FES Activities in
Nepal with Media in 2000
The Nepalese media sector
has recorded a significant development since the installation
of multiparty democracy in 1990. There is a high degree of enthusiasm
among media people and potential investors in the media industry,
thanks to the improved sense of security and certain guarantees
offered by the kingdom's Constitution that came into effect
in November 1990. Earlier, the prevailing law and regulations
allowed the local administration to seize and/or order closure
of any printing press; summon and/or order the arrest of the
editor/publisher concerned; cancel the registration of the publication;
refuse to issue registration approvals for new publications;
and harass the editor/publisher in many other ways.
According to the data made
available by Nepal's Department of Information, the total number
of daily, weekly, fortnightly and monthly news publications
has crossed 1550. Of these, however, only 185 are regular publications
and the rest are either irregularly published or have ceased
to be published since some years. But the very fact that there
are nearly 200 publications in a country whose official literacy
rate is hardly 45 per cent of the 24 million people, is a high
number. If there were only two broadsheet national dailies till
1993, there are seven today and a couple of more are in the
In the broadcast sector, private
companies have also begun to make some inroads into government
monopoly. In the last four years, private FM radio stations
have been operating. Half of the dozen or so FM stations are
operating in the media-saturated Kathmandu Valley and the rest
are scattered elsewhere.
The new atmosphere thus has
served as a major boost to potential investors to venture into
the media world. The broadsheet dailies are a case in point.
But this all is only one side of the coin. The Nepalese media
continue to be in transition, faced as they are with a variety
of challenges, problems and shortcomings. One-third of Nepal's
75 districts does not have any local newspapers and its takes
several days or more for national newspapers to reach these
areas. All "national" publications are produced and printed
in Kathmandu Valley. Newspaper network is weak, partly because
of the difficult topography, lack of roads and poor transportation
system. There is no mechanism for inter-district newspaper sales.
District papers have very small circulation figures, most of
them limited to a couple of thousand copies at the most.
Nepal has only one news agency,
National News Agency (RSS), owned wholly and solely by the government.
Members of its board of directors and chairman are all appointed
by the government. RSS is heavily funded by the government as
its revenue from subscription fees is extremely meagre. Radio
Nepal and Nepal Television are also wholly and solely owned
by the government. The government also owns two broadsheet daily
papers, in Nepali and English, and three other periodicals,
all operating in a manner similar to other official media.
Federation of Nepalese Journalists
represents most mainstream and other media people. FNJ has been
active only in the last four years or so, organising talk programmes
and training. FES has regularly supported the organisation.
There are some 30 other media organisations but FES has been
working with about ten of them on a regular basis.
Professionalism and Conclusion
Nine out of every ten newspapers
have hardly any advertisement. How they survive is anybody's
guess. One casualty has been fair journalism. Most papers are
directly affiliated with one political party/faction or the
other. Partisan journalism is the order of the day. This was
so five years ago and it is still the same, although the private
broadsheet dailies are better off on this score. Most journalists
are members of political parties. Government media are extremely
biased especially when the government faces a crisis.
The press associations are
a divided lot, often on grounds of political ideology. People
have to make a guess as to what is happening in the national
affairs after going through the various media, which give different
accounts of events, thus leaving the public confused. Newspaper
distribution system is extremely weak.
are almost non-existent.
Media Activities in 2000
In keeping with the prevailing
situation in Nepal, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung/Nepal Office in
2000 supported a variety of media-related programmes, designed
to benefit media organisations and practitioners as well as
readers, listeners and viewers in general. The basic objective
of the support was to promote professionalism in the media and
help strengthen democracy. Seminars, workshops, material help
and publications were accorded priority.
The main focus of FES support
for media-related programmes is to:
- Strengthen the functioning of media structures
and organisations that help contribute to enhancing democratic
decision- making process.
- Enable organisations engaged in civic education
to get media access for reaching the public.
- Increase public awareness on the role
and function of media in a democratic society.
- Improve the working conditions of media
employees and organisations are.
- Make the performance of media more professional.
- Enhance the influence of NGOs in informing
the public on various important topics and problems.
