Loss of a critical voice

“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.

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A Teacher of His Own League

I’m retired but not tired.
Prof. P. Kharel

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.

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Journalism always has a future

Last year, I attended Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism at the Ohio State University learning and honing my digital journalism skills. Not only the course, the program was fantastic as I got to know a few brilliant people there. One of them is Manuel Moreno, from Spain. We became more brothers than friends and spend a brilliant week together. I feel privileged to know him as he has a devoted himself in technology and runs Trecebits – a popular portal and is expecting publication of his first book in 2014.

After we both returned to our homes, he wanted to publish an interview at Trecebits. I couldn’t speak Spanish so he took all the pain to send me English questions, translate my answers and publish it in the popular website. Since it’s in Spanish, I thought I would keep the English version in my blog. Here it is:

How do you think journalism has changed since Internet and social networks became popular on the newsrooms?

When I first joined in as an intern reporter in one of the daily newspapers in Nepal some 14 years ago, there were no computers at newsroom. There were Macintosh computers to design pages in designing section. Since then a lot have been changed. Now newsroom in Nepal can not be imagined without computers and media are slowly getting hooked with social networks.

At a few newsroom, social networks are still blocked at peak work hour but they are slowly getting popular as source of information.

The change that social networks have brought include sourcing information and promotion of the news items. Journalists in Nepal mostly use social network to get tips for news stories and share a lot of things they write.

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Summer Love, read & enjoy!

736245_10151201384991275_779231123_oDo you love reading Chetan Bhagat? Or love stories? Ever wanted to read something similar in Nepali?

If your answers are yes, Summer Love by Subin Bhattarai is definitely a must-read.

The newest publication from FinePrint Inc is purely for a joyous reading, something you may want to take with you while you are traveling; and read, enjoy and forget. Well, may be not all the characters as some of them are not easy to forget.

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#SitaAir #KtmCrash kills 19

The burning aircraft! Photo by Bikash Karki. Used with permission. Please do not reproduce without photographer’s permission.

Sita Air dronier crashed on Friday morning killing 19 onboard. Here is how the story unfolded in Social Media.

Early morning Friday, I received a call from Somesh Verma, Kantipur Television’s journalist, asking to walk up my roof and see what has happened around Tribhuvan International Airport. “Looks like a big fire,” he said and my irritation soon converted into curiosity.

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Six weeks in Oslo

A friend asked me why I haven’t written a blog on my six weeks in Oslo. I pondered on the questions… there was no answer.

Sometimes words just do not come to you and six weeks in Oslo where I attended the International Summer School 2010 at University of Oslo was such an experience that I could not put down in words and do justice to it.

* * *

“What’s ISS for you?” One of my hundreds of friend asked me on camera.

“ISS is six-week of my life that I am never going to forget!” And, they decided to put this small interview just before the end of an eight-minute movie.

It was indeed so. In those six weeks, I met hundreds of friends from all countries imaginable – and talked to them. I met the world at a place.

They not only helped me understand the world, but also filled in me the enthusiasm to work more; work better; study more and help to make the world better.

Some of the friends, I am never going to forget – for their talent, love and compassion!

* * *

The ISS Media Studies 2010 with course leaders!

“What’s best part of Media Studies group?” Our assistant course leader asked me during a lunch. (Yes, our teachers did occasionally join us in breakfast, lunch, drinks and dances – and late night gossips!)

“Friends… like that of teenage,” I told her that once I started my professional career, befriending people for true friendship without jealousy and with the ownership of teenage friends had become very hard.

In my group of 15 classmates, it was friendship that mattered most. There were of course ‘close friends’, ‘good friends’ and ‘friends’ but the way we could talk freely to each other, sometime even making joke of each other, and share a few light moments together was just wonderful!

* * *

In Oslo, we were far and foremost two things – teenagers and tourists!

Teenagers because we attended classes; completed assignments; went out in evenings and nights; and most important were free from any life pressure. Also because we talked how boring the lectures sometimes are and wondered around the city for nothing.

Tourists because we had such a busy schedule given by ISS in the early weeks that we felt like they are not going to give us time even for shopping. They were guided tours including that of Oslo city – all of which no one could attend, and there were an excursion tour (I went to Telemark – that was the only one left for me when I went to register) where we were made to feel like tourists rather than students.

* * *

And, of course, we were also made students.

At ISS, not only did I attend four-hour-long lectures every weekdays but also asked to do assignments that needed visits to library.

