorkhapatra" had to wait for liberal Rana prime minister Dev Shumshere Rana to be published in 1901. But Jung Bahadur Rana had laid the foundation for printing activities, even though it was limited to printing of government notices and orders.

Obviously, that was the era of colonialism. Almost all the countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America were colonized by either Britain, France, Spain or Portugal. More liberal political and educational activities were allowed in the colonized countries than in 'uncolonized' Nepal and more importantly the colonized countries were not politically isolated like Nepal.

What made the Ranas not to permit the people to participate in political and social activities was the specter that it would politically awaken the people. Hence, the Nepalese were not only deprived of civil liberty and right to form organizations, but all those means of mass communications that might make them politically aware of their rights were also not allowed.

Prior to the usurpation of power by the Ranas, Nepal had conflicts with British India. If Anglo-Nepalese war of 1814-16 in the words of Karl Marx "opened the door for dealings of England with Nepal, the political coup d' etat orchestrated by Jung Bahadur Rana whom Marx called "the loyal dog of the British" meant the coming in power of the feudal family being obedient instrument and socio-political support for British colonizers in implementing expansionist plans in this region.

So what could have prompted Jung Bahadur Rana to bring the printing press to Nepal ? To promote printing activities in Nepal ? Nope. Judging by the parochial  and feudal attitudes of the Rana hardliners, it was unlikely that Jung Bahadur wanted to promote printing activities in Nepal. There can be no doubt whatsoever about it. Maybe, it was a part of diverse luxuries of the Rana rulers and vain pomposity. Since other means of mass communication like radios, photo cameras, libraries and books were also confined to the limits of Rana families and their loyal sycophants as part of luxuries, this assumption looks like valid.

Hence, it was surprising to note that Jung Bahadur had brought  a hand printing press from England visit. This hand printing machine was called "Giddhe Chhapakhana" (Vulture Press) named after the symbol it bore.

*I value your opinion. Please provide your feedback by posting a comment below.
**Shakya is also State Education Director, NRNA-USA Oregon Chapter, Portland, USA.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

CBS in International Headlines for Erroneous Report

By Rabin Man Shakya

Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), one of the prominent US television networks, is in international headlines for the erroneous report on the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.

According to an AP news report, CBS News admitted Friday it was wrong to trust a "60 Minutes" source who claimed to be at 2012 attack on the US mission on Benghazi.

"60 Minutes" is one of the most popular TV news documentary program in US. "60 Minutes" has been able to bag 42 Emmys, six George Foster Peabody Awards, two George Polk Memorial Awards, 10 Alfred I. dupont-Columbia University Awards, and one Christopher Award.

However, speaking of Benghazi report, the source mentioned in the CBS story Dylan Davies, a former security contractor, was giving totally conflicting, misleading and concocted details leading up to Benghazi catastrophe.

A story under the headline "CBS to Correct Erroneous Report on Benghazi" was published in the New York Times on Nov 9, 2013. The story says:"As it prepared to broadcast a rare on-air correction Sunday for a now-discredited '60 Minutes' report, CBS News acknowledged on Friday that it had suffered a damaging blow to its credibility. Its top executive called the segment 'as big a mistake as there has been' in the 45-year-old history of the celebrated news program."

According to the NYT story, "The executive, Jeff Fager, conceded that CBS appeared to have been duped by the primary source for the report, a security official who told a national television audience a harrowing tale of the attack last year at the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya."

The NYT news story went on to say:"On Thursday night it was disclosed that the official, Dylan Davies, had provided a completely different account in interviews with FBI, in which he said he never made it to the mission that night."

Now it is obvious that, unfortunately, CBS and its "60 Minutes" have become a victim of a wrong and misleading "source".

Yes, the Oct 27 story on "60 Minutes" was focused on Benghazi catastrophe, and the wrong and misleading "source" was interviewed with much more fanfare by its correspondent, Lara Logan. At that time, the "60 Minutes" had created a big sensation in the American media. But that sensation cost CBS dear and now it had to issue a public mea culpa for the journalistic blunder.

The bottom line of the CBS fiasco is: You have to double check the credibility and authenticity of the primary "source" before going to air or print.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Two French Reporters: Latest Victims of Islamofascists

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Two French reporters Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlone, journalists with Radio France Internationale were gunned down while carrying out a reporting assignment on Saturday in Mali. The assassination of the journalists took place in troubled northern city of Kidal. The two French journalists were the latest victims of the Islamic terrorists.

Killings of journalists by Islamofascists pose a serious threat in conflict-ridden countries like Mali, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and many other Arab and Muslim countries. It is to be noted that more than 600 journalists have been killed across the world within the period of  the last decade.

Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb may not be happy with  the modus operandi of the international journalists. Yes, the French journalists suffered fatal assault because of what they broadcast or were going to. Carrying out fatal and heinous assault on the media people by the Islamofascists is a huge issue and it should be seriously taken care not only by the concerned governments but also by the international community.

More often than not, the motive of the killing of journalists is to instill fear on the reporters not to do reporting about the relevant issues. Likewise, the other motive for killings could be for the in-depth, investigative stories already published or broadcast by the reporters about the corrupt, dishonest people as well as the terrorists and criminals.

Meanwhile, Associated Press reported from Mali on Nov 5, "French troops who found the bodies of two slain French radio journalists in northern Mali followed footprints in the sand near the corpses to their abductors, part of a search that eventually led to five arrests Monday, a Mali military official said."

There is no doubt the killing of two French journalists underscored Mali's reputation as one of the most dangerous  countries for the international journalists. Journalists, media organizations and facebookers across the world have condemned the killings as a cruel blow to press freedom and demanded stern action against the perpetrators. This is outrageous and unacceptable, they spoke out against the killings of the French journalists in the social media sites.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Journalists And Carte Blanche

By Rabin Man Shakya

"The tabloid The News of the World, now defunct, hacked into Prince Harry's cell phone in 2005 to write an article about how he had sought help from his private secretary, a former member of the military, to prepare a term paper for officers' school at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the jury in Britain's phone hacking trial heard on Friday." This is an intro of a news story of the New York Times under the headline "Tabloid Hacked Prince's Phone, Jury Is Told" published on Nov 2, 2013.