The media activities can be
broadly divided into the following categories:
iv. Material help
The activities in the year
2000 include 16 seminars/conferences, 13 workshops, material
help to 3 institutions, 1 publication and 1 study & publication.
FES has been the most prominent institution in supporting programmes
that bring into public debate highly topical and timely issues
pertaining to the mass media in Nepal. The conferences, seminars
and workshops are designed to help initiate lively and fruitful
discussions on different topics. Many of the programmes will
be addressed by important personalities from various walks of
life, including government ministers, court judges, mayors and
other prominent personalities. The pool of resource persons
pressed into service for the activities will represent senior
and experienced media practitioners, trainers and academics.
These programmes are to be organised by relevant partners.
The overall media-related
programmes are geared towards enhancing a higher degree of professionalism
that not only raises the credibility of media organisations
and performance but also contributes to creating a more informed
society. Two university campuses, offering courses on journalism
and mass communication, and a media training institution will
be the beneficiaries of the material support provided by FES.
Illiteracy in Nepal stands
at about 55 per cent of the population of 24 million. Electricity
reaches hardly 15 per cent of the total households. Motorable
roads connect only a few places. As such, radio is the most
potent source of information. However, only the state-run Radio
Nepal has a nation-wide reach so far while about a dozen FM
stations have also sprung up since the government started issuing
licences sparingly to the private sector in the last four years.
FM stations are not allowed to broadcast news and political
affairs bulletins. With FES support, community radio's role
in informing its target audience will be brought into discussion.
The general consensus is that community radio should be promoted.
Media Activities in Brief
Asmita women's Publishing
House brought out a book on women through the media. The
Media Watch, in Nepali, is a collection of articles highlighting
a wide range of gender issues, including the portrayal of women
in the media. FES provided partial cost involved in printing.
There might not be more than two or three books on gender issues
and media, and hence is the significance of the latest Asmita
Federation of Nepalese
Journalists, the country's largest organisation of journalists,
organised a series of five two-day workshops on Professional
Journalism in the 21st century. The FES-backed theme was also
the FNJ's slogan for the year 2000. The programmes were held
at different regions outside Kathmandu and discussions focussed
on opportunities and challenges for Nepalese journalists in
the ensuing decades. Various aspects of professionalism were
FNJ's Dang district unit was
supported partially in organising an inter-action programme
on human rights and media.
Women and Development Communication
Centre organised two conferences, one on "Community Radio
for an Informed Society" and another on "Enhancing Media Services
in Rural Areas". The need and opportunities for establishing
community radio stations were discussed. Likewise, the need
for developing information channels for the benefit of people
in rural areas was also discussed. Both the topics were considered
relevant in the Nepalese context.
WDCC also organised two seminars,
of one day each, on "Media Coverage of Development Issues".
Given the fact that the mainstream media have been giving extremely
little attention to the problems and developments in rural areas
where more than 85 per cent of the country's population live,
the topic of the seminar was appreciated by participants.
Nepal Institute of Mass
Communication organised two workshops on "News Reporting
and Source Development". Held outside Kathmandu for three days
each, the workshops attracted participation of senior and mid-career
journalists who were acquainted with skills to improve news
reporting skills and the importance of public contacts for better
NIMC also organised in Kathmandu
a day-long seminar on "Media Perspective of Gender Issues".
The programme dealt with the ways the media had been treating
gender issues. The focus was on the national media, both print
People's Campus, which
runs a course on journalism at the Intermediate level in Kathmandu,
was provided with books on various aspects of journalism and
mass communication. There were hardly any books in the campus
library on the related topics previously. Now there are about
100 titles of books that are borrowed by both teachers and students.
It was the first time that the campus received such assistance.
Department of Journalism
and Mass Communication, R.R. Campus in Kathmandu,
which serves more than 400 students at Intermediate and Bachelor
levels, was provided with books on various aspects of journalism
and mass communication. Since FES began providing such material
help in 1997, the Department's library has been enriched, with
about 250 titles of books on media.
Media Point, a Kathmandu-based
training institute on journalism, was provided with books
on various aspects of journalism and mass communication. Most
of the titles were on journalism since the institute basically
trains journalists or would-be-journalists. It was the first
time that the institute received such assistance.
