State of Media and FES-Supported Activities
I. Status of Media
Nepal's news media, for most part of the year
2002, suffered severe restrictions in their work because of
the state of emergency imposed by King Gyanendra on the recommendation
of a democratically elected government. The emergency lasted
for nine months from November 2001 to August 2002. New publications
have been brought out from different parts of the country. The
number of FM stations has also increased and some of them have
increased their broadcast hours. On the television front, some
private organisations have obtained licences for launching their
TV services. The code of conduct to be observed by journalists
has also come into sharp focus and the freedom of expression
received a lot of public and press attention mainly because
of difficulties faced during the state of emergency.
I. (1) Journalists during Emergency
During the emergency months, the media exercised
extensive self-censorship on matters relating to security forces
and their activities as well the Maoists and their activities.
They relied heavily on government sources only for news on Maoist
activities and the deployment of the army and the armed police
force. Reporters posted in the districts, including areas most
affected by Maoist activities, filed very little reports based
on non-government sources. In short, independent sources were
rarely quoted for their news stories.
Although the state of emergency was declared
on November 26, 2001, it was extended till the last week of
August 2002. During this period, many journalists were arrested.
According to the Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies
(CEHURDES), 150 journalists were arrested in different parts
of the country. Although the state emergency was lifted in August,
about two dozen journalists are reported to be still in detention.
Some of the journalists were reportedly tortured, both psychologically
and physically. Most journalists were released within a few
days after their arrest. Many complained that they did not receive
letters of detention at the time of their arrest. Many protested
the mistreatment they were subjected to during the interrogation
by security forces.
Two journalists were killed. Krishna Sen, editor of Janadesh
weekly, believed to be close to the Maoists, was killed in custody.
The government has not given any detail about Sen's death. The
other journalist killed was Ambika Timilsina, who was associated
with the pro-Maoist Janadesh and Mahima weeklies. Timilisna
had gone underground after the declaration of emergency but
surrendered to the local administration subsequently. His dead
body was found riddled with bullets one kilometre from his house
in Morang district in Eastern Nepal. Some reports suggest that
Maoists might have killed him on charges of serving the security
forces as an "informer".
National and international oganisations devoted to the cause
of freedom of expression condemned the arrest, torture and killing
of journalists. FES partner organisations like Federation of
Nepalese Journalists, International Press Institute (IPI) Nepal
National Committee, Press Chautari and Nepal Press Union were
among the organisations, which played a major role in highlighting
the problems of the journalists during the emergency. The amount
of pressure they put on the government resulted in the release
of many journalists.
I. (2) Public Complaints
Politicians and the intelligentsia in general
complained against the media performance during the state of
emergency. They urged the media to be more professional and
inform the public about the goings-on in the Maoist-hit areas
in a comprehensive manner. They wanted the media to inform the
public about the various details concerning army operation against
the Maoists and the actual situation of the people in the affected
areas, including the situation of the rebels. At various functions,
it was pointed out that professionalism demands journalists
to report accurately even during a state of emergency.
II. News Media
The state-run Radio Nepal and Nepal Television
came in for strong criticism for their reports on Maoists activities,
army operations and the situation in the Maoist affected areas.
The Sher Bahadur Deuba government and now the Lokendra Bahadur
Chand government have been accused of misusing the state-run
media to serve their own narrow interest and malign the Opposition.
II. (1) Newspapers
According to the latest Press Council report,
the number of news publications increased this year as compared
to last year's record. Although a total of 1756 publications
were registered, only 215 were published regularly-40 dailies,
1 biweekly, 161 weeklies and 13 fortnightlies. The numbers are,
however, an improvement over last year's record. Last year,
there were 192 regular news publications-35 dailies, 147 weeklies
and 10 fortnightlies. As usual, majority of the publications
is registered in Kathmandu, which also takes the major share
of regular publications in any single category.
Of the 35 "A" category publications
listed by the Press Council, only 2 are published from outside
Kathmandu Valley. Of these "A" category publications,
12 are dailies, 11 weeklies, 2 fortnightlies and 10 monthlies.
The two publications published from outside Kathmandu Valley
are daily papers, one each from Eastern and Mid-Western regions.
