Online Media Directives threatens press freedom & Freedom of Expression online

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.

Legal Censorship

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.

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#NetFreedom: Deception in the air

(to mark the International Human Rights Day)

How you feel if someone says: “Eat as much as you can (before the food is ready)” and when the food is ready, you are told: “That’s enough: you are eating too much.

That’s exactly what is happening with our rights to freedom of expression and opinion!

Citizens around the world living in democratic countries were guaranteed rights to freedom of expression for long. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promulgated long ago in 1948 by UN General Assembly, has explicitly stated it in Article 19.

All democratic nations around the world have copied, rephrased/translated and pasted the text in their constitutions. As citizens we’ll thought well we’ve individually rights to freedom of expression and opinion.

We didn’t have a powerful medium through which we could effectively exercise the rights and we were made to believe media is mediating the rights on behalf of us.

But we are being deceived!

The Internet emerged as a powerful medium that every individual around the world could use to exercise the rights to freedom of expression and opinion. When blogging emerged, it was evident. If blogs were difficult to set up and continued, then social media (on internet) is the easiest tool to use to express ourselves.

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How can journalists use social media?

(In October/November, 2012, I traveled around the country to train journalists on use of social media. The training, held by Equal Access Nepal and funded by UNDP’s project, was held in Biratnagar, Kathmandu, Pokhara, Dhangadhi & now I am in Nepalgunj. Each training lasted two days and included around 30 journalists. Here is one of the reading materials I wrote for the training. I will upload some others soon.)

Journalists can use social media to aid to their work as journalist and to improve their professional skills. Here are six things that journalists and their organizations can do with social media to aid to journalistic processes:

The six things discussed here are 1. Seek idea and information, 2. Cultivate sources, 3. Verify Information, 4. Publish / Distribute News, 5. Promote Write-ups / get feedback / measure popularity.

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Writing Responsibly on Internet

Internet has been the most revolutionary convergence of communication tools. The greatest beneficial aspect of the internet as a communication tool has been the possibility for each and every person with internet access to communicate globally. Communicating to the world has never been as easy as it is now. Loads of services, also collectively known as social media, such as blogs, microblogs, photo/video sharing and social networking allow users to publish information and/or comments on available information so easily that time and again users tend to forget the bigger impact that those information or comments may have.

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Good journalism is good for journalism

Distribution channel will change in future and we have no control over what people will use. They may use something we don’t know today. At the publishing house, we have to specialize on producing good stories.

When I was in Hamburg, Germany to attend the first of three phases of the Journalism in Digital World at the International Academy of Journalism – Intajour, one of the big question amongst the fellows there was ‘how the upcoming technology going to change journalism.’

The advent of the Internet followed by the development of mobile devices- such as smartphones, e-readers and tablets – which people increasingly use to read the news has to change journalism someway, many of us believed. For a media house, and journalists the possible further development of new platforms poses a big opportunity (to become early adopter of profitable venture among upcoming developments) and a threat (how to remodel journalism to perfectly harness the capability of the platform).

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Historic: Bloggers sign Code of Ethics

“This is the historic beginning in citizen journalism. Today, Nepali bloggers began a new chapter by signing their own code of conduct.”

The comment by chief commissioner at the National Information Commission, Vinaya Kasajoo, was the most encouraging one for all bloggers agreeing to become signatory of the Code of Ethics for Bloggers today, July 27, 2011.

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Social Communicators on CA Term Extension

Social communicators, or the social media users especially Tweeple, followed the CA term extension night, May 28, with great enthusiasm contributing to frequently updated information and opinions. Following tweets on the night provided both information on what’s going on and opinions on what people were thinking about the events – sometimes the frustrations and many times humorous side.

This is an attempt to use storify.com to create a story about May 28 ripples on Twitter:

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Code of ethics for bloggers

UPDATED ON MAY 27 WITH PROPOSED CODE OF ETHICS

With growing popularity of blogs in Nepal, many issues concerning blogs are emerging. One of the issues that needed to be immediately addressed is on ethical aspects of the blogs.

Blogs, by nature, is free. But as Rebecca Blood put it: The blog’s greatest strength – its uncensored, unmediated, uncontrolled voice – is also its greatest weakness.

