Sunday, March 29, 2015

Nepalese Women Journalists: Not Just Pretty Faces

Dr Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

Still when I was with The Rising Nepal (1992-2005),  a number of articles written by me on media issues were published in the Nepal's first broadsheet English daily newspaper, and one of them entitled "Women in Media: Not Just Pretty Faces" was published on March 25, 1995. Back then, the number of women journalists in the Nepalese mass media was so few that they could be counted with the ten fingers of both the hands.

Well, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge of Bagmati and therefore media scenario of Nepal is changing rapidly. The Federation of Nepalese Journalists revealed recently that out of total 9,000 Nepalese journalists, only 800 are women. Two decades ago, such precise statistics were impossible to come by.

The history of women's involvement in Nepalese journalism started in 1952 when the first women's magazine "Mahila" was published.  It is to be noted that the first Nepali women's magazine was edited by Sahana Pradhan and Kamakchha Devi.

Today more than ever, journalists in general and women journalists in particular are vulnerable to different kinds of assaults, intimidation and sexual violence. Therefore, men and women journalists should work in tandem to enhance professionalism and quality of journalism and to make it a safe and secure calling.

There is no doubt that lately women's participation in Nepalese journalism is increasing by leaps and bounds. A Sancharika Samuha (SAS) research on the "Status of Women Journalists Working in the Kathmandu Valley" in 2011 still painted a grim picture of women journalists in Nepal in terms of gender inequality, sexual abuse and sexual violence etc.

According to Sancharika Samuha's research, 54 percent of Nepalese women journalists are in print media and 37 percent in electronic media. The study's findings call into question claims made by some analysts that more women journalists are attracted to the electronic media. Out of the total number of women journalists involved in electronic media, the study found that 65 percent are in FM radio stations, 19 percent in television channels, 12 percent in regular radio broadcasting and only 4 percent in digital journalism.

Similarly, another SAS study found that 75 percent of Nepalese women journalists are associated with the private sector media establishments whereas 25 percent are involved in the government-controlled media.

The challenges facing the Nepalese women journalists are indeed formidable. For many Nepalese women journalists, the problems remain the same  just as two decades ago. The women journalists just like the male journalists are underpaid and not paid in time.They are vulnerable to sex abuse, sexual assaults and intimidation. The killing of journalist Uma Singh some years ago could just be the tip of the iceberg.

More Nepalese women journalists are visible and audible in the radio-television networks, but they do not usually occupy senior positions. Nepalese women journalists are hardly ever represented in high level official media commissions, boards or committees set up for enforcing media policies. Likewise, the widening gap between women journalists working in Kathmandu and other districts underscore the radically different trajectory of the Nepalese journalists.

It is not that the democratic governments of Nepal have ignored the aspirations of the women journalists. However, failure to accommodate women journalists in the responsible posts and to implement women friendly media policy are equally conspicuous.

The success of Dr Manju Mishra in establishing the first Masters Degree College in Mass Communication in Kathmandu is just a testimony to the fact that women do not necessarily lag behind the men in creativity, leadership and professionalism.

It is good to know that women journalists organizations, such as, Sancharika Samuha - SAS (1996) and Working Women Journalists - WWJ (2006) have been working effectively to enhance the status of the Nepalese women journalists. Given the obvious contributions of the Nepalese women journalists to the Nepalese mass media, Nepalese women journalists are definitely not just pretty faces.

*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, March 22, 2015

Role of Media in Democracy

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

Sometimes after orchestrating a coup d' etat against the elected Nepali Congress government in 1960, King Mahendra imposed a kind of governance known as the Panchayat system which lasted for 30 years and which was notorious for persecuting and prosecuting the journalists and for curtailing press freedom.

One of the distinctive features of the journalistic period during the Panchayat system is that while the opposition newspapers were  busy doing the 'mission journalism' playing the watchdog role,  the pro-Panchayat newspapers were playing lapdog roles at the hands of the powerful regime stalwarts.