According to another Associated Press story, former News of the World editors Rebeccah Brooks and Andy Coulson, both 45; Brook's husband Charles, and five former staff of Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers are on trial in the first major criminal case spawned by the revelation in 2011 that employees of the tabloid eavesdropped on the voice mails of celebrities, politicians, top athletes and even crime victims.

Likewise, under the headline "China Newspaper Recants on Arrest", a Wall Street Journal news story dated Oct 28, 2013 said that a Chinese newspaper that had called for authorities to release one of its reporters issued a front-page apology after state TV showed him confessing to bribery charges.

The WSJ news story went on to say:"The reporter, Chen Yongzhen of the New Express newspaper, said he had accepted bribes to publish fabricated stories about one of China's largest construction-equipment makers."

These journalistic misconducts and misdeeds are just the tip of the ice berg. They are there in the Communist China, they are there are there in democratic Britain.  Even BBC, the omnipresent and ubiquitous broadcasting juggernaut, is not free from the stigma and misconduct of its journalists.

Revelations of this kind of news are on the rise although the majority of the journalists across the world are working hard to keep the integrity of the profession.

These kind of  'news' have raised questions about the deviation and degeneration of journalists which could be detrimental to the very name of the profession, referred to as the proud representatives of the Fourth Estate. Just because someone is a journalist does not mean that he or she has impunity. In this context, the old saying "People who live in glass houses should not throw stones" rings absolutely true.

Journalists should always remember the code of conduct written for them. Obviously, the name "journalist" does not give anybody carte blanche to write or to do whatever one likes to.

Yes, to be an honest and true journalist is a  matter of great respect and admiration. Journalists should believe in truthful write-ups. They should be unbiased and impartial in their stories. They can not get away with anything they do or write.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why Is Nepalese Media Deeply Polarized ?

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism, Peoples Campus and RR Campus, TU.

Even though there are zealots at either end of the political spectrum in the United States, majority of the people here consider something other than politics their top priority.And polarization of journalism is not a big issue here, not as alarming as in South Asian countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Nepalese media is deeply polarized because of over-politicization, lack of professionalism, parochial perspectives and financial constraints.

Some Nepalese newspapers are cheerleaders of the political parties and politicians to grind their 'selfish' ax. Just as educational sector, sports, health, trade unions, women's movement, human rights organizations etc, Nepalese press was and is still heavily plagued by 'over-politicization'.

In fact, journalism in Nepal is characterized by loyalty to different political stalwarts  and, therefore, the challenges facing the Nepalese press, in this respect, is indeed formidable.

Do the political stalwarts in Nepal have some kind of 'chutzpah' to 'disown' the newspapers to pave the way for de-polarization? The political parties can figure it out and can even make a political breakthrough for de-polarization of media if they all put their cards on the table. But for right now, it will be futile to expect anything from our politicos 'cause they have done nothing for the good of the people, so far.

With the date for election of the Constituent Assembly slated for November 19, the nation is witnessing even more polarization of the press along the political line.Media and social media will be utilized for election purpose by political parties to the full extent.

While some broadsheet Nepalese dailies are doing brisk business, a number of weekly newspapers are facing financial problems. While the need for help to the Nepalese weekly newspaper journalism is palpable, but we must also address the broader professional problems plaguing our journalism: incompetence, irresponsibility, over-sensationalization, lack of credibility etc.

Actually, the branding of the media personnel as the sycophants of the political parties is not a good omen for the development of a truly free press in Nepal. Is party affiliation doing any good to the Nepalese media? Nope. Then why some newspapers are so subservient to the political parties? Why do some journalists publish sycophantic stories and write-ups to curry favor from the political stalwarts and business tycoons? Why are the newspapers not sincere to the people? These newspapers are earning notoriety by becoming the media lapdogs.

Therefore, journalists should be able to rise above their political perspectives, should be able to discard the political parochialism.

However, Nepalese journalists associated with the big daily newspapers think they are more professional, more impartial and more free. They forget one thing (perhaps they know) that all journalists are forced to toe a certain line. Can they use their pen against the respective media tycoons if in case they are found committing some irregularities? Nope.

The umbrella organization of the Nepalese journalists - Federation of Nepalese  Journalists -  which is supposed to play a constructive and epitomizing role in de-polarization of journalism is itself entangled into the political tug-of- war.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Kenyan Journos Come Under Threat From Authorities"

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Press freedom is the cornerstone of democracy. It is a hallmark of democracy. Democracy cannot sustain itself without a free press, while press freedom  can be guaranteed only in a democratic dispensation.

Thus press freedom and democracy are symbiosis to each other as one cannot function and flourish in the absence of the other.Speaking of the press freedom, my attention was grabbed  by a news story about Kenya in the New York Times recently.

Kenya is  among a few countries in Africa which can boast of a free media. I have never been to Kenya, but I have come across  a number of Kenyans, both journalists as well as non-journalists. I will write about them in a separate blog story.

Kenya is in the international headlines ever since the last month's Westgate mall attack. But there was a different news story in the New York Times about Kenya on October 25, 2013, though it still was related to the Westgate mall attack.

The New York Times news story under the headline "Kenya assails coverage of an attack on a mall" detailed about how Kenyan journalists came under threat this week from the Kenyan authorities over their coverage of last month's Westgate mall attack, after video suggesting possible looting by Kenyan forces was broadcast on national TV.

NYT news story went on to say: "Kenya's criminal-investigations police unit on Thursday summoned three senior Kenyan media figures involved with a popular investigative TV news program. It ran an hour long special last week, and again this week, raising questions about the government's response to the siege, with footage of Kenyan security agents seemingly looking through mall merchandise while searching for th attackers who stormed the mall and killed more than 60 people."

According to the NYT story, Kenya's inspector general, David Kimaiyo, lashed out more broadly at news coverage of the investigation into the Westgate attack, claiming that the news reports were meant to provoke and incite negative opinions of the country's security forces.

The New York Times story added: " The Committee to Protect Journalists described Wednesday's police statement and Thursday's summoning of the media figures as the kind of 'forced patriotism' that was  'potentially a sign of downward spiral of press freedom' in Kenya."

Oh, well, what can I say, except that, threats and intimidation to journalists, wherever in the world, is outrageous and unacceptable.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Social Media: A Tool To Grind Ax?