Looking at Media Studies schedule which had the last week free for take-home exams, we had thought ‘yes, here we have free time’. But it turned out that nobody from our class was seen around for long time during the week because they all were busy in the 15-page essay. It turned out to be the most time consuming part of our stay; and everyone sighed long and smiled at each other after the deadline passed.

* * *

I have no words to explain, but it was wonderful experience, just perfect!

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Falling in love with Norwegians

After two weeks of stay in Oslo – Norway’s capital – for a six-week study at the International Summer School 2010, University of Oslo (UiO), there are a few things I am amazed about. But one thing that I like most is the Norwegian people.

I have always heard about the ‘smile of Nepali people’ and many foreigners find it amazing that Nepali people are so smiling and hospitable. It’s true [we always tend to smile at people and believe guests as god].
Norwegians are different than Nepalis – they are more happy people.

Why I am saying so? Because I find at least three very good characteristics of those people: firstly, they seem to very simple, secondly, they enjoy what they are doing and finally, almost all of them have a sense of humor.

Yesterday, I attended a Norwegian Cultural Evening. It was an evening to remember – of course more for the performances that were truly amazing – for people displaying all those qualities I like.

A professor at the UiO was the MC and was making us laugh at every sentence. He came up with this brilliant idea of giving away a ‘prestigious award’ to somebody who had helped to save the ‘dairy industry of Norway’. Dressed up as a cow, he brought this empty container with a string and announced the person ‘who had in desperate attempt to save the dairy industry have helped consume 5,000 liters of milk in last few years’.

The award winner was the ISS 2010 director and he received the award; wore it around his neck throughout his closing speech and even later.

This is something unthinkable in Nepal. People like Einar (the director) – professors or directors or something like that – will probably consider such an act as an insult (and I have never seen a professor or people of that level becoming an MC).

And, at Natadal Farm House, where we spent a night during our Telemark trip, the owner (who also happened to be a professor of tourism at Telemark University College) briefed us about the farm, the old life and why houses were built in the way they are (of course with a lot of humorous tales – ‘I tell a lot of lies and I have a license to tell lies’.)

We also had two sisters – from the minority Sami community – who presented us their traditional dresses and chanting. And, I enjoyed watching them talking to each other and smiling (even laughing) shyly. That was always evident whenever there are formal programs – it feels like simplicity (or being informal) is the formality of Norway. I just love it.

And, those seven people who presented us the traditional Norwegian dances were all past their 60s but they were enthusiastic and happy to perform for us. Probably they missed a few steps but who cares of steps – all I was watching was how happily they were performing and how proud they were to do so.

Performing people – musicians and dancers – did perform in front of us but I know they were more playing instruments and dancing for themselves – the satisfaction on their faces (rather than strains) was satisfying to us as well.

And, how can I remain without falling in love with Norwegians?

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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.

* * *

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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Inspiring citizen heroes

Yesterday, my publication celebrated the first anniversary of Republica and Nagarik national dailies with the Republica Nagarik Summit. The summit, experiences of (and interaction with) five selected citizen heroes (‘those who have worked for others selflessly’), was a new concept that many participants liked (and thanked us for).

For a few of us (the hobbyist bloggers employed in the news portals of the publication), it was the moment of first-hand experience of live blogging (‘the first live-blogging by a mainstream news portal’) and video webcast. I will write later on live blogging experience.

* * *

Republica Photo
The citizen heroes of selfless service at the Republica Nagarik Summit. Photo by Republica.

* * *

The first of five citizen heroes who shared their experiences and feelings was Khairun Nisha, a Muslim female social worker who has worked hard in the conservative communities to spread knowledge about family planning (among others) and fought for social justice to women.

She was straight, loud and frank telling about herself. She had annulled child marriages, fought against social injustice, told women of her community about contraceptives and fought through challenges. She is brave!

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The April Uprising

From April 5 to 24, we mark one of the greatest displays of people’s power. The Jana Andolan II or the April Uprising of 2006 was a landmark people’s movement that ended monarchy and Maoists’ People’s War establishing a more reformed democracy.

But more than that, it was a splendid example of what people of Nepal are capable of. Nobody counted, but estimated 500,000 people took on streets at the peak of the uprising – a huge number of those who are not otherwise interested in political activities.

I salute all those people for there bravery!

Photo from ekantipur.com

* * *

Mass is amazing. You never know what motivates them.