Nepal Press Union organised
two two-day workshops on "Information Bill and Act for
Right to Information" in eastern and western Nepal. The theme
was highly topical and relevant at a time when the Nepalese
society in general and media practitioners in particular have
been protesting against the delay on the government's part in
initiating mechanisms for a freer and greater flow of information.
In the absence of a Right to Information Act, government offices
are extremely reluctant to part with information that might
seem to have the slightest potential to embarrass government
officials and ministers, although Nepal's Constitution explicitly
guarantees right to information to all citizens.
NPU also received support
for a day-long seminar on "Responsible Journalism in the 21st
Century. (Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is scheduled
to make an inaugural address to the seminar in Kathmandu on
December 26, 2000.)
Telegraph Weekly organised
a day-long seminar in Kathmandu on "Role of Media in Enhancing
Good Governance", a topic that has been catching the imagination
of many sections of Nepalese society. It was for the first time
that media's role in good governance was discussed by academics
and journalists together. The weekly paper, which regularly
carries comprehensive articles on various issues, especially
those of interest to university professors and media academics,
is the only news publication that is a regular FES partner in
Nepal in the last five years.
Sancharika Samuha Nepal
organised a day-long seminar in the capital and two two-day
workshops in eastern and western Nepal on the topic of "Beijing+5
Review & Media". The focus was on how the media have responded
to gender issues in the light of the 1995 women's conference
in Beijing. The consensus was that there has been a noticeable
improvement in media outlook of gender issues but there still
remains a lot to be achieved.
Journalism Research and
Training Society of Nepal organised in Kathmandu a day-long
seminar on "Prospects and Challenges in Judicial Reporting".
Of late, there has been growing popular concern that the media
had not been given a critical appraisal of the judiciary because
of fear among journalists that they might be booked on charges
of contempt of court, despite persistent rumours of glaring
anomalies in the functioning of the judiciary. Former Speaker
of the House of Representatives, Daman Nath Dhungana was the
Vasudha Sanchar Samuha
organised a day-long seminar on "Media Priority for Environmental
Issues". Participants stressed on the need for the media to
accord higher priority for environmental issues. They also called
for in-depth writing on such issues.
Press Chautari organised
two day-long seminars on "Freedom of Expression and Media Responsibility"
and a two-day workshop on "Professional Skill in Regional Press".
In the seminars, the participants discussed not only the role
of the media as a watchdog but also their responsibility towards
society. The workshop on regional press dealt with constraints
of the press in the districts and skills needed for writing
news and views effectively.
Nepal Association of Media
Educators organised in Kathmandu a day-long seminar on "Curriculum
for M.A. in Mass Communication". Despite demands from various
quarters for introducing M.A. course on journalism and mass
communication, there is no such curriculum in Nepal so far.
FES has supported a number of programmes on media education
in the last three years and, as a result, the Tribhuvan University
seems to be serious in introducing such a course within the
next two years.
Editor's Guild in Nepal
organised in Kathmandu a day-long seminar on "Media Policy for
Weekly Papers". About 80 per cent of regular news publications
in Nepal are weeklies. But they attract very little advertisement,
and hence the seminar discussed ways and means to improving
the financial health of weekly papers so that they can serve
their readers better.
Society was supported for a study & publication project.
The book was supported in 1999 in the form of a modest first
phase payment. This year, the book, written in Nepali by well-known
journalist Kishore Nepal. It dealt with media coverage of events
of Nepal's two important democratic movements, one that led
to the 1980 National referendum and the other to the 1990 restoration
of the multiparty democracy.
The book in Nepali entitled
"Janamatdekhi Jana Abndolan Samma (From Referendum to Popular
Movement) was formally released by former Prime Minister and
senior-most Nepali Congress leader Krishna Prasad Bhattarai
in Kathmandu. Speakers at the programme were all praise for
"1st Asian Input Conference" in Kathmandu was partially supported
by FES. The assistance was in the form of an air-fare for an
expert attending the workshop. The workshop included objectives
that sought to encourage creative endogenous television productions
in developing countries in transition to democracy and increase
the presence of television makers from developing countries
and their productions at the international level.