While believing that blogs should remain free – uncensored and uncontrolled, it’s also worthwhile for bloggers to be responsible. As CyberJournalists.net states: Responsible bloggers should recognize that they are publishing words publicly, and therefore have certain ethical obligations to their readers, the people they write about, and society in general.

Code of Ethics is not strict principles that every bloggers should adhere to; rather it’s a standard guideline that bloggers can voluntarily follow. Code of conducts are formulated and followed by bloggers themselves. Following ethical publishing practices not only make the blogs standard but also convey a message to the readers that they can be trusted.

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Constructive youth engagement through social media

At the time when the term Facebook generation is increasingly being used to refer to youths uninterested in political and social responsibilities, youths have came together to use the social media for constructive political and social engagements.

Many consider that Nepali youth in today’s urban societies normally detach themselves from politics, social responsibilities and look for opportunities to go abroad. While not completely false the ongoing political instability, decade long Maoist conflict, lack of opportunities and development have contributed to the rise of pessimistic thoughts among the youths. Equally true is the fact that the youths, at least some of them, have refocused themselves towards constructive engagements with an aim of contributing to the social and political causes.

Through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, they have found a tool to give life to their initiatives; which can be accredited to the events around the world, the rising popularity of social media and most importantly, the trendiness of the social media that matches the youth’s curiosity.

Use of Facebook and Twitter is still considered by many as a detachment from what is happening around. Looking at someone, who is constantly checking on Facebook and Twitter updates on their laptop and/or mobile phones, the detachment, seems obvious. But when the social media feed them the information on what is going on around them along with opinions to their peer groups, it is safe to say that social media is just a new way of communication of the society.

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Is blog under Press Council jurisdiction?

Recently, Press Council of Nepal (PCN) issued a letter seeking clarification from MySansar, Nepal’s most popular blog. This is first time that PCN has recognized the presence of a blog. This incident should also encourage the government – and its agencies – to have a policy about online media.

THE STORY

MySansar.com published a series of blog entries – including one by Om Thapa that was reproduced with permission from a weekly, Janaastha, on Binod Chaudhary. Chaudhary is a noted industrialist leading the Chaudhary Group (CG). The blogs were about alleged tax invading by CG in the light of the action initiated by the Ministry of Finance on tax invasion and fraud by 27 companies. The ministry has not yet named the companies, but the blog claimed CG is one of them.

The blog entries also claimed that CG also ‘forced’ Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari of actions leading to resignation of finance secretary Rameshwor Khanal. One of the post also criticized mainstream media for publication Chaudhary’s article claiming that the big percentage of the tax that the industrialist claimed to have paid is in fact the taxes collected by people during sales of their products.

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Attempt to network citizen journalists

Equal Access Nepal, an INGO working mainly in media development, is in a process of creating MeroReport.net with an aim of making it a network for citizen journalists in Nepal.

The website being built on Ning – the social networking script. The INGO larger objectives on its development is to be give a common platform for people to put on their report; bloggers to promote themselves leading towards a creation of fully functional citizen journalism site.

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Future of news-on-papers

Will newspapers still be called newspapers if they are not printed on paper? Or will it simply be called something like online news site or news-in-hands or news onscreen?

It is kind of absurd in the Nepali context to think that newspapers are facing a big challenge from technological advancement in the digital form, especially at a time when newspapers are actually growing in numbers and overall circulation. According to an internationally-acclaimed prediction, Nepal is among the last nations from where newspapers would disappear, some 40 to 50 years from now.

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Retrospecting BlogMeet at BloggerBhela

On November 4, twenty Nepali bloggers met at a hall of Capital FM in what was named a Blogger Bhela and organized as an introduction programs of Nepali bloggers in Kathmandu.

It was indeed a unique opportunity for me to get introduced to so many new bloggers; and even the gathering of the bloggers made me feel good. It was not only because it reminded me of four BlogMeet that was organized around 2007 with similar purpose but also because I believe that this meeting will lead to many other meetings and hopefully a few events about blogging.

Among those 20 bloggers, only three of us had attended BlogMeet in 2007 – me, Kamal Kumar and Bhoj Raj Dahal.

