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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Proposing Code of Ethics for Online Media and Journalists

(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.

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Electronic Transaction Act #Clause47 & Journalism

On Monday, 30 September, news came through that yet another journalist has been arrested under Clause 47 of Electronic Transaction Act 2008. Dinesh Acharya, editor-in-chief of Share Bazaar Weekly, was arrested as a case against him was filed by Nirvana Chaudhary, a heir of Chaudhary Group of industries and son of Nepal’s only Forbes billionaire.

At the Kathmandu District Court, where he was to be brought that day, I saw police bringing in people handcuffed together. A thought of a journalist being handcuffed alongside those accused on cases of drugs and violence horrified me for a few seconds. But Acharya was not among those dozen who were brought in an open truck. A police van later brought him – handcuffed but alone and in a better way.

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Rajpal J Singh & The Nepal Digest

In this another part of the History of Online Media in Nepal Series, I present two old interviews with Rajpal J Singh, who created a history in Nepal’s online media by founding The Nepal Digest. 

The Nepal Digest, began in April, 1992, is Nepal’s first e-magazine distributed on email. It was established by Rajpal J Singh, when he was 26 and had finished masters degree at the Northern Illinois University. The Nepal Digest is predecessor of Nepal’s online media and hence historically important to understand history of Nepal’s online media.

Rajpal J. Singh currently lives in New York.

I’m republishing two historical items related to Singh. The first is an interview as published on December 10, 1998 on The Nepal Digest itself; second interview published in The Kathmandu Post in January, 1998. Those interviews gives an idea of his life, beginning of The Nepal Digest, its status then and other related matters.

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How Kathmandu Post went online? – II

In this part of the History of Online Media in Nepal Series, I present the news that was published in the front page of the The Kathmandu Post to announce the newspaper being available online. The Kathmandu Post was put online from September 1, 1995 but the announcement was only made on September 8’s edition of the newspaper through a front page news.

Also, the small notification on The Nepal Digest by Rajendra Shrestha to announce the beta release of the Kathmandu Post on September 4, 1995 and an advertisement published in The Kathmandu Post on September 9 and 11 announcing the feat of being ‘the first Asian daily to be available free of cost on Internet.

TKPfront

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Nepal’s first online editor

In this another part of the History of Online Media in Nepal Series, I present a page (copied and pasted) from history.

When The Kathmandu Post went online on September 7, 1995, it has a link called “General Info”.

The Kathmandu Post

This is the text of what contained in the page that was linked (the text is however taken from December, 1996 archive after it moved to Mercantile’s server from Rajendra Shrestha’s college webspace):

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How Kathmandu Post went online? – I

In this part of the History of Online Media in Nepal Series, I present an email interview with the man who made it possible for The Kathmandu Post to become first South Asian newspaper to have online presence.

When I was trying to write a brief history of online media in Nepal for my blog, I tried to find out the exact date when The Kathmandu Post went online. There was claims that it’s the first South Asian publication to have online presence but I could not find the exact date so I looked the archive of Kantipur Publications and found a front-page news published to announce it.

It was September 1, 1995 (edited on September 5, 2013 after finding out that The Kathmandu Post started uploading on September 1, 1995 but only announced it on September 7, 1995). The Kathmandu Post news said it went online on the University of Illinois website (http://www.cen.uiuc.edu/~rshresth/ktmpost/news-home.html) as a result of joint effort of Mercantile Communications, the publication and Rajendra Shrestha.

Rajnedra ShresthaThe first question that stuck me was who is Rajendra Shrestha and how was he helping. I found out that he was an engineering student who uploaded the news on his personal page provided by the University of Illinois.

After some hard work, I finally found him and did an email interview with him for reference. I never used much of this in any of my researches, so I’m presenting it here:

Are you the Rajendra Shrestha who helped in 1995 to upload The Kathmandu Post on web?

Yes, that was me. I created the first “Nepal Home Page” back in 1994 just after Mosaic (first web browser) was released. Soon thereafter, I put The Kathmandu Post in my web site – this was when there was email access in Kathmandu but they didn’t have the infrastructure yet to host their web site.

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Quotes from Online Media Seminar

These are notes I have taken during the “Recognition. Responsibility. Road Ahead. A National Seminar on the State of Online Media in Nepal” organised on August 7, 2013 by Federation of Nepali Journalists’ Digital Media Committee, which I chair, and Online Journalists Association of Nepal and supported by Alliance for Social Dialogue.

In part 1 of some blog posts from the seminar, I will note down statements expressed by the speakers that I really liked.

20130807_090537_Richtone(HDR)

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(Social) Media Predictions 2013

It’s not easy to predict but in the coziness of warm bed, I decided to predict how Nepali media, especially in connection with social media, is going to change in upcoming year. Feel free to add your own predictions in comments!

I’m prediction that 2013 will see introduction of mobile news applications (for iPhone/iPad/Android) by mainstream media, more social media integration by mainstream media and more media outlets!

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Content Curation: Making Sense of Flooding Information

(This is third installment of reading materials I distributed to journalists during training on social media for journalists. Find the first and second.)

A content curation to define content curation! This is an introduction to the concept of content curation. This post is a content curation itself as all the contents of the site have been taken from various sources of the web which are properly attributed.

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10 Golden Rules of Tweets & Retweets

(Second installment of the reading material I distributed in training for journalists – first is here.)

These rules are collected, summarized and synthesized from everywhere in the Internet (and blended with my experience, knowledge and opinion).

1. Tweet regularly – do not flood the timeline but do not disappear.

2. Tweet meaningful – ensure that each of your tweet is meaningful (at least indication of being meaningful).

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Observations from #SocialMedia trainings

Dhangadhi Training.

In October and November 2012, I travelled five places to train journalists in use of social media. The training was organized by Equal Access Nepal and funded by UNDP in partnership with the Government of Japan and UNESCO.

The five training venues were: Biratnagar (east Nepal), Balthali, Kavre (central), Pokhara (west), Dhangadhi (far-west) and Nepalgunj (mid-west). Altogether more than 150 journalists attended the two-day residential training – at an average of 30 trainees per venue.

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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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Kathmandu Statement on Internet & FoE

Kathmandu Statement is the outcome of the South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression, held in Kathmandu from November 2 to 4, 2011.

The meeting was organized by the Internet Democracy Project, in collaboration with Point of View (India), the Centre for Policy Alternatives (Sri Lanka) and Global Partners and Associates (UK) and was participated by a select group of Internet and FoE activists of the region and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue.

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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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