By Rabin Man Shakya

I am more than sure social media will explode with comments, reactions and photos about the second election of Nepal for the Constituent Assembly slated for November 19.

Use of social media for politician-people contacts is very high in advanced countries like US, UK, Canada, Germany etc. However, for reasons best known to our politicians, the use of information technology for reaching out to the people is very low in Nepal.

In US, for example, use of Twitters and Facebook by lawmakers for establishing a close rapport with the people is ever on the rise. 60 percent of Oregon's House Republicans and 43 percent of Oregon's House Democrats have Twitter accounts.

Speaking of the forthcoming Nepal vote, on the one hand, activists have begun to use social media to agitate against the dishonest and opportunistic politicians. On the other, the liberal-minded users of the information technology have started to campaign for the effective use of social media for creating election awareness.

Meanwhile, Nepalese political parties and their stalwarts have very well understood the importance of media as well as social media and their effects and impact on voters.

It has been reported that, for the purpose of election publicity and propaganda, a number of Nepalese political parties have officially endorsed the policy of using social media to the maximum extent. However, analysts say the political parties have an ax to grind for using social media for or against the political nemesis or allies.

It has also been reported that different kinds of web sites have been created for election publicity and propaganda. Therefore, there is no doubt about the 'ubiquitous' use as well as misuse of social media for election purpose. However, politicos should not wash their dirty linen in public by using the social media.

However, with social media deeply embedded with the educated-urban people, it is hoped the social media will enable to increase the election awareness, to reduce the election-related violence, election irregularities and gerrymandering.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dashain Party in Portland

By Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepa Chhen

A potluck reception was organized at Nekusing Memorial Theater, West Coast Hollywood Taekwondo  in Portland, Oregon to celebrate Happy Bijaya Dashami or Mohani Nakha. About 100 people from different walks of life from among the Nepali diaspora attended the reception.

In fact, Nepal is a land of festivals. Festivals are the important factors that enliven the Nepalese culture. They have added to the cultural richness of Nepal. Nepal possesses diverse and rich cultural contents.

Dashain, Mohani Nakha or Bijaya Dashami, whatever we call it, is the most important  cultural event for the Nepalese, more so for the Nepalese living abroad.  This is the solemn occasion for the Nepalese community across the world to have a gathering or reception.

The culture of any country is reflected in the way of living and lifestyle of the people. Actually, culture is the identity of a nation and its people.

In today's age of globalization, the Nepalese have reached virtually each and every country of the world for different purposes. But wherever they go, they strive to preserve and safeguard their culture by celebrating the cultural events in different ways.

Taking a trip down memory lane, I remember celebrating the Dashain as a student in the former Soviet Union in the 1980s. That was in Minsk, the capital of Belorussia. The Dashain reception organized by the Nepalese Students Association in Minsk usually was  followed by a cultural program by a Nepalese students rock group "Ranko".

Speaking of the potluck reception organized in Portland, it was a grand succes as always. There were plenty of food, songs, dances and music. Tika was also offered on the occasion by a senior most and septuagenarian Nepali lady in Portland. As I am, kind of, in a yearly mourning, my family could not accept the Tika, but we enjoyed the Dashain evening. The live performance on the occasion by a Nepali rock group in Portland "Maka" was pretty commendable.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

All the Statuses Are Not Quo

By Rabin Man Shakya, Ph D

In one of my previous blog stories, I had mentioned that I stayed ten years in the former USSR doing my Masters and PhD in Journalism. Although most my years in the former Soviet Union were spent in Minsk, capital of Belorussia, I had the opportunity to travel across the Soviet Union.

As everybody knows the former Communist Super Power consisted of 15 Soviet republics and among them I was able to take trips to eight of 'em: Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Moldavia. But that's not what I am going to write about.

In 1987, I got an opportunity to be in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. I remember I stayed in Makhachkala at one of the hostels of Dagestan State University.

I remember meeting some interesting people on my travel to Makhachkala and visiting some places of interest. I remember meeting the assistant dean of the Philology Faculty of the DSU. Likewise, I remember going to the beach of Caspian Sea and visiting Makhachkala Grand Mosque.

Travelling back to my youthful time, I remember Makhachkala was such a peaceful city during the Soviet period.

Things keep changing. All the statuses are not quo especially after the collapse of the communist empire. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge of river Volga. ( I saw river Volga when I was in the city of Kazan in 1985  and also was in Sochi in 1986.)

Meanwhile, under the headline "A Russian Region neither at War Nor At Peace, But Facing a Crackdown", the New York Times reported  on Oct.10, 2013 from Makhachkala: "The region not exactly at war but never having achieved peace is mired in what resembles a Latin American style dirty war, a conflict that is strung out and low grade, and rife with abuses. Abductions have been a signature, if unacknowledged, element of Russia's anti-insurgency tactics for years."

The New York Times news story detailed the increasing violence, abductions and disappearances of the people. The news story added:"The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are still four months away, but resdents of this city, the capital of Dagestan, say they have been feeling the effects for months. The Russian authorities determined not to have the festivities marred by a terrorist attack, are clamping down on the seething North Caucasus region-- which lies uncomfortably close to the Olympic city--picking up people suspected of being militants and detaining them without charges, HR activists say."

There is no doubt that Dagestan has witnessed a lot of vicissitudes after the fall of the Communist power house.  There was that horrible Dagestan massacre that took place in 1999. On Dec 15, 2011, Gadhimurat Kamalov, an investigative journalist and founder of independent "Chernovik" newspaper shot dead in an apparent assassination. The origin of Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are also from Dagestan.

Oh, well, what can we say? Things have their own way of happening, though precautionary and timely measures can prevent many man-made catastrophies.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

May Some Wisdom Dawn on Our Politicos

By Rabin Man Shakya

So many editorials and op-ed articles have been published in the Nepalese newspapers and so many suggestions have been provided in the social media sites and blogs to our political leaders suggesting: "Hey, pols, enough is enough. Stop blaming each other for the failure to write constitution, to form the national government, for dissolving the Constituent Assembly, for failure to take the peace process to a logical conclusion, for creating chaos and uncertainty."

Do our politicians give a damn about what the newspapers write and about the people speaking out in the social media sites and blogs? The answer obviously will be: Nope.

