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.

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