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.

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