Now you know and I know, everybody in Nepal knows that the national political trajectory is off the track mainly because of the practice of the pols to play their most favorite game: the blame game.

The journalists and citizen-journalists have pointed out time and again that the important national agendas of peace, constitution and socio-economic transformation have been pushed to the back-burner. But our dear politicians do not give a damn about it.

Now, on the occasion of the Mohani Nakha or Bijaya Dashami, I wish you all good luck, sound health, happiness and prosperity, and let us be optimistic that some kind of wisdom will dawn on our politicos.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why Is Transition Lingering?

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Has anybody given any thought as to why the transitional phase is lingering so long in Nepal? How long will it still take to write the constitution of sovereign Nepal? Will the constitution be written at all?

Even the clever political analysts do not have a clear cut answer to these questions. The sophistries of clever politicians are never understood by the ordinary people. All they need is: two meals a day, kids go to schools, control in commodity prices, law and order. But sadly enough, the government and political leaders are not paying much attention to these issues.

The political parties are amusing themselves by playing blame games than doing some soul searching and introspection to figure out where, why and how they have failed. That's because majority of the political leaders are irresponsible, corrupt and dishonest.

Global practice and historical experience have demonstrated that the transition period is, more often than not, marked by fluid and fragile situation, like in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and so on. Therefore, the Nepalese people are ready to wait for a reasonable period for a smooth and timely transition. But transition should not be dragged on unnecessarily.

The discrepancy between the rhetoric and action is the main reason for not finding a way to wisely end the transition period. Politicians and media elites have been treating the Nepalese people like they are knuckleheads. Politicians should know that the Nepalese people are sick and tired of their rhetorical tautology. The voters are going to give a fitting reply to the politicians in the coming elections.

Now that the second election for the Constituent Assembly has been slated to take place on November 19, is there any guarantee that this re-elected CA will deliver the constitution? The simple answer will be: Nope.

Given the corrupt nature and dishonesty of the politicos, their habit of playing the blame game, given the lackluster performances of the parties and politicians' lust for power, it looks like the Nepalese people are destined to be cheated and deceived by the politicos.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Social Media Driving American Youth to Drive Less"

Rabin Man Shakya

Tech juggernauts Google, Facebook, Twitter etc are fast changing the perspectives and lifestyle of the young people. Social media is creating a new audience for news and views, just as TV did a half century ago and radio did more than 90 years ago. But unlike broadcast and print mediums, social media is proving to be more effective and more pervasive. Actually, social media is becoming more ubiquitous.

Print media, radio and TV are, pretty much, channels in which one voice speaks to many, giving same message to many people. However, with social media, it's many voices disseminated to many people.

Meanwhile, social media is driving American youth to drive less. Well, this is a new piece of information provided by a news story published in the "USA Today" on October 2, 2013. Under the headline: "Driven by social media, millenials do less driving." According to the story, more and more American youth are attracted to biking and public transportation, and a photo of biking young women in the New York suburb was also published along with the story.

The news story begins with the lead: "Young Americans whose embrace of new technologies and social networking tools enable them to adopt new ways of getting around, are  beginning to change the nation's transportation landscape."

The USA Today news story went on further,"They don't drive as much as young people once did: while all Americans are driving less since the recession, the average person ages 16-34 drove 23 percent less in 2009 than in 2001, the sharpest reduction for any age group."

"And some of the nation's youths - those known as Millenials, born between 1982 and 2003 - approach travel differently than their parents do," reported the news story adding:" They are 'multimodal', meaning they choose the best mode of transportation, such as driving, transit, biking or walking, based on the trip they are planning. They consider public transportation the best option for digital socializing and one of the most likely ways to connect with the communities they live in."

The news story in the USA Today was based on the findings of two reports released recently at the American Public Transportation Association's meeting in Chicago.

"Social media driving youth to drive less" is, for sure, a very welcome news for a country like the United States where car-culture is highly developed and where people, no matter, rich or poor can't imagine their lives without a car. Be it a husband or a wife, an adult son or a daughter, virtually everybody  has a car and a driving  license in this country.

Naturally, air pollution caused by the emissions of cars and vehicles is alarmingly high in the US, so are the fatalities caused by the vehicle accidents. Therefore, judging by the USA Today news, if the American youth are really driven by the social media to drive less, it can prove to be a real catalyst for better changes on the youth.

It turns out, not all the news about the social media and its impact on the society were bleak. The social media is making some inroads in the people's lives in a positive and optimistic way.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"The Oregonian" also jumps on the "digital journalism" bandwagon

Rabin Man Shakya

"The Oregonian" is a city newspaper published in Portland, Oregon. But the newspaper is also distributed across the state of Oregon and some  neighboring parts of the state of Washington.

The Oregonian is about 50 years older than the Gorkhapatra, the grand old lady of the Nepalese journalism. The Oregonian was launched as a weekly newspaper in 1850 and the Gorkhapatra was also launched as a weekly newspaper in 1901 in Kathmandu.

The Oregonian, though a city newspaper, is one of the fifty largely circulated newspapers of the US. The newspaper has been awarded with prestigious Pulitzer Prize for seven times.

The Oregonian is the only general-interest daily newspaper serving Portland in particular and Oregon in general. This means there are no other daily subscription newspapers in Portland, though other cities of Oregon do have their own daily newspapers that are confined to their respective cities.

Across the US, thousands of local newspapers are published and distributed free of charge in newspaper boxes and at market place venues all over the US cities. The prominent freely distributed newspapers of Portland are: The Willamette weekly, The Portland Mercury Weekly and The Asian Reporter fortnightly newspaper.

Meanwhile, "The Oregonian" is currently making headlines in the newspapers of Oregon and Washington because it is going to curb home delivery to four-days-a-week. The newspaper is also going to lay off some staff as it is reorganizing its operations in order to jump on the "digital journalism" bandwagon.

Under the headline "A new era of digital journalism", a publisher's note was published on the front page of  The Oregonian on September 29, 2013 in which N. Christian Anderson, president of Oregonian Media Group explained  the reasons for moving to four-day-a-week home delivery.

"First, the marketplace dictates that if we are going to grow as a company, we need to be where our audience is. We're experiencing significant growth in both our digital audience and our digital advertising revenue," said Anderson.