As many as 17 of the country's 75 districts have not recorded
any newspaper publication originating locally. Because of poor
road and transportation, national newspapers reach only one-third
of the district headquarters within 24 hours after publication.
Nearly one-third of the district headquarters receives newspapers
from capital city two days late or even later.
Since newspaper editors and publishers have
been raising various issues, including those concerned with
newsprint and advertisement policies, the government in December
formed a five-member committee headed by the chairman of the
Press Council, Mr. Harihar Birahi, to make recommendations for
addressing their problems.
II. (2) Radio
About two dozen FM radio stations are operating
in different places, almost half of them in Kathmandu Valley
and Pokhara, thus underscoring the uneven distribution of these
radio services. Most of them are commercial stations and there
is no transparency over the manner in which licences are issued.
There are 75 districts in the country and not even ten districts
have FM stations while there are many who are keen to run such
stations elsewhere too. The Ministry of Information and Communication
has to yet to become transparent over the manner in which radio
licences are issued. The government does not allow the private
sector to run national radio services. A three-member committee
headed by a senior journalist, Mr. Bharat D. Koirala, was constituted
in December to look into issues pertaining to the electronic
II. (3) Television
The government decided in April to award licences
to three private companies-Image Channel Pvt Ltd to operate
a metro channel in Kathmandu, Kantipur Television Network Pvt
Ltd to operate a nationwide terrestrial television channel and
Shangri-la Television to procure satellite uplink facilities.
All three companies are required to begin their operations within
18 months of acquiring licences. The ministry had called for
proposals from private parties in October 2000. Nepal Television
is also set to launch a metro channel in the near future, with
the help of assistance from the government of China, which provided
the infrastructure and equipment worth over Euro 7 million.
So far the state-run Nepal Television is the only Nepalese channel
operating from the country.
III. Key Media Issues
III. (1) Foreign Investment in Media
A task force, constituted to study and make
recommendations on the issue of foreign investment in Nepal's
media, has submitted its report to the Minister of Information
and Communication. The government had formed the committee to
look into foreign investment in media. A joint secretary at
the Ministry of Information and Communication, Mr. Hem Raj Poudel,
headed the panel. Other members included representatives from
the Federation of Nepalese journalists, industrial organisations
and Press Council.
Details of the report have not been made public and the government
is yet to come out with specific policies governing the question
of foreign investment in the media.
III. (2) Higher Education in Journalism
and Mass Communication
For the first time in Nepal, journalism and
mass communication courses have been introduced at Master's
level. Three colleges affiliated with Tribhuvan University and
Purbanchal University offer the courses, all in Kathmandu. However,
there is an acute lack of laboratory facilities and textbooks.
Teachers, students and campus managements have felt the need
to develop textbooks written in local contexts. There is also
a need for special orientation courses for mass communication
III. (3) Demand for Media Policy
At FES-supported seminars and workshops as
well as many other forums, there were frequent demands for a
comprehensive media policy covering a range of issues such as
advertisement, newsprint, Working Journalists' Act, right to
information, gender participation, code of conduct, media pluralism,
media ownership, foreign investment in media, broadcast policies
and media professionalism. This prompted the government to constitute
two panels-one covering the electronic media and the other dealing
with the print media-to look into the related areas and submit
a report along with recommendations to the government.
IV. FES-Supported Activities/Programmes
As in the past, FES supported media-related
seminars, workshops, conferences and publication in 2002. The
main thrust of the programmes was to promote media professionalism
for adequately informing society in an accurate and responsible
manner and with it contributing to the democratisation process
in the country and fostering social harmony and ensuring justice.
FES-supported activities attracted an array
of prominent personalities and experts in terms of chief guests
and resource persons. The prime minister, chairman of the Raj
Sabha (State Council) Standing Committee, former prime minister,
ministers, members of parliament, senior leaders of various
political parties, newspapers and radio station managers were
among them. About 45 participants averaged in FES activity.
FES has emerged as the leading INGO in Nepal
in supporting programmes that deal with some of the most topical
and pressing issues pertaining to the news media. Code of conduct,
right to information, conditions of working journalists, gender
and the media, role of media in good governance, media ownership
and a series of other topics were discussed at one programme
or the other. And the media sector in particular has recognised
and appreciated such support and effort.