During April Uprising, they were motivated and it was their wishes with which political parties had not other options but to go along. People directed the course of movement and led it.

For me, it was two things that motivated them. First, it was a fight for democracy. Second, the success of the Uprising also meant the end of Maoist violence that killed 13,000 Nepalis.

* * *

Who did not participate in the Uprising. I remember all women of Kaushaltar rallying – wow! that was truly an amazing thing to behold. It was the enthusiasm of people who participated in the movement that made it a success.

Police and Army had not other options. They could not have shot at thousands of people.

Photo from ekantipur.com

* * *

Off course, majority of the people have gone into the shadows now.

Political leaders are on the top and all those in shadows believe, no matter what media says, the leaders will transform the country into a peaceful democratic nation.

We await the future.

But if people had directed the course of history in April in 2006, they can do it in any month of any year! And when people arise, all power will have to surrender!

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RIP, Axis of Nepali Politics

Nepal has lost its most criticized and most praised political personality.

Girija Prasad Koirala (1925-2010) passed away on Saturday afternoon, at 12:10 p.m. on March 20, after being the axis of Nepali politics for at least last two-decades.

He led four of 18 governments since the establishment of democracy in 1990 through a popular movement. He was one of the leading forces then but soon after emerged as the most powerful single political personality.

He was stubborn to his beliefs and thoughts, yet the power to persuade, or to enforce, them.  That one quality, along with his long contribution and commitment to democracy, put him to a height that rarely any personality could achieve.

Early in his life, he fought for the cause of laborers and began his political career which was eminent given that his father was on exile for raising voices against autocratic Rana regime and his both bothers being into politics.

He was also involved in looting the jewelry and gold from bank to fund the armed movement against Panchayat System and led the hijacking of an airplane in domestic flight in 1973.

When he became the prime minister for the first time in 1991, he continued a family legacy which saw two of his brothers led the nation. The first taint on his career emerged when he dissolved the parliament after three years. The general election that followed failed to give any party the majority.

He led the minority government in 1998 and again Nepali Congress government in 2000 forcing party’s own PM Krishna Prasad Bhattarai to resign. During his third tenure, the Royal Massacre happened.

Following the April Uprising in 2006, he sworn in for the fourth term which saw him sign one of the most important documents in Nepal’s political history – the peace accord with the Maoists. After abolishment of monarchy, he became the acting head of the state until the election of the first president.

Until the every eve of his life, Koirala was a very vocal ‘anti-communist’. But towards the end of his life, he was soft as he agreed to sign a 12-point agreement with Maoists and worked together with communist forces for the cause of democracy.

At the time of his demise, he was leading the political activities as the co-ordinator of the High Level Political Mechanism.

* * *

Though he always kept his private life confined within the boundary of his family members, he seemed to be an emotional family man.

His conjugal life, with a widow whom he married, lasted only 16 years, from 1952 to 1978.

And, he was also involved in a corruption scandal – that involved benefits for his daughter Sujata Koirala whom, after she returned and took a political career, he continued promoting in party ranks and government despite wide-spread criticism. It was for more love for the daughter than anything else.

* * *

I was not a particular fan of Girija Prasad Koirala despite being an admirer of his brother B P Koirala, both for his literature and political thoughts. In fact, many put me as the GPK-critic for I always thought him of being a crooked politician.

I represent a family that was led by a person who stood, and failed, against Koirala after the establishment of democracy. My distant uncle, Jaganath Acharya, resigned from his cabinet following a dispute with Koirala, who seemed to be against the much needed land reforms. Acharya led the force of 36 MPs against Koirala which forced him to dissolve the parliament.

Apart from that for me he was too stubborn to be a political leader (though I admit that this characteristic proved beneficial for the country later on) and was too focused on his personal cause than that of nation and party.

But 2006 changed my views on him. I wasn’t a big fan but an admirer; I disliked a few of things he did afterwards but never went vocal, even at teashop gossips, against him for I saw him the only person capable of keeping the democratic political forces tied for the nation.

As he used to say that ‘the peace process the last struggle of his life’ and jokingly that he would haunt if it’s not completed before his death, I believe he passed away a little early.

Without the axis, the political forces are in a danger of being divided and weak; and that in lack of the father-like figures, the political leaders are more likely to fight for wrong causes.

Let’s hope his last wishes of concluding peace process will be completed in time and that the political forces will join hands for the good cause for which he left responsibility to them.