Nepal today is a democratic country. But it was not during the Panchayat system. After the political upheaval in 20006, Nepal was morphed into a republic from kingdom. But as the nation wrestles with its gravest and longest political crises in a lingering transition for writing a constitution, the  questions arise: What is the role of media in a democracy as well as in a non-democratic dispensation?  Was the role played by the Nepalese press effective in warning the political parties  against the unnecessary dilly-dallying of the constitution writing process? It looks like the role of 'mission journalism' during the non-democratic Panchayat regime was more effective than the role the Nepalese media is playing today in a democratic setup in Nepal.

Democracy is described as a government that rules with the freely given consent and mandate of the people  and is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. Looking at the modus operandi of the Nepalese political parties and their intentional procrastination in enforcing the constitution, it seems like they lack the democratic culture and political credibility as well. That is why people are raising the questions in social media sites "Why the hell are the Nepalese politicians wasting time and not been able to deliver constitution even after eight years of monarchy's annihilation?"

As long as the Nepalese politicians do not follow the norms and values of democracy, they will never be able to establish true and genuine democracy in the country. People are already aware that  Nepal's Constituent Assembly (CA) is still ill-prepared and lacks credibility to deal with wide ranging issues for delivering the constitution to the nation. The only job of the members of the CA is to abide by the whips and orders of the political parties that they represent. The grim reality of Nepal is that the CA members have been so pre-occupied with their personal and partisan interests that national interest has taken a backseat.

So what is the role of media in Nepal's chaotic democracy? Are the Nepalese media playing constructive and supportive role in enhancing the democratic culture of the Nepalese politicians? Why are the Nepalese political parties and leaders not rising above their petty partisan interests? Why are they not getting down to the business of writing the constitution? Why have the Nepalese media been unable to grill the politicians for their political failures and to bring the politicians back to the track to write the constitution?

There is no doubt that a free and independent media is vital for a vibrant democracy. Nepal today faces a number of challenges relating to the political uncertainties and imbalances. The Nepalese media should be able to provide a clear  and trailblazing vision to the politicians and to get out of the political mess. Therefore, the role of the Nepalese media in exerting pressure on the political parties to build national consensus and bring out a constitution is very significant.

An independent and free media is a cornerstone of democracy. A free media's role can be compared as the oxygen of democracy. That is why the Nepalese media should be able to tell the people about the devastating outcomes of unnecessary lingering of writing of the constitution.

Media is a powerful tool to transform the society but the power of media should not be abused to fulfill vested interest. And at the same time, the Nepalese media should get rid of old hangover of partisan journalism and should be objective in political reportage.

Media and democracy are symbiotic to each other, they both need each other. Politicians always aspire to use the media to curry the political favors.  But the role of media becomes more relevant when the means of mass media support only the right decisions of the politicians and parties, and unequivocally flay the wrong decisions and activities of the political parties and their stalwarts.

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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Role of Credibility Factor in Journalism

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

Journalism is not only a trailblazer to the society but it also exposes negative and nefarious activities of bad people and pervasive corruption rampant in the government and semi-government bureaucracy.  The newspapers and other means of mass media across the world have been running exposes about misdeeds of the government officials and other powerful and dangerous people.

True journalists are not scared of the notorious politicians and criminal dons. A number of journalists across the world have sacrificed their lives waging war against  notorious politicians and criminal dons. A journalist is part of an enterprise that is challenged by multiplicity of problems and issues. Because journalists are formulators and disseminators of news and views, they have a great responsibility towards the people, civic society and the nation as whole.

Credibility is the hallmark of qualitative journalism. Credibility is media outlets' lifeline. In fact, newspapers, radio and television channels should strive to become quintessence of credibility. Credibility is very important in reporting. One-sided and biased reporting is rampant in the Nepalese weekly newspaper journalism which is overtly politicized and polarized. Nepalese newspapers like Dristi, Deshantar, Janadesh, Sanghu  weeklies are just the examples of politicized newspapers. Palpably, balancedness and credibility are something very hard to find in the politicized newspapers.The absolutely untrue and bogus news stories about Anuja 'honestly' returning millions of somebody's lost rupees and that of fake billionaire Russendra Bhattarai published in Kantipur as the breaking news are just the tip of the iceberg. Kantipur never apologized for those bogus news stories and nor did it ever deem necessary to correct it.