Partners of FES have begun undertaking follow-up
programmes without any follow-up support from FES. For example,
the Federation of Nepalese Journalists has taken up the issue
of the need for a Right to Information Act so that information
is easily accessible to citizens, from which the media could
benefit a lot. It even drafted a Right to Information Act and
submitted it to the government and the latter has prepared a
bill based on the FNJ draft. It is likely to be introduced in
parliament after the next general elections.
Nepal Association of Media Educators, through
FES-supported programnmes, was the first to press for introducing
Master's level course in journalism and mass communication.
NAME on its own followed it up with more debates and campaign
for the same. As a result, the course has been introduced much
to the appreciation of media people in particular.
Four years ago, FES supported the Federation
of Nepalese Journalists in organising seminars on code of conduct,
during which there were suggestions that it be revised. FES
partner organisations have taken up the matter in the subsequent
years. This year, too, FNJ and Press Council, among others,
discussed the subject and it is likely that the existing code
of conduct for journalists will be revised sometime in the future.
IV. (1. A) Federation of Nepalese Journalists
was the partner organisation which conducted a day-long seminar
on "Media and Democracy" at Dharan in Eastern region
(March 3). Over 60 journalists from different districts took
part in each of these programmes. The focus was on a "calculated
design to cause mental harassment of journalists" by the
local administration. The participants said journalists should
work fearlessly even during the state of emergency.
IV. (1. B) The Federation of Nepalese Journalists
was also supported to conduct a national conference on "Media
Professionalism in Strengthening Democracy" at Pokhara
in Western region (December 29-30). About 55 journalists from
different districts and regions attended the programme, which
dealt with three key issues-Working Journalists' Act, right
to information and journalists' code of conduct. The participants
called for implementation of the Working Journalists' Act and
stressed the need for introducing a Right to Information Act
in keeping with the letter and spirit of the Constitution which
guarantees access to information to all citizens.
IV. (2) Press Chautari was supported to organise
a day-long seminar on "Media Commission for an Informed
Society" at Pokhara in Western region (February 8). About
60 journalists from different districts took part in the programme.
The focus was on journalistic skills, right to information,
transparency, and comprehensive and clear media policies. The
general consensus of the participants was that a high level
media commission should be constituted to deal with various
issues concerned with the media sector. The commission should
be a powerful body in order to monitor the overall media sector
and come up with recommendation for the enhancement of media
IV. (3. A) FES supported the IPI Nepal National
Committee by meeting the expenses of lunch for a workshop in
Kathmandu (September 12) on "State of Media in Nepal",
in which there were about 45 participants. Officials of IPI
headquarters in Vienna also spoke on the occasion. They also
met with Prime Minister Deuba who assured them that the media
would be allowed to exercise their freedom. As a follow-up action,
the Committee took the initiative of establishing a "Press
Freedom Grand Jury".
IV. (3. B) Another occasion when FES extended
partial support to the IPI Nepal National Committee in Kathmandu
(November 21) was when the latter organised a seminar on "Journalists
during the State of Emergency". About 30 journalists and
human rights activists attended the interaction programme. As
a follow-up, the Press Freedom Grand Jury and the Centre for
Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES) filed petitions
on behalf of journalists who sought help to obtain compensation
from the government for being illegally arrested and/or mentally/physically
IV. (4. A-B) Sancharika Samuha Nepal (Women
Communicators' Group, Nepal) organised two workshops on "Reporting
on Violence Against Women" at Pokhara in Western region
(July 12-13) and Birgunj in Central region (November 1-2). About
40 journalists, social workers and gender activists from different
districts attended each of these two-day programmes. Media trend,
news coverage of incidents of violence against women and ethical
issues were among the topics that figured prominently at the
workshops. The participants said the media should work for ensuring
that their work did not victimise women already victimised by
IV. (5. A) Nepal Association of Media Educators
organised a two-day workshop on Specialised News Reporting"
in Eastern region (April 8-9). Attended by more than 45 participants,
the programme acquainted journalists with the basics of specialised
reporting, significance of spcecialisation in reporting and
need for regular review of issues overlooked or under-reported.
Training on specialised news reporting was a top priority laid
down by the workshop.