Anderson went on to say,"Our new strategy is aimed at expanding our audience even more rapidly in the months and years ahead. One of the concerns we've heard about our new digital strategy is that we won't have serious journalism anymore. We will."

Well, is there any difference between reading The New York Times or The Oregonian in a real newspaper format and going through them in the digital format? Yes, for me there are lots of differences. And I believe I'm not alone to say this.

Print Media in the US on the Decline

Rabin Man Shakya

US print journalism is divided mainly into two categories: national and city newspapers. The three newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The USA Today are the only national newspapers which are circulated nationwide. All other newspapers are city newspapers which are confined to the respective cities. Some newspapers like the IBD and the Barrons weekly are also circulated nationwide, but their circulation is limited.

Among them some city newspapers are circulated across the respective states. For example, Dallas Morning News published in Dallas is circulated across Texas and The Oregonian published in Portland is distributed across the state of Oregon.

At a time when newspaper industry is booming in developing countries like Nepal, India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and so on, the print journalism is slowly and constantly on the decline in advanced countries like the US, paving the way for digital journalism.

While some daily newspapers have absolutely ceased their "print" publication and have opted for digital journalism, a number of daily newspapers in the US have moved to thrice-a-week publication, and many daily newspapers have moved to thrice-a-week home delivery.

On the one hand, advertising revenue of the daily newspapers of the US is on the decline and on the other hand the overall expenditure of the newspapers are on the rise. Therefore, laying off of the staff and moving to thrice-a-week or four-days-a-week publication are the only option left for  a number of newspapers. And this is not a choice, but just a compulsion or a forced move for the newspapers for their survival.

Some American newspapers moving to thrice-a-week publication or thrice-a-week home delivery are "Birmingham News" of Alabama (daily circulation: 103,000), "The Advocate" of Louisiana (98,000), "Grand Rapids Press" of Michigan (95,000), "The Patriot News" of Pennsylvania (89,000), "The Post Standard" of New York (76,000), "The Oregonian" of Oregon (220,000). And these are just the tips of the iceberg.

And many more US newspapers are planning to cease publication thereby choosing digital journalism and many more daily newspapers are moving to thrice-a-week home delivery. Bad news for the American newspapers, of course.

In this context, Ken Doctor, the media analyst and author of the book and Website "Newsonomics" said:"Since 2004-05, the height of revenue in the industry, newspaper advertising revenue has declined by $27 billion, or more than 50 percent."

Last year, print advertising declined by 9 percent, "a huge loss in the midst of an economic recovery," Doctor said.

Stressing that the major driver of this change is the devastating loss of print advertising, Doctor asserted:"They are not maintaining their share in what is the biggest advertising boom in history."

Yet newspapers rely on advertising for roughly 73 percent of their revenue, he said adding, digital advertising generate only as much as 15 percent overall ad revenue.

Doctor went on to say:"So, while advertising on Google and other Websites now surpasses advertising in print, digital ads at newspapers aren't growing at the same rate."

Well, the prediction of Canadian media guru late Marshall McLuhan still in the late 1960s about the annihilation of the printed word by the electronic media have some relevance in this context.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Media booming in Nepal

Rabin Man Shakya

Prior to moving to the US with my family in 2002, I used to wear two hats in Nepal. The first one was the hat of a journalism lecturer and the second one was that of a journalist.

Now if someone asks me which hat did I like more, I'd reply him or her at the drop of the hat: "the hat of a journalism lecturer." Just kidding.

Now seriously speaking, as a media related guy, I am so overwhelmed to know that media landscape is changing very fast in Nepal.

Technological innovations, political change and liberalization have caused a sea change in Nepalese journalism and Nepal's media education scenario. It is a matter of great satisfaction to know that today there are at least 200 plus two campuses, 40 BA level campuses and three universities providing  courses in journalism and mass communication.

When I was a lecturer of journalism in Nepal, RR Campus and People's Campus were pretty much the campuses offering journalism courses. Fortunately, I was associated with both the campuses prior to 2002.

Thank God, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge of Bagmati and media education and journalism scenario of Nepal  have seen tremendous changes: quantitative as well as qualitative.

I am so glad to know there are 34 FM radio stations in Kathmandu alone and more than 300 FMs all over Nepal. And there are 16 TV channels in Nepal. Actually, newspaper industry and media business are booming in Nepal.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Issa Bassam - My Amigo from Syria

Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Syrian conflict has been making international headlines for last two years. Despite all kinds of international diplomacy and negotiations, there is no hope any time soon of any breakthrough in Syrian civil war which has taken a colossal toll of human life: more than a hundred thousand deaths.

I am not a political analyst, but it does not take a genius to understand that quid pro quo is crucial in the international diplomacy. US, Russia, Syria and Iran should be as flexible as possible in order to break the Syrian deadlock.

But whenever I confront with Syria headlines in newspapers and TV channels, the face of a Syrian guy just sort of comes back to me at once: Issa Bassam.

Issa was a Phd student in Philosophy at the Belorussian State University(BSU) in Minsk where I was also a PhD post graduate student in Journalism. We lived together in the same BSU 12-story hostel in Minsk.

Issa had good sense of humour. He was a happy-go-lucky type guy who never got mad at me even when I made some kind of offensive remarks at him and Baath Party and the then president Hafez al-Assad. It was because of him that I got acquainted with some Arab phrases and words. Obviously, we interacted and communicated in Russian with each other. And it was because of him I was familiar with some kind of Syrian Arab cuisines.

However, I had a lot of friends from different countries studying at the BSU. Issa was one of them. We spent time hanging out in Minsk cafes, parks and thoroughfares. I remember Komsomolskoye Ozero, a man-made lake in Minsk and I also remember Leninsky Avenue was one of Minsk's busiest thoroughfares.

According to Issa, unlike majority of Syrians, he belonged to a minority Christian community in Syria. I was friend with Issa during 1986-1989. Issa never criticized Hafez al-Assad, the then President of Syria, the father of Bashar al-Assad, the incumbent tyrant of Syria.The name of Bashar was no where to be heard at that time.