With his demise, Koirala is no longer a Nepali Congress leader; he is no matter which political belief we follow, is the national hero!

May his soul rest in peace!

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Today is Poush 27 according to Bikram Sambat calendar and it’s the National Unity Day. The government in 2007 decided to cancel the public holiday because it was the birth anniversary of King Prithivi Narayan Shah – the first king of greater Nepal.

His birth anniversary was celebrated as the public holiday for his unification of 52 states that makes the present-day Nepal more than 250 years ago.

Photo by Bikash Karki
Statue of Prithivi Narayan Shah in Kathmandu. Photo by Bikash Karki

Critics say his unification was a personal ambition and that he failed to unite the country culturally, but everything great people do is a personal ambition and nobody in the world is so perfect that they would do everything right.

For a Nepali citizen like me who grew up being proud to be a national of ever-independent nation (because Nepal was never a colony), what Prithivi Narayan Shah did was a great contribution. If we evaluate him in present day’s context or from what his grandsons or great grandsons did to the country, it would be a wrong approach.

For that, I believe, Prithivi Narayan Shah should remain a hero of the nation and that National Unity Day should be celebrated (public holiday is not only one thing to celebrate).

If a word best describes him, then its UNITY. And, unity is a pressing need in present Nepal. And, also unity is what made magical transformation here with the armed conflict coming to an end and republic democracy being established throwing out the autocratic monarchy.

But unity is still needed. Unity is needed (most importantly among leaders and political parties) for:

  • Writing constitution in time
  • Concluding peace process
  • Holding election in accordance with new constitution

Off course, the need of unity does not end there. It’s always required for the betterment and development of the nation, but then after the transition period of political transformation ends, we – our leaders and political parties will have spare time to remain in conflict (though not desirable).

Photo by Bikash Karki
United Nepal: The statue of Prithivi Narayan Shah in front of Nepal's main administrative building Singha Durbar. Photo by Bikash Karki

Let’s celebrate the Unity Day. Let’s demand unity among our representatives!

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High Level Political Mechanism?

On January 8, a High Level Political Mechanism was constituted by the chairs of three main political parties – the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML).

Since it was a meeting that involved Girija Prasad Koirala, 86, it took place at his residence [because he is fragile and does not like travelling much]. And, the octogenarian leader showed he is still the most important man in Nepali politics by becoming the co-ordinator of the mechanism that, for the sake of all of us, aims to conclude the peace process, write constitution and remove political deadlocks.

Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and UML chairman Jhala Nath Khanal are the members, at least for now and, don’t be surprised, they look at Koirala as the savior for their ‘intra-party political supremacy’.

Koirala is undisputed in his party (that is unless he decides to promote his daughter); the towering figure in Nepali politics who seems to run only by his own will.

Prachanda’s supremacy in Maoists is threatened: Dr Baburam Bhattarai, who seems to garnish more political ‘is-good’ impression, is favored by many for his calmness (over Prachanda’s aggression / comical image).

Prachanda’s fear for losing his supremacy was seen in his leaked audio where he accused India of trying to promote Bhattarai as the next Prime Minister and the Maoist Central Committee’s decision that Prachanda would led the government if they join in.

Khanal defeated KP Sharma Oli in the election of chairman but the two are involved in an intra-party conflict so fiercely that the UML looks like in the verge of breakdown. Apart from that, if Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal succeeds, he would be credited for everything – and that will not do much good for Khanal as Nepal, a soft man without lofty ambitions, could
prefer Oli.

In such scenario, both Prachanda and Khanal need to do something grand on which they can firmly stand – at least within the party. High Level Political Mechanism is a part of that [This also explains why both Bhattarai and Oli questioned on the mechanism].

A little bit of bait for Koirala too: the government has decided to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize and his chances at becoming the first Nepali to be honored with a Nobel Prize will increase greatly if he could get credit of the peace process.

Political games apart, the High Level Political Mechanism could prove vital and good for Nepal. I am not as worried as Oli or Bhattarai, for I do not actually care on the questions they arose if the mechanism could complete its objectives – which is the pressing need of the time.

As rarity almost on political front that I am optimistic [unlike a lot other friends] that despite whatsoever is going on, a couple of months here and there, we are going to conclude the peace process and promulgate the new constitution. And, of course, if the top three leaders could sit together under a mechanism, it’s obviously a very good sign.

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