I monitor press freedom and the media rights situation in South Asia. Every month, I lose a friend or a friend’s friend, passionate about fellow citizens’ rights and democracy. Every time, I feel the region has lost someone who could have contributed to bring positive change to society.
It is almost impossible to think of life without the ubiquitous internet. Not only in my personal and social life but even for my professional work, internet is key. In November 2015, I was in Bangladesh for conducting a workshop. As soon as I reached the hotel, I tried to message my wife, but neither Viber, WhatApp nor Facebook messenger were online. It was frustrating not being able to inform my family about my safety. It took a few hours to find out that those services were blocked on security grounds.
My stay in Dhaka and the workshop went well, but I felt cut off, not being able to communicate with my friends and updating myself using Facebook. It was depressing, and I had to buy a SIM card (which I normally don’t for a short stay abroad) just to ensure a communication system in case of emergency.
“You never know what’s in store in the future. I could get killed, or I could live a normal life,” Yameen Rasheed told me as we were walking around the Islamic Center in Male’, the capital of the Maldives. It was a bright sunny day in 2016. We had just had a nice lunch in a nearby restaurant during which I had asked him why didn’t he focus on his career in information technology – another brilliant talent of his. He told me that he couldn’t, as writing has become a part of his life, and he would rather choose to live with threats than live in a pretended peace.
I travelled to the Maldives in August 2016 to conduct a training to journalists on media rights monitoring and advocacy. During my three-day stay in Male, I met with a few friends (bloggers, journalists and others). This blog is based on talks with friends.
The new Anti-defamation Act in the Maldives serves to silence instilling fear in the media community which can face huge fines and imprisonment if found guilty of defamation.
“… but after the law, I am not sure,” a blogger from the Maldives told me answering my questions about how long he would continue writing critically on the government. The law he was referring to was the Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act, passed by the Maldivian parliament on August 9, 2016, despite widespread criticism.
Every conversation with anyone who writes opinions on public issues – journalists or bloggers or social media users – the law was mentioned as a sword hanging over their heads. The new law is a direct threat to the freedom of opinion and expression for Maldivians, who now fear that they could be slapped with huge fines huge and jailed for their words published in the media or even on social media.
The Online Media Operation Directives 2016 is a serious threat to press freedom and freedom of expression online in Nepal as the newly approved directives goes against the core principles of democracy and free press.
The Government of Nepal, on June 14, approved the ‘Online Media Operation Directives – 2016 (Nepali PDF link)’ aimed to ‘make online journalism responsible, respected and bring it within the jurisdiction of Press Council of Nepal’. However, the document gives an overall impression that the motive behind the Directives is not to facilitate the development of the online media but rather the authoritarian style control over the online media, and criminalization of freedom of expression online.
Clause 21 of the Directives gives the state right to disrupt the website if a) online media is found operated without registration or annual renewal, b) materials deemed unpublishable is published or broadcast, and c) any act deemed against the Directives or applicable laws. Clause 6 also states that if the online media failed to renew annually, the service of the online media shall be obstructed according to the existing laws.
This empowers the state’s agency arbitrary power of censorship. The Department of Information is stated as the agency to the register and renew the online media ‘if the documents presented are found satisfactory after necessary verification’. The blocking of website that are deemed to be censored will then be blocked without judicial process on the decision of the Department.
The censorship provision is against the constitutional rights of the citizens; and a violation of the Constitution.
(This write-up is published in March 2016 issue of Samhita – a quarterly publication of Press Council Nepal – under title ”Media, codes and ethics’.)
It’s an undeniable fact that the quality of the contents and performance of the online media in Nepal has remained questionable despite tremendous growth in recent few years. As the establishment of online media doesn’t require a big investment as in other types of media, everyone seems to be jumping in – with a lot of journalists with experience in print and broadcasting media becoming online journalists. There is no official record of the number of online media in Nepal, but its safe to assume that at least a few dozens are operating.
It’s also undeniable fact that the future of news media in online. Online media will become the integral part of media landscape very soon and will probably overtake print and broadcasting media as the most-consumed media in a couple of decades in Nepal. In this scenario, the media stakeholders in Nepal – such as the Press Council of Nepal (PCN) and the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) – should look forward to facilitate the growth of the online media in a responsible ways to prevent chaos. There has been a lot of discussion and declarations globally to understand the online media and democratic regulations for it.
