Sunday, April 19, 2015

Decline in Newspaper Readership

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

From the soaring newsprint price dilemmas, to advertisement drop quandaries to circulation decline conundrum, the newspapers in the US, UK and other European countries are finding themselves at the crossroads of post-Internet age.

So why is newspaper readership declining in the US, UK, Canada and other European countries? Was Prof Marshall McLuhan right when he foretold in 1960s the annihilation of the printed word by the electronic media?

In the US and elsewhere young people are seen daily with smartphones everywhere. Young people all over the world are too much obsessed with the smart phones and other electronic gadgets. You can read and find not only news of all kinds but virtually anything in the smart phones. That is why very few Americans in their twenties and thirties read a newspaper.

Well, decline of newspaper readership is rightly attributed to easy availability of Internet access and growth of other electronic media like television and radio. The dramatic decline in newspaper advertisement since 2000 has added to it. Excessive use and dependence on Internet and excessive use of smart phones have triggered the free fall of the newspapers in the developed countries.

So, maybe, Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press was absolutely right when he said: "Young people are reading everything but newspapers."

In case of Britain, Audit Bureau of Circulation figures show that since January 2001, the total circulation of the UK's ten major national newspapers has declined from 12.06 million copies sold on average each day 14 years ago to a daily average of 6.84 million copies sold in May last year.

And according to Pew Research Center, "While Americans enjoy reading as much as ever - 51 percent say they enjoy reading a lot, little changed over the past two decades - a declines proportion gets news or reads other material on paper on a typical day. Many readers are now shifting to digital platforms to read the papers."

Only 29 percent say they read a newspaper yesterday - with just 23 percent reading a print newspaper. Over the past decade, the percentage reading a print newspaper the previous day has fallen by 18 points (from 41% to 23%), adds Pew.

The conspicuous regions not affected by decline of newspapers are Asia and Latin America where sales of newspapers are still rising. Among the 100 bestselling newspapers in the world, 74 are published in Asia and 62 bestselling newspapers are brought out only in Japan, China and India.

Nepal is also seeing the boom of newspapers' growth, where according to government statistics, in 2003 there were were 3,741 registered newspapers of which 251 were published daily.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Nepa Chhen Greets Bikram Sambat New Year 2072 with Various Programs

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

The Nepalese people living in Nepal and living across the world are welcoming the Bikram Sambat New Year 2072 with new optimism, enthusiasm and resolution.

Bikram Sambat -- which was created by emperor Bikramaditya of Ujjain, India following his victory over the Sakas in 56 BC -- is the official calendar of Nepal. In fact, Bikram Sambat was introduced in Nepal during the period of Rana autocracy. Prior to that, Saka Sambat was the official calendar of Nepal.

Although Bikram Sambat which derives its name from emperor Bikramaditya, is an official holiday in Nepal, it is not enthusiastically celebrated by the people in Nepal like Nepal Sambat and Lhosar. However, the Nepalese people across the world celebrate the Bikram Sambat New Year as a part of maintaining Nepalese traditions and culture.

Although there are growing signs of discontent with the Bikram Sambat  as the official calendar of Nepal among some sections of Nepalese population especially among the ethnic communities, Bikram Sambat is still used popularly for almost all practical purposes in Nepal except the cultural and ritual procedures.

Detractors of Bikram Sambat calendar claim that Bikram Sambat does not have anything related to Nepal, and it is so true. So why did the Ranas scrap the Saka Sambat and replaced it with the Bikram Sambat? Emperor Bikramaditya was a Hindu emperor. Therefore, ostensible reason for Hindu Ranas to adopt Bikram Sambat could be because it was created by a Hindu emperor.

But Saka Sambat which was officially used in Nepal prior to the Bikram Sambat is also not related to Nepal. In fact, Saka Sambat is official calendar of India today, along with the Gregorian calendar. First of all, it is very important to clarify that Bikram Sambat is not a Nepali calendar as wrongly claimed by its diehard opponents. Yes, Bikram Sambat is official calendar of Nepal, but again it is not a Nepali calendar. Gregorian Calendar (Christian Calendar) is an official calendar not only of the UK, the US, Canada, many European countries but it was an official calendar even in the non-Christian Communist Soviet Union. Gregorian calendar is an official calendar of India too, along with Saka Sambat.

