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.