Very recently, two American television journalists were accused of misrepresenting their wartime reporting experiences in ways that made those experiences seem more dangerous and vulnerable than they actually were. Brian Williams of NBC and Bill O' Reilly of Fox News are facing charges related to the credibility of news stories they covered in the past.

NBC News suspended Williams for incorrectly saying that he rode in a chopper hit by an enemy grenade while covering news stories in Iraq in 2003. Fox News' Bill O'Reilly was accused of claiming that he had reported in a combat zone for CBS News during the 1982 Falklands war when he was more than a thousand miles from the front. Here, in the US where success and popularity of TV programs are determined by ratings and not necessarily by the quality of the programs, the Williams fiasco was a big setback for NBC News' ratings.

Therefore,  journalists should be ethical and accountable all the time. Only when the journalists abide by the journalistic code of conduct, can it strengthen the foundation of credibility. Williams' story touched a raw nerve because it combined simmering concern over media ethics and also objections of Iraq war veterans.

Journalists should always be careful to not lose credibility. They should not say or write anything that destroys their credibility. We, the journalists, have been exposing the misdeeds committed by bad people. But it is an eye-opener for us, when we, the journalists ourselves, get written about for bad things.

Well, journalists have some kind of leverage on the society and community. But the influence  and prestige that come with being a proud representative of the Fourth Estate have led some journalists to wrongly think that they can get away with anything.

ABC of journalism stands for accuracy, balancedness and credibility. The more the newspapers and other means of mass media bring out accurate, balanced, impartial  and unbiased news stories, the more it increases the  their credibility.

There is no doubt that journalists should always exercise sound judgement and should not bring any discredit to the media outlets in particular and to the calling itself, in general,  highly regarded as the Fourth Estate,  by disseminating untrue and unreliable news stories and write-ups.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hollywood Taekwondo School Marks 20th Anniversary

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

Still when I was with The Rising Nepal, I had an opportunity to interview Diwakar Dan Maharjan of  US World Class Taekwondo Association Hollywood School, Portland in 2005. In that interview published in The Rising Nepal, I remember Maharjan had shed light, among others, on the activities of the US World Class Taekwondo Association Hollywood School and role of growing Nepalese community in Oregon. Well, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge of Willamette and the number of the Nepalese coming to Oregon is also on the rise. The trajectory of community activities of the Nepalese diaspora in Portland somehow is also interrelated with the activities of the taekwondo school.

There is no doubt that two decades of Hollywood Taekwondo School, by no means, is a very big milestone for itself.  It goes without saying that the Hollywood taekwondo school champions the cause of creating and producing excellent taekwondo players. Side by side, the school has always been instrumental in promoting the cultural and traditional Nepalese values in Portland. The idea and concept of Nepa Chhen would have been incomplete without the generous contribution from people and organizations like the taekwondo school.

Meanwhile, US world Class Taekwondo Association Hollywood School marked its 20th anniverasay amid a gala dinner and cultural program at the Nekusing Memorial Theater in Portland, Saturday on March 7, 2015. More than 200 Nepalese people from the different walks  of life in Oregon took part at the taekwondo celebrations in which Shree Prasad Parajuli, vice president of NRNA - NCC USA was the chief guest. The Hollywood taekwondo school's 20th anniversary was followed by songs, dances, wining and dining. On the occasion, International Open Friendship Taekwondo Championship (IOFTC) officials wrapped Khata on Parajuli and also presented souvenirs to the chief guest.