It goes without saying that arguments must not be for the sake of arguments. Criticism and arguments should be healthy, logical and rational and should not be based on jingoism and chauvinism. I have never read or seen anything that describes Bikram Sambat as Nepali Sambat. Some sections of the Nepalese community is harbouring a deep ambivalence about the Bikram Sambat when they wrongly claim that we should not celebrate India-born Bikram Sambat as Nepali New Year. First of all, no body can say or claim that Bikram Sambat is a Nepali calendar. To celebrate it or not simply depends on their personal wish or freedom. We cannot and should not impose anything in a free and democratic society.

To say that we have been taught wrong history just demonstrates ignorance and lack of information and knowledge because even high school students in Nepal are aware that Bikram Sambat is not a Nepali calendar.

Anyway, it is  a matter of great satisfaction that Bikram Sambat New Year is celebrated by the Nepalese communities across the US too. In Portland, Oregon Nepal's official new year is celebrated every year by Nepalese Association of Oregon (NAO) and Nepa Chhen separately.

Nepa Chhen, a non-profit organization of the Nepalese community in Portland - which champions the cause of enhancing Nepalese arts, culture and traditions and which aims to build a community house - greeted the Vikram Sambat New Year 2072 by organizing a reception program with various activities on Saturday, April 11, 2015 at Nekusing Memorial Theater, Hollywood Taekwondo School in Portland.

Welcoming the guests on the occasion, Nepa Chhen's advisor Diwakar Maharjan threw light on the organization's activities. On the occasion. Nepal Chhen's president Rajesh Maharjan wrapped Khata on the new Nepalese community members.

More than 100 people  attended the reception. Though there were lots of songs and dances during the reception, it was Mamata Dipbim who stole the show. Portland's Nepali Rock Group "Manda" was also the center of cynosure. A raffle game was also organized with the fund-raising purpose.

Well, I think with the passing of time,  New Years keep coming and going, and we meet new people, new experiences, new hopes, new dreams and maturity in our lives.

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

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Press Freedom is OK in Nepal, But Working Conditions for Journalists Are Not

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

I was very much stunned, surprised and disappointed by what was written in Wikipedia's article on "Freedom of the Press" where it says: "In Nepal, Eritrea and mainland China, journalists may spend years in jail for using the "wrong" word or photo.

If it was during the few turbulent years when King Gyanendra usurped political power, the statement of Wikipedia might be true. But it does not say that.

I know it is true about Eritrea and mainland China, but absolutely false when it comes to Nepal which is a fully democratic country. This kind of blatantly false information may erode the credibility of Wikipedia.

Freedom of press is guaranteed by the Interim Constitution of Nepal. So there is no problem with the press freedom in Nepal. When it comes to freedom of press, I believe we must define a journalist and the constitutional and statutory protections that a journalist should receive. Politically, there is considerable press freedom in Nepal and journalists are free to write about whatever they want.

It is true that, although the Nepali press has enjoyed freedom in principle, the job of the journalists is still hazardous. Nepalese journalists are still vulnerable to threats, attacks and intimidation from notorious politicians, tycoons and criminal dons.

It goes without saying that no Nepalese journalists are harassed and imprisoned by the government for doing their jobs. Journalists in today's Nepal are neither persecuted nor prosecuted merely for what they write.

And yes, the threats intimidations and assaults to journalists usually come from non-state sector. So many Nepalese media people were killed in the past decade. The sad part is that the government has not been able to prevent the murders and assaults on journalists.

One of the noticeable deterrents of the Nepalese journalism is related to the working conditions. Many journalists and reporters especially working in small newspapers and private TV channels are underpaid and some are not paid at all.

There is no doubt that safety and good working conditions are important to journalists. Media industry can not flourish in a professional way in the absence safety and good working conditions.