Sunday, December 28, 2014

Rastriya Samachar Samiti: Still Alive and Kicking

Dr Rabin Man Shakya
Former Assistant Editor, RSS

Despite the incessant onslaught of Internet, social media and digital journalism, the luster and relevance of news agencies have not faded out so far in the world. But, at a time when the number of newspapers, radio stations and TV channels are growing by leaps and bounds in Nepal, there is status quo when it comes to the news agency journalism in Nepal.

Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) - the national news agency of Nepal is the only wire service that has been gathering news stories and selling them to subscribing Nepalese media organizations, such as, newspapers, radio and television broadcasters. For that matter, Nepal's neighboring countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh can boast of, at least, two or three news agencies each.

So, is the RSS  the first news agency of Nepal ?  Nope. Going by the history of Nepalese journalism, the coup d' etat orchestrated by late King Mahendra against the parliamentary government with the Nepali Congress in power in December 1960 and the restrictions imposed on press freedom put the Nepalese press in an awkward as well as vulnerable situation.

The Rastriya Samachar Samiti Act 1962 gave the Panchayat regime the authority to dissolve the two independent news agencies namely Nepal Sambad Samiti and Sagarmatha Sambad Samiti. It is to be noted that Nepal Sambad Samiti, the first news agency of Nepal was created on Poush 1, 2016 BS with the objective to enrich the Nepalese newspapers with a wide variety of news events happening across Kathmandu Valley and beyond. Sagarmatha Sambad Samiti - the second news agency of Nepal - was established on Baisakh 30, 2017 BS.

These two news agencies of Nepal were short-lived and were replaced by Rastriya Samachar Samiti in 1962. Late King Mahendra's press secretary Renu Lal Singh was appointed the chairman of the RSS, and was made directly responsible to the King.

More often than not, the small-scale newspapers have to rely on the news stories distributed by the news agencies. Even, reputed American newspapers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today which have extensive news gathering resources of their own, also sometimes use the stories disseminated by the news agencies like the AP and the Reuters.

Speaking of my association with the news agency journalism, I was involved with the RSS as an assistant editor at the English Desk for five months in 1992. I still remember Mohan Bir Singh Bajracharya, Jaya Shumsher Rana, Indra Bahadur Shrestha and late Ram Pradhan who were the senior editors at the RSS English Desk at that time. These guys, in fact, were the pillars of English language news agency journalism  in Nepal.

When I was in New Delhi in 1994 for five-months Non-aligned News Agency Journalism training  provided by Indian Institute of Mass Communication, the participants of the training program were taken to a day long 'excursion' to the Press Trust of India (PTI) and United News of India (UNI), the government of India owned news agencies.

And in 1984 still when I was a journalism major, I had an opportunity to visit the headquarters of TASS news agency in Moscow. Similarly, in Minsk, the capital of Belarus we, journalism students of Belorussian State University were taken to Belta - Belorussian Telegraph Agency - in 1982.

Even though RSS is the only news agency of Nepal, it  still definitely can not be compared to the news agencies in the former Soviet Union and India in terms of resources, infrastructure, equipment and professionalism.

*Shakya is also State Education Director, NRNA-USA Oregon Chapter, Portland, USA.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nepa Chhen and IOFTC's Interaction with Maskey

By Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepa Chhen, Portland, Oregon, USA

 Nepa Chhen (NC) and International Open Friendship Taekwondo Championship (IOFTC) jointly organized an interaction program with former vice president of National Sports Council and  vice president of Nepal Olympic Committee Sita Ram Maskey at Nekusing Memorial Theater, West Coast Hollywood Taekwondo in Portland on Wednesday  December 17, 2014.

Nepalese dignitaries keep coming to the US on personal or official visits. More often than not, they visit prominent US cities like New York, Washington, LA, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago etc. But Sita Ram Maskey was in Portland for a few days and the Nepalese living in Portland had an opportunity to interact with Maskey..

Officials of Nepa Chhen and IOFTC wrapped khata on Maskey and his spouse at the beginning of the program. Nepa Chhen and IOFTC officials also presented calendars, newsletters and IOFTC publications to Maskey.

The interaction focused on the political situation in Nepal, dual citizenship for non-residential Nepalese (NRNs) and ethnic diversity issues, among others.

From interaction with Maskey, the Nepalese Portlanders came to know about his life full of struggle. Before the first Jana Aandolan in 1990, Maskey was a school teacher active in the Nepal National Teachers Association and was arrested in conjunction with the milk protest demonstrations. Maskey was sent to Bhadragoal jail in Kathmandu to serve a nine-month detention order under the Public Security Act.

On the occasion, throwing light on the grievances of many ethnic groups and communities, Maskey said that ethnic groups have come out quite strongly in recent years, which is natural given the uni-cultural society that the Nepalese people have been living in.

On dual citizenship issue, Maskey said that it is very important to the Nepalese living abroad and the Nepal government should figure it out sooner the better. His remarks on the dual citizenship held the most interest among the Nepalese Portlanders given that this burning issue, it looks like, is going to take a backseat.

The interaction program was followed by  Nepali songs program and Nepali style dinner. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Nepal's Media Education Making Tremendous Strides

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

Are chaotically changing Nepal and its people still enthralled with the changing media landscape despite  the boom of social media and digital journalism?  Well, judging by the increasing number of newspapers, radio stations and TV channels in Nepal, the answer will, likely, be "yes".

At a time when journalism industry is on the decline in developed countries like the US and Canada, the scope and relevance of the mass media like newspapers, radio and TV journalism are still on the rise in countries like India and Nepal and herein lies the relevance and significance of journalism education.