I received the invitation for the meeting in Facebook and immediately accepted it – thanks to Dilip Acharya, Basanta Gautam, Aakar, Jotare Dhaiba and Roopesh Shrestha for the initiation. I talked it with K P Dhungana of Hamroblog and we decided to attend it and see (he was also one of the men behind the BlogMeet but he could not attend the meeting this time due to traffic jam).

We wanted to ‘attend and see’ for he didn’t have good experience attending an online bloggers meet organized by Dautari.org where when he talked about BLOGAN (Bloggers Association of Nepal – an unregistered loose network of bloggers formed as an outcome of BlogMeet), there are harsh comments. (After Blogger Bhela, Bhoj Raj of NepalDiary told me the same thing, and also that he only attended for he saw a few names from old BlogMeet confirming the attendance).

Our decision behind attending this time was for two reasons: first and foremost, we always wanted bloggers to be united and our presence will be helpful; second, we wanted to share our experience with BlogMeet so that bloggers could move forward from where we left (due to various reasons).

The Blogger Bhela turned out to be a very fruitful one. I talked frankly about all those things and shared experience; Basanta Gautam gave a short overview of Nepali blogging scenario; Saurav Dhakal / Kamal Kumar and many other talked about way forward. There were talks about making blogs and blogging popular using mainstream media.

We all decided to meet again, more formally and in bigger number, on December 18.

Just before I invite all the bloggers and interested people to the Dec 18 meet (we all have to pay for our breakfast and lunch), I want to make clear a point that I also raised during the meeting: no matter what and how you write or how many people read your blog, if you write frequently (may be once a month or once every three months), we all are bloggers. Every blogger invited!

Let’s make Nepali blogoshpere vibrant!

Participants: 1. Aakar Anil (www.aakarpost.com), 2. Alankar Aryal (www.gharaagan.blogspot.com) 3. Bhoj Raj Dahal (www.nepaldiary.wordpress.com), 4. Surath Giri (www.surathgiri.com), 5. Rupesh Shrestha (www.blogstreet.wordpress.com), 6. Ujjwal Acharya (www.nepalivoices.com), 7. Saurav Dhakal (www.storycycle.com), 8. Kamal Kumar (www.kamalkumar.com.np), 9. Dilip Acharya (www.dacharya.blogspot.com), 10. Kailash Rai (www.kailashkokuti.blogspot.com), 11. Jotare Dhaiba (www.dhaiba.blogspot.com), 12. Sweta Baniya (www.swetabaniya.wordpress.com), 13. Prabesh Poudel (www.gufgaf.com), 14. Manoj K.C (www.blogsamaya.wordpress.com), 15. Saroj Koirala (www.sarojkoirala.com.np), 16. Basanta Gautam (www.basantagautam.com), 17. Sujan Sharma (www.sujanacharya.blogspot.com), 18. Pushpa Raj Acharya (www.pushparajacharya.blogspot.com), 19. Sabin Gyanwali (www.nepaliblogger.com) & 20. Pradeep Bashyal (www.pradeepbasyal.com.np)

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Experiences of live webcast / blog

[This write-up includes experiences of live webcasting/live blogging two events in Nepal and a brief review of two most popular live blogging web services – Coveritlive and ScribbleLive.]

Webcast: a conjunction of website broadcast, information dispersed to a large audience via the Internet which could include streaming audio, streaming video, visual aids or live demonstrations.

Live blog (also liveblog): A blog or blog entry that is updated in real time during a particular event.

Live blogging (also liveblogging): The act of writing text and/or uploading photos and/or integrating video/audio for the live blog.

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On April 24, 2010, online teams of nagariknews.com and myrepublica.com ran a live webcast/blog for the Nagarik Republica Summit that marked the first anniversary of their two mainstream publications – Republica and Nagarik dailies.

Umesh, Krishna, Rishikesh, Ashok, me, Bipul and Binita at Soaltee.

There were photos, video and text for the program held at the Soaltee Crowne Plaza that ran for three hours available at both news website live.

This was the first time that a mainstream media’s website ran live webcast/blog although the bloggers in Nepal had already played with live blogging/webcast in the past.

On April 28, 2010, the team ran similar live webcast/blog for the Decisive Debate on National Consensus for Peace and Constitution from Hotel Yak & Yeti. It was a moderated debate of nine top leaders (three each from Maoist, CPN-UML and Nepali Congress). The webcast carried video while the live blog carried text (and a few photos).

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