That was totally a different time in recent history. The world was in the grip of the Cold War fever.There were two Super Powers:  the US and the former USSR. The former Soviet Union played a significant role in Syria's poliitical, military and socio-political development. Syria always was  the close ally of the former Soviet Union. In Syria,there is still a Russian military base which is reminiscent of the Cold War rivalry. Apart from the strategic concern,Russia has some humane interest too in Syria.

Thousands of Syrian college students and post-graduate students who studied in different former Soviet universities and colleges were married to Russian women. My friend Issa was also married to a Belorussian woman in Minsk. By the way, there was a news story last year in the New York Times about the dilemma facing Russian women in Syria.

Ever since I came back to Nepal in 1989 after completing my studies in the former USSR, I did not have any kind of contact or communication with my Syrian amigo, unfortunately. Hopefully, he is alive and kicking.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Role of media in the battle against the bottle

Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Millions of people die every year because of alcohol and alcohol related diseases and accidents. Millions are battling and struggling against alcoholism.

The media in today's world exercises tremendous influences in the way people think and behave. The media is one of the strongest weapons in showing the world the devastating consequences of alcoholism and intoxication. There is no doubt that there is a great role of the media in the battle against bottles.

Alcoholism in general and alcohol use by teenagers is a prime health concern not only of advanced countries like US, Canada, Russia etc, but for a small and underdeveloped country like Nepal, alcoholism is also posing as a serious challenge.

According to American researchers, adolescents who begin to drink at an early age are at higher risk for injury, illness, long term alcohol use, or even death related to alcohol use.

Hence, there is a great role that the print and electronic media as well as the social media should play for increasing anti-alcohol awareness.

The media should print and broadcast more and more alcohol-related news stories and articles depicting the devastating after-effects of intoxication. Newspapers should publish warning advertisements about bad consequences of liquor in a daily basis, and TV channels and FMs should remind the audience and listeners about the catastrophic sufferings of the people because of intoxication-related accidents and diseases.

Sincere attempts should be made to reduce scenes of alcohol use in movies and TV serials.  It is a matter of great satisfaction that advertisement of liquor is prohibited in the print as well as electronic media of Nepal.

Meanwhile, an interesting aspect of the American journalism is that the print as well as the electronic media here have been giving due coverage to the news and views related to the devastating effects of alcohol.

For example, USA Today published a news story under the headline "1 in 10 high school seniors drink to extremes" on September 17, 2013.

The USA Today news story went on: "Plenty of high school seniors are binge drinkers, consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row, but a new study shows that knock back as many as 10, 15 or more drinks in one session."

The USA Today  news story also threw light on the harms of binge drinking.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Erdogan: Epitome of Hypocrisy?

Rabin Man Shakya

The role and scope of social media is increasing everyday. Social media has served as a primary channel of criticism against injustice and wrong doings.

Remember when a wave of demonstrations broke out in the Middle East during the 2011 Arab Spring, protesters turned to social media to share information with an international audience.

Social media helps people mobilize and organize and it helps audience and reporters from afar keep track of different sources and perspectives.

Social media is playing a big role as a custodian of democracy and human rights abuse. Just like the mainstream media, the social media is enhancing its role and presence as a watchdog against authoritarianism.

It is no wonder that some authoritarian governments and powerful political parties are vulnerable to the social media sites. Therefore, some countries are trying to step up their presence in the social media sites by employing thousands of youths to that effect. China is prominently one of these countries and according to a Wall Street Journal news story, Turkey has jumped on the social media bandwagon.

The Wall Street Journal published a news story on September 17, 2013 under the headline "Turkey takes on social media" that begins with: "Turkey's ruling party, facing the threat of fresh anti-government demonstrations, is boosting its presence in a sphere lon dominated by the opposition: social media."

The Justice and Development Party, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is recruiting a 6,000 member social media team to woo citizens and fight critics, the Wall Street Journal reported from Ankara quoting the party officials.

WSJ news story goes on: "The AKP is gradually bringing  young, tech-savvy party members to Ankara to train them in classrooms to act as volunteer social media representatives."

According to the news story, "The initiative comes after the party, which has governed Turkey since 2002, faced the biggest popular challenge to its rule in June when hundreds of thousands of Turks to the street and social media to protest against what they say called Mr. Erdogan's increasingly autocratic governing style."

The Turkish prime minister Erdogan who himself has 3.4 million Twitter followers says: "Now we have a menace that is called Twitter. The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society." (The New York Times/June 3, 2013/"Turkey premier says protest won't stop demolition."

Now, is not this the worst epitome of hypocrisy and double standard?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hey, Do You Know Who Peerlusconi Is?

Rabin Man Shakya

Reporting about the forthcoming elections in Germany, the New York Times published a news story on September 14, 2013 headlined "German Candidates Compete in Battle of Magazine Covers."

The New York Times news story detailed Germany's widely watched national election and its two main candidates who made contrasting waves with magazine covers.

According to the New York Times news story, Peer Steinbruck, the Social Democratic challenger, who has trailed chancellor Angela Merkel in polls since declaring his candidacy last fall, caused a stir by appearing on a cover of the magazine of the Suddeutsche Zeitung gesturing with his middle finger.

It turns out Peer Steinbruck has been nicknamed Peerlusconi, a play on the name of the Italian billionaire politician Silvio Berlusconi, and gesturing of his middle finger was his reaction to a question  about his nickname.

The above mentioned NYT news story reminded me of the bad habit of Nepalese journalists/ non-journalists giving bad nicknames to the Nepalese politicos. Sujata Koirala was often nicknamed Kujata Koirala and Jhala Nath Khanal was called Jhallu in the social media. Likewise, the names of other politicians too have been widely abused.

The majority of Nepalese politicians are irresponsible and corrupt and I agree their misdeeds and corrupt activities should be exposed, but I disagree with the practice of abusing the names of the politicos.
The above mentioned NYT story also reminded me of  vying of the Nepalese politicians to get better coverage in media for the upcoming CA elections.

The more coverage and headlines the politicos make in the media, the more will be direct or indirect impact on the public. Obviously, the big headlines and good media portrayal enhance their political scope.

However, the activities of the politicians should not be confined  to merely grabbing the big headlines and getting better media coverage. Better do something for the good of the people, you politicos.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kabul Steals the Show in Kathmandu

Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Unlike Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives, Afghanistan is always making headlines in the US newspapers. Given the large US troops presence and its strategic interest in Kabul, this comes as no wonder.

