Sunday, July 12, 2015

Nepal: A Censorship-free Country

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

The number of countries which are notorious for using censorship to protect the  regime are on the decline. Today the list is not very long as in the eighties and  nineties: China, North Korea, Eritrea, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus and some other countries in Africa, Middle East and Latin America. During the Panchayat regime of 30 years, censorship was used in Nepal excessively.

There were cases when the copies of Newsweek, Time magazine and some Indian newspapers were banned and confiscated at the Tribhuvan International Airport for materials related to the Royal family and regime during the Panchayat period in Nepal.

Well, freedom of press does not mean the freedom to print, publish and broadcast pornography and obscene materials. Therefore, some degrees of self-censorship are used  and must be used to prevent pornography and obscenity and that is okay.

But if newspapers and magazines are  banned, harassed and intimidated for publishing political materials against the government and the political parties, it is outrageous and unacceptable. So many Nepalese journalists were harassed and incarcerated during the Panchayat regime only because they used their pen against the government. Suppression of information, news and views as well as persecution and prosecution of journalists are  not acceptable in any way.

Today, Nepalese journalists are politically and legally free of censorship and Nepal is a censorship-free country. Democracy was restored in Nepal in 1990 and broadly speaking there was no obvious censorship in Nepal after 1990 except during former king Gyanendra's takeover in 2005 when even the army personnel were deployed in the news rooms of private sector broadsheet daily newspapers, FM radio stations and television channels.

I was with The Rising Nepal, a government-owned English language broadsheet daily newspaper for over a decade spanning from 1992-2005. I have heard about the grim stories about the top journalists of the Gorkhapatra Corporation being suspended and transferred to other sections for minor mistakes in news stories related to the royal family during the Panchayat period.

Fortunately, I was with the TRN after democracy was restored in 1990. Still the policy of the Gorkhapatra Corporation - which run the newspapers - required to use self-censorship to a considerable degree so much so that a very minor and insignificant piece of news related to the royal family has to be printed on the front page of the Gorkhapatra and The Rising Nepal even after the restoration of democracy in 1990.

I was in the former Soviet Union for over a decade from 1979 to 1989. The Soviet Union was notorious for censoring politically delicate news coverage and jamming the radio broadcasting of radio stations like the BBC and Voice of America. Free press did not exist in the Soviet Union. All the activities related to the mass media were directed and monitored by the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union). The foreign newspapers and magazines were strictly prohibited in the USSR. Only the newspapers and magazines of the fraternal Communist Parties were allowed. Therefore, the mouthpiece of US Communist Party "People's World" and British Communist Party newspaper "Morning Star" were available at the newspaper kiosks in major cities of the former Soviet Union.

There are a number of reasons for disintegration of countries like the USSR and Yugoslavia. Lack of reasonable democratic practices and absence of press freedom were among them. It is not as easy for the politicians to argue, as they did in the past, that the disintegration of the countries like the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia is the result of grand designs of outsiders. Actually, they were just frightened by the power of democracy and free press.

*Shakya is also State Education Director, NRNA - USA Oregon Chapter, Portland, USA.
**Please leave a comment below.

No comments:

Post a Comment