It goes without saying that journalism education is gaining more quantitative growth than the required qualitative development. There is no doubt that qualitative and skill-oriented journalism education is the quintessence of rapidly growing Nepalese media industry.

Well, there is no doubt that tremendous strides have been made towards the development of journalism education in Nepal. In fact, journalism education started in Nepal with the launching of two-year IA classes in journalism  at the Ratna Rajya Campus 1976. Later, IA classes in journalism were launched at the Peoples Campus as well in 1986. By 2002, the number of colleges offering journalism in higher secondary level in Nepal was 22 while that number reached 245 in 2011.  At present, there are five colleges which provide MA courses in journalism.

Likewise, enrollment of journalism students is also on the rise. In 2003, the number of journalism students in the plus two colleges was 493, while that figure was 5989 in 2011. No doubt, nation's oldest Central Department of Journalism under Tribhuvan University has been playing a Zeus-like role in the trajectory of Nepal's journalism education given its historical legacy.

Legacy is big for an institution like the Central Department of Journalism which has built the reputation of so many journalists in Nepal. But the high profile legacy also underscores some of the pitfalls of the Department. This is the Central Department which boasts of two professors of journalism. This is so far the only Department which is legally entitled and supposed to create Ph. Ds in journalism. But as of now, paradoxically, no teaching staff is still  a Ph. D. in the Department. Both the professors do not even have  Masters Degree in Journalism, much less a a doctoral degree. However,  I do not doubt about journalistic capabilities and credentials of the teaching staff of the Department.

One of the palpable problems of media education in Nepal is the lack of basic equipment and infrastructure. The precondition for qualitative journalism education is a commitment to developing an appropriate teaching and learning atmosphere,  where media educators, students, learning materials and equipment are properly mobilized.

The theoretical journalistic knowledge and lessons provided in the colleges do not still work in tandem to meet the ground realities of practical journalism in the media industry. Similarly, courses of study of journalism have to be amended to suit the changing scenario  by including contents on digital journalism and social media. It is not that the concerned authorities have ignored the problems in this respect, but it looks like they are moving ahead in the snails pace.

More focus should be accorded to practical reporting, practical editing and practical headline writing.Not just chapters, there should be separate and comprehensive course on editing and reporting. Likewise, journalism classes should be divided into Nepali language journalism and English language journalism.

*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, December 7, 2014

Gorkhapatra: Grand Old Lady of Nepalese Journalism

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

The Nepali newspaper "Gorkhapatra" is called the Grand Old Lady of Nepalese journalism and rightfully so. The first Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana upon return from his Britain visit had brought with him a hand printing press (Giddhe Chapakhana) in 1851. 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).

It is true that no newspapers and magazines were published in Nepal during Jung Bahadur Rana's regime. Nepal's first newspaper "Gorkhapatra" had to wait for liberal Rana prime minister Dev Shumsher 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.

On May 6, 1901 started the publication of the newspaper Gorkhapatra. This newspaper first published within the territory of Nepal was brought out still in the epoch of feudalism in Nepal. The newspaper continuously served the interest of feudal institutes headed by the hereditary Rana premiers  until 1951. The authorization orders of 1901 issued by Rana prime minister Dev Shumsher  clearly point out the fact that the first editor of  the Gorkhapatra was Pandit Nardev Pandey. It is to be noted taht the Gorkhapatra did not print the name of its editor for decades during the Rana regime.The Rana generalissimo handed over the Giddhe Chhapakhana and Litho Press to  Pandit Nardev and authorized him to publish Gorkhapatra under the supervision of Lt Col Dilli Shumsher Thapa .

The newspaper Gorkhapatra was launched at atime when the Nepalese people were not only deprived of civil liberty and of the right to form social and political organizations but all those means of mass communication (books, radio, cinema, libraries) that might make them politically conscious of their legitimate rights were also prohibited  at that time.

Nevertheless, the history of code of conduct (or censorship ?) for journalists goes as far back as the history of the Gorkhapatra itself. An ordinance about "what to print  and what not to" in the Gorkhapatra was issued by the then Rana prime minister.

Initially, the Gorkhapatra was a weekly newspaper. In 1943, it became a bi-weekly, in 1946 a tri-weekly and only in 1962 with the establishment of the Gorkhapatra Corporation, it became a daily newspaper.

Gorkhapatra has an unprecedented historical significance. The newspaper has witnessed a number of vicissitudes and political upheavals in the nation ruled by Ranas, Shahas and different political systems like Parliamentary systems under monarchy, Panchayat system and Parliamentary system under the republican structure.

The Gorkhapatra is a unique newspaper in many respects. Besides being the first newspaper in Nepali language, it also is the only newspaper which publishes news and other materials in different ethnic languages of Nepal.

The Gorkhapatra or the Gorkhapatra Corporation is a journalistic institution which have produced journalists like Bharat Dutta Koirala, Gokul Pokhrel, Lal Deosa Rai, P. Kharel, Dhruba Hari Adhikari and so on who are considered as founding pillars of journalism education in Nepal. Therefore, it will not be an exaggeration to assert that the Gorkhapatra is a newspaper which is the quintessence of modern Nepalese journalism.

Despite its past glorious legacy and heritage as the grand old lady of the Nepalese journalism, today the Gorkhapatra is facing a journalistic reckoning, as it has to confront and compete with more professional and technically more equipped private sector broadsheet dailies. In fact, the private sector newspapers vs official media dichotomy had emerged right after the People's Movement in 1990. Today there is a sense that despite historical legacy and heritage, the Gorkhapatra's journalistic trajectory and destiny are still uncertain.

*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.