More often than not, Afghan coverage in American newspapers is related to the war against terror, ongoing political development and corruption that is rampant in the Afghan society.

Nevertheless, soft news features on issues of Afghan women, education, health, sanitation etc. are also published very often in the US newspapers.

Afghanistan's national football team recently made an outstanding victory at an international football championship organised in Kathmandu.

No wonder, the winning Afghan national team returned home in triumph and the event was widely reported in the US newspapers.The bottom line of the coverage of the US newspapers about the Afghan victory in Nepal was: Kabul stole the show in Kathmandu.

Under the headline "Raucous scene grips Afghan capital: Soccer Euphoria", the New York Times reported from Kabul on September 13, "The Olympic Stadium in Kabul has not seen this big a crowd since the Taliban used the place for public executions, with attendance mandatory."

"No coercion was needed on Thursday to bring tens of thousands of delirious fans here to greet their national soccer team on its championship. The underdog team stunned India, the defending South Asian champions, in 2-0 victory in Kathmandu, Nepal," went on the New York Times.

According to the US media, many of the Afghan celebrators were quick to note that for once they had something to be proud of that had nothing to do with war.

Conflicting Reporting Can Create Confusion, Chaos

Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Have you ever come across conflicting news stories in different newspapers? Or have you ever felt that the details in the news stories are, more often than not, exaggerated?

Conflicting stories are being published not only in the Nepalese newspapers, but in the newspapers of the West too.

Twelve years have past since the catastrophe of 9/11. During the process of the collapsing of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, a number of people started to jump down in a desperate sign. At that time the New York Times reported that the number of people jumping down from the tower was 50 based on eye-witness reporters and video materials.

Meanwhile, the USA Today reported that number to be 200 based on eye-witnesses, forensic evidence and video materials. This is a glaring example of conflicting news stories.

Remember when we were told that given the number of people working at the WTC on September 11, 2001, we should expect 20,000 to 40,000 dead. The actual death toll came to be 2,977. This episode and example is pretty much just the tip of the iceberg in journalism.

So, why does the conflicting detail emerge in the stories? It is mainly because of the problem of deadline and problem of egoistic attitude of "my newspaper should be the first to print the scoop."

The conflicting stories may be because of political reasons, for example, if there are tensions in the Korean Peninsula, the version of South and North Korea may be totally different. The other reason could be: the victim mentioned in the story may be giving reporters conflicting details on the events leading up to the event or accident.

The other reason of conflicting stories may be the different details and quotes of different eye-witnesses. In case of some accidents and events, sometimes witnesses and law enforcement officials may be giving totally different accounts of what led to the incident.

The probabilities and possibilities of conflicting stories are potentially high in countries where journalism is deeply polarized.

There is no doubt that conflicting stories can have a negative impact and may create confusion and chaos in the society.

Therefore, in order to prevent the conflicting details in stories, the reporters should never include facts and figures based merely on assumptions, video materials, etc.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Journalism: From Typewriter to Laptop

Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Remember when reporters had to type their news stories on a typewriter instead of directly typing them on the computer or laptop? Or when the press photographers had to use regular cameras to take photos of the events and come back to the dark room for developing and printing the photos.

It was a part of Nepalese media scenario of just 20 years before, when I started working as a journalist.

Well, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge of river Bagmati and the miracles of technology have caused a sea of change in the media and social media scenario.

In fact, the history of journalism has witnessed a lot of vicissitudes, journalism in itself is a chronicle of innovations and qualitative changes. Try to remember the historical photo of the first issue of the Gorkhapatra, the grand old lady of Nepalese journalism.

It was in the beginning of 1992 when I joined the Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS), the national news agency of Nepal as an Assistant Editor at the English desk. I continued to work at the RSS for about five months. After that, I went on to work for The Rising Nepal (TRN) also in the year 1992, when TRN was still the only broadsheet daily English newspaper of Nepal.

Well, when I started working at the media outlets like the RSS and TRN twenty years ago, journalists and reporters used typewriters, tape recorders and ordinary cameras.

Laptops, digital cameras, cell phones and other modern electronic gadgets were things I never dreamed would play any significant role in the rapid success of the newspaper industry.

Still, when I moved to the US in 2002, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on were concepts that I never imagined. What comes next is yet to be determined.

Will the increasing use of modern technology in journalism and media have positive effects or will its effects be seen as a jumble of both positive and negative?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

UCPN-Maoist Eats Humble Pie

By Rabin Man Shakya

The latest news that the UCPN-Maoist party has announced the bandh (shutdown strike) it has imposed in the Kathmandu valley, including Chitwan and Gorkha districts on Sunday to protest against the arrest of a party cadre accused of conflict-era murder has again raised questions about the impunity of the political parties, their bosses, and their cadres.

However, this time the powerful UCPN-Maoist party had to eat humble pie as it has to withdraw the shutdown strike after 12 PM following chastisement from all walks of life. Kudos to the people of Nepal for foiling the bandh.

The sad reality, however, is that we are still infected with the "cancer" of impunity and unless it is cutout, we will perennially plunge into an abyss of unending chaos and uncertainties.

However, the arrest of UCPN-Maoist cadre accused of conflict-era murder brings in a light at the end of the tunnel for Nanda Prasad Adhikari and Ganga Maya, the parents of Krishna Prasad Adhikari, who was abducted and killed in Chitwan during the Maoist insurgency. The Adikari couple have been staging a fast unto death for the last 44 days demanding legal action against the culprit.

The real question now is: Will Maoist cadre Ram Prasad Adhikari stand trial for the murder he committed during the conflict-era?

The politics of bandhs will lead us to nowhere. Nobody is happy with the bandhs. Lots of financial and social troubles are created by the bandhs. Normal lives of the people are disrupted, but still the bandhs are announced at the drop of a hat by the parties and the organizations at the cost of the inconveniences to the "supreme" people.

Why are bandhs not announced in countries like the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Russia and so on? It is not that these countries do not have political and socio-economic problems.

Therefore, the people must warn the parties and their stalwarts that the organizers of the bandhs will be voted out in the elections. Bandh organizers should be ostracized by the people in different programs and events.