Speaking on the occasion, Parajuli said that NRNA - NCC USA serves as a broader platform of the Nepalese diaspora across the US and that NRNA America will leave no stone unturned to defend the interests of the Nepalese diaspora in the USA. Some participants, taking part in the discussion, had cast doubt on the relevance of setting up of NRNA - Oregon chapter, since according to them there are already more than enough organizations that represent the true interests of the diaspora in Oregon.

Well, the challenges facing organizations like Nepalese Association of Oregon and Nepa Chhen are indeed formidable, but  given the active support and help from the fellow community members, these organizations will surely get through their stated objectives.

Nepalese community members in Oregon are getting more and more organized and coordinated under the organizations like NAO and Nepa Chhen, and the Oregon chapter of Non-resident Nepali Association is to be set up shortly to harmonize the interests of the Nepalese diaspora in Oregon.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Nepal Television: Pioneering TV Broadcaster of Nepal

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

When Nepal Television, which is the oldest and pioneering television station of Nepal  was established in 1985, I was in the former Soviet Union majoring in Journalism at the Belorussian State University in Minsk. Nepal Television set up during the Panchayat regime enjoyed its unprecedented broadcasting monopoly until 2000s when the television broadcasting sector has exploded from one channel - the state controlled one - to more than two dozens today. As a matter of fact, in many countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, television broadcasting was a government monopoly until 2000s.

Well, I fondly remember still when I was with the Peoples Campus teaching Journalism to the IA students, I used to take my students to the Nepal Television studio building at Singha Durbar once every year from 1992 to 2002 for the orientation field trip. That was when NTV was the only TV channel in Nepal.

Despite mushrooming of the private TV channels, NTV is still the most organized, most well equipped, stable and viable TV channel of Nepal. NTV which broadcasts programs in Nepali, Nepal Bhasa, Maithili and English, has been producing and airing entertainment and educational TV series, reality and game shows, news cast and talk shows. There is no doubt that the power of a television channel is its viewership and Nepal Television is still one of the most watched TV channels of Nepal.

Amid stiff competition for viewers and advertising revenue, the Nepalese television channels have relied on socio-political and satirical sitcoms and rowdy political talk shows, reality and game shows.Set up in 1985, Nepal Television's total programming was still three hours a day in 1991. Even Indian government's Door Darshan TV was not a 24-hour channel at that time, nor were the more powerful central Soviet TV channels

When the then king Gyanendra orchestrated a virtual 'coup' against the political parties in 2005, the Nepal Television was used as a platform. The state controlled Nepalese TV broadcast relentless barrage of public support for the king's autocratic move, with many persons wrongly hailing the step as the one for ushering in an era of development and responsible democracy. Well, that never happened. Instead, there were a lot of censorship  in the Nepalese newspapers, FMs and TV channels. Freedom of press and freedom of expression were substantially curtailed, when the king was using the tactics of usurpation of power through royal takeover.

Nepal Television being a government undertaking reflects the views of the government. However, private TV channels, such as, Kantipur TV, Image Channel, Avenues TV etc serve as a counter point to state-run television channel's pro-government coverage

In Nepal, television broadcasting is also a lucrative business controlled by powerful, largely unaccountable tycoons with vested interests. A glaring example: "National Television" stopped broadcasting when its owner Yunus Ansari was arrested in case of counterfeit Indian currency. Ansari was arrested several times with fake Indian notes.

According to the data published by Ministry of Information and Communication of Nepal, 32 television channels were registered by August 2011. However, owing to the financial crunch, many of them could not launch programs on stipulated time and as a result licenses of nine TV channels were revoked by the government.

Recently, in the digital media, the issue of the Nepalese television journalists being underpaid and not paid on time was reported in detail. The controversy has rekindled a debate whether a small and poor country like Nepal can afford more than two dozen TV channels?

In Nepal, though Internet use is growing rapidly, FMs and TV channels remain the main news source for most of the urban population

Television broadcasting that started in 1985 was a late entry into Nepal's mass media system comparing to countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and even Ethiopia. Just as significantly, however, the history of Nepal Television mirrors the difficult trajectory of the  TV broadcasting in Nepal.

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