Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nepalese Press (1951-1960): A Decade of Democratic Innovations

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

Nepal was totally isolated from the outside world during the Rana autocracy, even as Nepal was not colonized by any foreign power during her entire history. The coup d 'etat orchestrated by Jung Bahadur Rana in 1846 empowered the Ranas to usurp power and rule the nation until 1951. Rana autocracy's downfall at the hands of the popular upheaval in 1951 paved the way for democratic innovations in Nepal.

The part of  history of Nepalese journalism spanning from 1951 to 1960 was unique and unprecedented in many ways. The Nepalese press also could not remain untouched by the democratic innovations."Awaj" was the first daily newspaper published on Falgun 8, 2007 BS immediately after the ouster of the Rana regime.

The second daily newspaper in the Nepali language was "Samaj" which was launched in Bhadra, 2011 BS. Other worth mentioning newspapers published during the period were Hal Khabar, Bhugol Park, Everest News, The Motherland, Filingo, Kalpana and Diyalo etc. "The Commoner," edited by Gopal Das Shrestha, was the first English daily newspaper launched on July 15, 1956, whereas "Nepal Guardian," edited by Barun Shumsher Rana was the first English monthly magazine.

"Nepal Bhasa Patrika," was the first newspaper in Newari, edited by Fatte Bahadur Singh,  and was launched on Ashwin 16, 2012 B.S. Before that, Asha Ram Shakya had commenced a fortnightly publication "Pasa" in Newari in Kartik, 2009 B.S. "Mahila" was the first publication launched by first women-journalists Sadhana Pradhan and Kamakshya Devi in 1952. The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (then Nepal Journalists Association), an umbrella organization of the Nepalese journalists was also established on March 29, 1956. Its first chairman was late Krishna Prasad Bhattrai,  (ex-Prime Minister of Nepal) who was the editor of "Nepal Pukar."

The first and foremost Press Commission of Nepal was set up in 1958 to look into the problems facing the Nepalese Press. Radio Nepal started its regular broadcasting on Chaitra 20, 2007 B.S. News programs by Radio Nepal were not confined to the news in Nepali and English, but in Nepal Bhasa and Hindi as well. There was a radio program called "Jeevan Daboo" in Nepal Bhasa. News in Nepal Bhasa and "Jeevan Daboo" were scrapped by Radio Nepal immediately after King Mahendra orchestrated a coup in 1960 against the elected government of the Nepali Congress. Airing of news by Radio Nepal in different languages including Nepal Bhasa was testimony of ethnic pluralism and press freedom during this period.

The scrapping of the Nepal Bhasa programs by Radio Nepal had disillusioned the Newar community and also had perpetually sparked protests against the government. First news agency of Nepal -- was established on Poush 1, 2016 B.S. followed by the second one -- Sagarmatha Sambad Samiti set up on Baisakh 30, 2017. Political mouthpieces were also brought out during this period. "Nepal Pukar" and "Nawa Nepal" were the newspapers published by the Nepali Congress. "Nav Yug" was the mouthpiece of Nepal Communist Party while "Nepal Sandesh" and "Jan Vani" were published by Rastriya Praja Parishad.

The pioneering Nepalese journalists, such as, Mani Raj Upadhya, Gopal Das Shrestha, Fatte Bahadur Singh, Pashupati Dev Pandey, Madan Mani Dixit, Govinda Biyogi and so on were the remarkable outcomes of this journalistic period. Whereas, in 1951 there was only one daily newspaper and three weekly publications, the number of daily newspapers was 32 and number of weekly publications was 65 in 1960. The Nepalese journalism history from 1951-1960 was significant not only because of some political innovations and polarization of the press, it was important because the nation was able to usher in political changes to pave the way for press freedom.

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