Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nepal: Not Just A Newsy Country

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

In the beginning of the summer of 2013, one of my American friends informed me that he had watched a piece of news on CBS about the rescue works being undertaken in the Himalayas of Nepal. Well, avalanche, mountaineers missing in the Himalayan expeditions, rescue works being undertaken, rich Nepalese culture and festivals are headlines about Nepal that sometimes appear in the newspapers and TV networks abroad.

But it is true that comparing to other Asian countries like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Israel, China, India, Pakistan, North and South Korea and so on, Nepal usually does not very often make international headlines.

Judging by the coverage of the news stories published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the USA Today, Nepal even lags behind countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Nepal is a negligible economy which can not be compared with Asian giants like China, Japan, South Korea, India and Israel etc. Sound and vibrant economy is always a good source for international business news.

China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea are nuclear-powered countries and Iran is striving to be a member of the nuclear nations' club. The activities of nuclear-powered nations are good sources for international news stories.

Nepal used to be a conflict-ridden country during the decade-long Maoist insurgency. But not any more. Conflict, confrontation, competition, wars and civil wars are always good fodders for international headlines.

But it is also true that countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea have been linked to one bizarre news story after another raising the question: Do these countries attract more news than others or does news receive extra attention and emphasis when it happens in these countries?

International news is dominated by the Western countries like the US, UK and France etc through the TV channels like CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and BBC, through news agencies like AP, the Reuters and AFP and through the newspapers like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal etc.

The Western media is time and again castigated by media observers for bias and slant on their coverage of international reporting and rightfully so. International media manipulation of these media outlets can not be ruled out.

The US which dominates the international media has less strategic interest in Nepal comparing to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Middle East and the Arab World. That is why news on important issues, events and catastrophies in Nepal are usually reported in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal by a New Delhi dateline and a byline of a New Delhi based correspondent.

News value is determined by different circumstances, factors and sometimes by bias. If two soldiers are killed in Nepal in a conflict, it may be the news only for Nepal. If two US soldiers are killed in Afghanistan, it will be a big news not only for Afghan and US media but for the countries across the world. If two Afghan soldiers die in a Kabul conflict, that will be far less important than the death of two US soldiers. The fact that the international media is dominated and monopolized by the Western countries also plays certain role in this case.

Nepal was last covered by the New York Times during the Constituent Assembly elections in November, 2013 and after the formation of the government under the leadership of Sushil Koirala's leadership.

For the Western media, Nepal is not just a newsy country. That is why news on Nepal are published once in a blue moon in the newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Therefore, news on Nepal which are published and broadcast in the Western media are confined to Nepalese culture, festivals, avalanches, mountain rescue efforts and activities of Tibetan refugees.

I remember the Reuters correspondent for Nepal, Gopal Sharma, did an interesting news story about the Kumari under the headline "Nepal searches for revered living goddess" on Feb 15, 2001. I also remember  I had provided Sharma with some details about the living goddess and my quotes were used in the Reuters news story.

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