‘The Guardian of Democracy’ Nepali Congress concluded its 13th General Convention. The Convention will be remembered in future for two things: the victory of Sher Bahadur Deuba as the new President of the party and the loss of youth leader Gagan Thapa in the post of General Secretary.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect as it came just after launch of the IFJ’s 25th report on journalists and media staff killed which noted that at least 2,297 journalists and media staff have been killed since 1990, mostly for carrying out their professional responsibility and serving the public by providing the information. The report also notes that besides the high levels of violence on journalists, there is also rampant impunity with 90 percent of journalists murders, there is either little or no prosecution.
As IFJ President Jim Boumelha put it in the opening of the conference, the ‘media executives and journalists organisations need to work together to provide journalists with protection’.
I went to Sauraha – the eastern entry point to the Chitwan National Park to spend a couple of days with family and friends. Sauraha, a popular tourist destination, is a must if you are visiting Nepal. Accessible by road (4-5 hours) from Kathmandu and Pokhara, if offers entry to the wilderness from within the moderately developed small town.
Here is how we spent three days at Sauraha as tourists and enjoyed every second of it.
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet? (From Tiger by Willian Blake)
January 1, 2016: Tiger is an animal that co-holds the titles of both – the beauty and the beast. Meeting a tiger in its wilderness is a treat – not only for the eyes but for your heart too as someone termed the experience as equivalent ‘achieving orgasm during first sex by a lady’ – a possibility but a rarity.
Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication P. Kharel retired from the Tribhuvan University recently. A teacher of his own league, I was among those fortunates to get opportunities to learn from him. During our college days, we had to muster enough courage to face him as he was considered a strict teacher. When I was doing my master’s in journalism and mass communication, I asked him to supervise my thesis on sports journalism for two reason: first, because he had been a sports reporter himself during his career, and secondly, I was writing in English.
In this blog post, I will write some of my interesting experiences with him. These experience with him probably tells us how his personality is.
On November 2, the world marked the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) launched the Global and the Asia-Pacific regional campaigns that will see activities and events to raise awareness on the dire situation of impunity and press for justice for journalists across the globe throughout November. The IFJ campaigns will conclude on November 23, the anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre in the Philippines in which at least 32 journalists were killed.
For a long time the South Asia region has been the worst region in the world in terms of impunity for crimes against journalists. Despite all eight countries in the region – Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan – being under democratic regimes for at least five years, the persistence of impunity in these countries has remained a big challenge for governments and democracy.
“Facebook & Twitter is full of trash! People are writing all sorts of non-sense thing on Social Media.”
I hear that quite often. I am asked about it quite often. There were times – such as after the April 25’s Earthquake – when I felt irritated, frustrated and even angered by what were written on Facebook and Twitter. Everyday, I see Facebook and Twitter; and I find things that people should not post there.
This morning I saw one of my students (and a journalist) posting news with a picture of a woman who was hanged herself. The other day, someone wrote a racial comment regarding a political group. Of course, there are things that shouldn’t have been posted on Social Media.
And, there are quite a lot of things that I come across everyday that I disagree – wholly or partly. Reading such posts gives be a kind of bad feelings – sometime a light one and sometime a hard one.
Since the Nepal’s devastating earthquake on April 25, the country’s journalists have persevered to continue telling the story for Nepal and its people.
“With my home and land now destroyed by the earthquake, my family had turned into squatters. Despite the loss, I did not shirk my responsibilities. For a week after the first quake, I stayed in Kathmandu reporting as usual while trying to forget the problems at home. I was busy following up on how much damage the earthquake had inflicted on our heritage sites, about the crowd of people trying to leave the capital, the army officials who were saving people from destroyed houses and the work done by the Nepal Police, APF and citizens.”
The Kathmandu Post journalist Makar Shrestha wrote this personal account of damage by the April 25 7.6 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks and its impact on those around him. Shrestha hails from a village in the Dolakha district east of Kathmandu that was hard hit by the earthquake. Dolakha was the epicenter of many aftershocks, including the 6.8 magnitude earthquake on May 12.
“By letting the newspaper print my works, I’ve probably undervalued my works.”
Dr Govinda KC spoke those words in a packed hall of Hotel Annapurna on April 24, 2010 in an event that was organized by Nagarik & Republica daily to let 15 social heroes doing selfless service to the societies tell their stories. Dr KC was one of 15 and was most reluctant to appear on newspaper or speak in the event.
I was told it needed a lot of persuasion to ensure he is available for the event – and I clearly told the hall why he was reluctant.
A story that appeared on the same day in the newspapers’ supplements began with: “The surest way to locate Dr Govinda KC is to go looking for him in that part of the globe where a major natural disaster has just struck.”