There is a special role media and social media can play in doing away with the bandhs. The newspapers and magazines should not only publish the stories about the harmful impact of the bandh, they should also urge the parties and politicians in every edition to shun the bandhs in a special box advertisement. The FM radios and TV channels can also remind the parties about the same. Only in this way can we get rid of the unwanted bandhs.

Journalism and Political Uncertainty

Dr Rabin Man Shakya

With over 3,000 registered newspapers and over a dozen television broadcasters, journalism has made tremendous strides in Nepal over the years, but is the Nepalese media carrying out its responsibilities, quite honestly? What is the Nepalese media's role in helping end the lingering political uncertainty?

It is hard to find much common ground among Nepal's squabbling, competing daily and weekly newspapers. Not only do they naturally mistrust one another, but they also tend to divide along party lines. Today, like never before, Nepalese press is free, but many will agree that the media has not been able to use that freedom in a more rationale and responsible way.

Journalism should be in a position to bring about changes in the way people think as well as rally them towards just cause. Journalists should feel the pulse of the people, should cover the stories about peoples' aspirations and should lead the nation in a proper and right direction.

The overall scenario of Nepalese press is not so depressing. But, the press has not been fully instrumental in publishing the stories with a view to bringing about desired level of stability and ending the uncertainty in the country.

There are a number of factors for the lingering crisis and political uncertainty in Nepal. Political parties and leaders are responsible for this. But partial blame goes to the Nepalese press too, because a number of media outlets and newspapers are playing at the hands of the political parties, leaders, and business tycoons.

Instead of playing a watchdog role, there are a number of newspapers which carry on obsequious profiles of the "dubious and corrupt" businessmen and political leaders, thereby becoming notorious media lapdogs.

Friday, September 6, 2013

e-mail: miracle of modern technology

By Rabin Man Shakya

I was in the former Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989 for ten years doing my Masters and PhD. Away from home and the motherland, I had to rely on writing letters to my nears and dears in Nepal, since it was the only cheap and easy available medium of  communicating with the friends and relatives at that time. International calls were exorbitantly expensive and were used only in emergency cases. Plus, one had to visit the post office to make the international calls. It took at least three to five weeks to reach letters from Minsk (where I used to live) to Kathmandu and vice-versa.

As far as I know, modern e-mail communication started to gain momentum  in the year 1993. However, my first personal experience with the e-mail was in the year 1996 when my spouse Naveena Shakya who worked as a Food Research Officer at the Central Food Research Laboratory under the then HMG was sent  for a training first to Israel for two months and then to the Netherlands for three and half months in the year 1996.

Just like in the letters, you  can write whatever you want. The only difference is: the addressee gets your mail in the drop of a hat, quicker than even the telegrams. I used to go to a cyber cafe at Chhetrapati and sent her e-mails from there. I used to visit that particular cyber cafe very frequently to send e-mails. Taking a trip down memory lane, still in 1996, e-mail was something I could marvel at. It was really one of the miracles of modern technology. For the first time, I got rid of the (postal) letters. And that was in 1996.
Even though there are plethora of social media sites nowadays and people across the world are taking advantage of them for exchange of information, ideas and messages, yet the role and significance of e-mails are relevant to this day.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Finally, I also jumped on the SM bandwagon

Rabin Man Shakya

I consider myself to be a person of an old school. But I guess that does not deter me from being a part of the social media (SM) and the blog world. The Internet has made tremendous strides. Social media has become a part of peoples' lives all over the world. Therefore, no matter, whether a person has old-fashioned perceptions or has ultramodern perspectives, all the people are jumping on the social media bandwagon.

I joined Facebook in 2012. I created my own blog very recently. They say  it's always better later than never. And we cannot keep ourselves aloof from friends and well-wishers.

It is amazing thinking about technology and innovations today and how people gather and disseminate ideas, information and messages with social media and covering the events from all over the world. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter make it easy to share things with the friends. I am glad to be a part of it now.

Tech behemoths Google and Facebook are changing the culture, lifestyle and perspectives of people across the world. That is because social media has a tremendous impact on people and we can only imagine what the future has in store.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Big Milestone

By  Dr. Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor,  The Rising Nepal
Former Lecturer of Journalism, Peoples Campus, RR Campus, TU.

It was March 10, 1989 inside a big auditorium in the Faculty of Journalism at the Moscow State University that I defended my PhD  in Journalism. The theme was "Nepalese Press: Political Orientation, Problems of Growth and Challenges." Since it was in the former Soviet Union, naturally I had to write and prepare the entire thesis in Russian.

With my first blog post, I would like to say: I will always be indebted to my scientific guide Prof. Dr. Ivan Ivanovich Sachenko who provided me necessary guidelines to carry out the project with the thesis. During my four year PhD tenure (1986-1989) in the former USSR, I went to Nepal two times in 1986 and 1987 where I stayed in Kathmandu for six months to gather materials for my thesis.

During my stay in Nepal, at that time, I had met with several Nepalese media luminaries. One of them was late Gopal Das Shrestha, editor of "The Commoner", one of the pioneering English language daily newspapers of Nepal, who had provided me with a lot of valuable information and suggestions.

March 10, 1989 was a very big event in my life. It turns out that I was the first Nepali person ever to defend the first PhD in Journalism having also completed and passed Masters in Journalism from the Byelorussian State University, Minsk in 1985.

A number of distinguished academic people  and students were present at the auditorium of the MSU during my presentation. Notable among them was Prof. Dr. Yassin Zassoursky, the then Dean of the Faculty of Journalism at the MSU.

I still remember Prof Dr Sachenko saying,"Not just any Ph D, Rabin, you have earned  a Ph D degree from the Faculty of Journalism of Russia's oldest and most prestigeous university - Moscow State University."

"This is a big milestone in your life", Prof Dr Sachenko had added.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Prof. Dr. Sachenko, Prof. Dr. Zassoursky, late Mr Gopal Das Shrestha and other senior media luminaries of Nepal in the first posting of my blog. I wish them sound health, long life, prosperity and more importantly, more creativity. With everything that I have learned since then, I wish to begin writing about my views on Nepalese media and current affairs. Thank you to all who have helped me along the way.

*I value your opinion. Please provide your feedback by posting a comment below.
**Shakya is also State Education Director, NRNA-USA Oregon Chapter, Portland, USA.