IV. (6. B) Nepal Association of Media Educators
also organised seminar on "Study of Mass Communication",
with special reference to journalism and mass communication
at the higher secondary (Plus-Two level) in Kathmandu (December
10). About 30 participants were involved in extensive discussion
on media education. The general consensus was that efforts should
be made to produce media-related textbooks since there was an
acute dearth of such books. Special orientation courses for
teachers/lecturers involved in this sector should be provided
for uniformity and quality teaching. The participants said that
more interaction programmes were required to look into the various
problems faced by both students and teachers.
IV. (7) Women and Development Communication
Centre organised a seminar on "Community Radio and Information
Sharing" at Butwal in Mid-Western region (November 28).
About 45 journalists, social workers and intellectuals, including
representatives of various radio stations attended the programme.
The participants discussed at length the lack of a clear policy
on the part of the government regarding FM radio licences and
their functioning. They also stressed more community participation
in radio broadcasting services and called for training and skill-oriented
programmes for radio personnel.
IV. (8) Department of Journalism and Mass
Communication was supported to edit and publish a book on professional
journalism, entitled "Sanchar Jagat" (Media World).
Written in Nepali, the book is based on a manuscript draft that
was prepared with FES support in 2001. It is expected to be
of value to journalism and mass communication students.
IV. (9) Nepal Swatantra Patrakar Samaj (Society
of Independent Journalists) organised a seminar on "Media
Council for FM Radio" in Lalitpur (October 5). More than
40 FM radio jockeys, allied personnel and other journalists
took part in the programme. It was mentioned that although about
two dozen FM radio stations were operating in the country, there
was a need for increasing the total number of FM radio stations
in a country with 24 million population. The seminar concluded
with recommendations that trained manpower be produced, FM radio
stations not be aligned with any political group, facilities
for FM stations to broadcast news be improved and a media council
exclusively for FM radio stations was considered necessary for
recommending policies covering the FM radio sector.
IV. (10) FES, in coordination with the Department
of Communication and Journalism at the University of Pune, India,
organised a five-day workshop in Pune (December 13-17) for 14
mid-career journalists, five of them women. The participants
represented all the publishing houses bringing out national
broadsheet newspapers, National News Agency (RSS), Nepal Television,
Radio Nepal, Federation of Nepalese Journalists, Women and Development
Communication Centre, Women Communicators' Group, Radio Sagarmatha
(South Asia's first community radio) and Kantipur FM, a private
sector FM radio service with the largest listeners for any FM
radio station in Kathmandu Valley and many parts of Eastern
Nepal. Newspaper editors and scholars were the resource persons
for the workshop, which discussed extensively on bilateral relations,
regional cooperation, international affairs as well as national
politics were topics.
IV. (11) The Telegraph Weekly organised a
seminar on "Youth, Media and Democracy" in Kathmandu
(December 27). There were about 40 participants. The participants
said that the young generation in the media must play a remarkable
role for enhancing and safeguarding democracy. Accusing political
leaders for creating "the current mess" in the country,
they said the youth in the media should think about the nation
and find their own ways for the betterment of democracy and
that political parties were responsible for the existing political
V. Under the Regional Media Project, FES supported
five partner organisations for organising a series of ten activities,
with the central theme being on "Right to Information and
Good Governance". Nepal's Constitution is among the few
of its kind in the world, which guaranteed all its citizens
right to information-something that is expected to promote transparency
and accountability so essential for good governance. However,
it has been more than 12 years since the existing Constitution
came into effect after the restoration of democracy in 1990,
and right to information is yet to be put into effective practice
in the absence of a Right to Information Act. Media organisations
have been campaigning for such an Act so that information from
public institutions are forthcoming easily.
V. (1. A-B) Federation of Nepalese Journalists
was the partner organisation which conducted day-long seminars
on Media and Democracy" in Baglung in Western region (September
2) and Kathmandu in Central region (December 8). About 60 journalists
from different districts took part in each programme. The seminars
discussed existing media practices and the role the news media
could play in strengthening democracy. The participants voiced
concern over a "calculated design to cause mental harassment
of journalists" by the local administration. The participants
said journalists should work fearlessly even during the state
V. (1.C) FES also supported the Federation
of Nepalese Journalists Chitwan unit to organise a seminar on
"Rural Reporting" at Chitwan district in Central region
(October 29). With over 35 journalists participating, the seminar
called for adequate training, quality reporting, greater thrust
on development journalism and mass media expansion in rural
areas and small towns. The particiopants said that although
more than 80 per cent of the population lived in rural areas,
issues pertaining to people living in the rural parts of the
country were either ignored or given only a casual mention in
the media. They said such attitude should be changed in order
to make democracy and governance inclusive and participatory.
V. (2.A) International Press Institute-Nepal
National Committee, approached FES for support to attend the
"IPI World Congress" at Ljubljana in Slovenia (May
9-12). FES extended partial financial support to the tune of
about Euro 1700. In addition to this support, IPI National Committee
pooled its other resources to enable four of its members to
attend the conference in Slovenia, during which the Nepalese
delegates made a presentation on the state of media in Nepal
during the state of emergency.
V. (2.B) IPI Nepal National Committee also
organised with FES support a conference in Lalitpur (July 26)
on "Journalism and Conflict", placing the main focus
on media and the Maoist problem. The then Prime Minister Sher
Bahadur Deuba made the inaugural address. The participants numbering
about 45 discussed various aspects of conflict prevention and
resolution. They said that journalists should not lose sight
of the sensitivities involved in connection with the conflict
but, at the same time, they should faithfully carry out their
professional duties in reporting accurately comprehensively,
with the objective to inform the public credibly and contributing
to social harmony as well.
V. (3. A) Nepal Press Union organised a seminar
on "Media Professionalism and Working Journalists"
in Kathmandu (October 5). Attended by about 40 journalists,
the programme was addressed by Press Council Chairman Harihar
Birahi. During the discussion, the participants complained that
journalists were becoming the targets of the government as well
as the Maoists rebels. They called for measures providing compensation
to working journalists who suffer while performing their professional
duties. Stress was also laid on appropriate provision for training
and study so that journalists can increase their knowledge and
skills for better performance.
V. (3. B)Nepal Press Union also organised
a national conference on "Review of Working Journalists'
Act" at Lalitpur in Central region (December 7). More than
50 journalists took part and discussed various aspects of the
Working Journalists' Act which is yet to be implemented despite
the fact that it formally took the shape of an Act more than
seven years ago. Suggestions were also made for amendments to
the Act. The participants said that without making the Working
Journalists' Act effective through proper implementation, professionalism
in the news media could not take place to the desired extent.
V.(4) Federation of Editors and Publishers-Nepal
organised a seminar on "Media and Constitutionalism"
in Kathmandu (March 14). There were about 45 participants and
issues like the functioning of the existing Constitution, political
culture, political parties and their characteristics as well
as the Maoist rebellion were discussed. Former Prime Minister
and Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala addressed
the seminar, making it clear that he was for introducing amendments
to the Constitution. In the course of subsequent discussion,
many others said that the Constitution should not be made a
whipping boy by any section simply because political parties
and their leaders failed to live by the letter and spirit of
the Constitution. The then leader of the main Opposition, Mr.
Madhav Kumar Nepal, and former Minister of Information and Communication
Kamal Thapa also addressed the opening function.
V. (5. A-B) Press Chautari was supported to
organise two day-long seminars on "Media Commission for
an Informed Society" at Pokhara in Western region (February
8) and at Nepalgunj in Mid-Western region (April 12). A conference
on the same subject was also organised in Kathmandu. More than
60 journalists from different districts took part in each of
these programmes. The focus was on journalistic skills, right
to information, transparency, and comprehensive and clear media
policies. The general consensus of the participants was that
a high level media commission should be constituted to deal
with various issues concerned with the media sector. The commission
should be a powerful body in order to monitor the overall media
sector and come up with recommendation for the enhancement of
VI. FES provided material support to three
media-related institutions, all partner organisations conducting
VI. (1) FES supported Nepal Press Union with
office furniture. NPU is one of the oldest partner organisations
of FES and has branches in about 50 districts.
VI. (2) FES provided a computer and printer
to Press Chautari, which has branches in more than 40 districts.
VI. (3) FES supported the Central Department
of Journalism and Mass Communication, under the Tribhuvan University,
with books on various media subjects to strengthen its library
for the newly introduced Master's level course in Journalism
and Mass Communication.