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.

Continue Reading

A milestone of peace process

On January 22, 2011, Maoist party of Nepal formally handed over it’s people’s army and arms to a committee headed by Prime Minister and consisting representatives of other political parties. This is indeed an important step in the ongoing peace process that, when concludes successfully, will transform a nation marred by violent conflict into, hopefully, a democratic peaceful and better country.

The handover was promised long ago, but did not come until United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) left the country ending it’s mandate partially successful. As I wrote earlier, the exit of UNMIN could prove good for the peace process initiated by the parties themselves without foreign facilitation and the parties are capable enough to take it to the successful conclusion setting an example in the world. The handover, that came after seven days of UNMIN’s exit, is a important step towards achieving the peace and it should also end any fear that UN body’s exit will have negative impact on it.

Saturday’s handover ceremony at the Shaktikhor Cantonment, one of seven cantonment where 19,000+ Maoist combatants are temporarily housed. Apart from the emotionally-worded speeches of Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, the ceremony attended by almost all top leaders, diplomats and government officials featured demonstrations from the Maoist army. I liked the show for at least one reason.

The multi-cultural dances and march pass were conducted on the tunes of popular folk songs and national songs. It was a little transformation, for the Maoist army were probably used to those people’s song that normally promotes nationalism with revolutionary Maoist ideologies. Watching those young army marching made me, and many others, emotional. They too are Nepalis, youth with dream in their eyes, playfulness in their behaviors and curiosity about their future. And, I sincerely believe that if they go into the security agencies, almost everyone of them will commit themselves to the nation’s service.

A step is taken in the peace process and there are still a few steps where the Maoist party and other parties will have to make difficult decisions – and I hope that they will make decisions for the nation’s benefit rather than for their party’s benefits. All those youths who have fought with Maoist believed (wrongly or rightly that up to your evaluation) they are fighting for their nation, for the betterment of the people and want to see peaceful and prosperous Nepal.

I hope the integration and rehabilitation process will go as smoothly as the handover process. And, we all should understand not matter what parties we have the membership of or what ideology we believe in, first and foremost we all are Nepalis and proud to be. And, we all surely want to be citizens of a peaceful country.

Continue Reading

Financially independent cricket regions

Consider this: The Wai Wai Women´s National Twenty20 Cricket Tournament concluded at the TU Cricket Ground with Region No 5 defeating Region No 6 in the final. Region No 3 and Region No 4 reached the semifinals of the league-cum-knock-out event that also saw the participation of Region No 1, Region No 2, Region No 7 and Region No 8.

Now, wait a second!

Continue Reading

Meaning of slap on Khanal’s face

On Thursday, a 52-year-old Nepali slapped Jhalanath Khanal, the chairman of the third largest party of Nepal which is also the ruling party, in a public program in Itahari, some 500-km from Kathmandu. Khanal went there to welcome around 1,000 new party members and Devi Prasad Regmi, who used to be a UML cadre, lined up with other to reach one of the most likely candidate for next prime ministership, and slapped him right no his face so hard that Khanal’s glasses fell down.

“Politicians ruined the country, it’s better to go mad than be dead,” Regmi said in the police custody.

Although Khanal happened to be the receiver of the slap, it was a slap in the faces of all those political leaders who have a say in their party’s decisions. The unruly event, despite being condemnable, is something that reflects the frustrations of many more Nepalis.

Devi Prasad Regmi, 52. Photos courtesy myrepublica.com
Regmi used to be a UML cadre; he voted for Maoist during the Constituent Assembly (CA) election for he thought ‘Maoists could give something to the country’ and was forced to slap Khanal ‘in anger’ for he could not ‘tolerate the leaders ruining the country’.

How many more Nepalis have been angered, even more than Regmi? How many more Nepalis want to slap leaders in their faces for their false promises? At least a few more, it’s just that they don’t have the courage. I am saying this after reading comments on news in many news sites, reactions in social media and blogs.

Time has not ran out yet! There are still a time that the leaders could save people from getting frustrated and angry – and if the leaders continue to search for consensus with inconclusive meetings and rigid stances, I am sorry to say, but many, many Nepalis will have an untold consensual agreement to follow Regmi’s path.

Continue Reading

Closing doors to social media

Banning social media such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter in offices is not a solution to problems arising from their uses and misuses. Regulating fair use is exactly what’s needed

A few weeks ago, a participant of a small, formal gathering discussing social media and citizen journalism raised a question: “In my classroom, when teachers are teaching, a few of my friends are busy checking and updating Facebook status in their mobile. Is this good?” And he went on to ask: “Why shouldn’t Facebook be banned?”

I have come across many friends whose office completely or partially blocks access to social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The administrators who decide to block the access have a solid reason to do so: That social media disturbs office works as employees spend time, usually too much, on them. They also fear that employees may leak out office information.

When I used to teach college students, I used to ask them to keep their mobiles in silent mode or turn it off and take the urgent calls outside the classroom. It’s an unusual practice among teachers. It doesn’t mean that I promote use of mobile in classrooms. I don’t like students using mobiles in the classroom, or taking a call even outside the classroom, or checking mail or text message or Facebook status when I am explaining something to them. But when they are allowed to keep the mobiles in the classrooms, it’s absurd to be too stern about using them.

The simplest answer to my friend’s question is: “No, it’s not good to check and update Facebook status while in the classroom.” It’s undesirable not only in classrooms, but also in personal or professional meetings.

However, I am against banning of the social media in any office.

WHY BAN DOESN’T WORK?

Banning social media is an extreme step. That however is followed by many institutions and offices. Banning Facebook has become a standard practice in many offices – media, NGOs, private organizations or even government organizations.

But banning social media hardly work. One reason behind this is the growing number of smartphones. Even very basic mobile phones these days supports GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), a technology that enables user to use internet on mobile phones. The best and cheapest use of mobile phone would be to update Facebook status or send tweet (a message on Twitter up to 140 characters). Smartphones have built-in application to use Facebook and Twitter.

The main reason why banning is a bad idea is it distances employees from the latest technological advancement. And, at a time when social media is threatening to be the dominant form of information exchange, and that the global talk is about how social media can be best used for benefits of organizations, banning it is akin to taking a step backward.

Psychology defines human nature as being curious, more so with things that are hidden or banned. Thus, banning social media only leads to more curiosity and use of it outside office. Those in favor of banning social media may argue that they cannot control use of social media outside the office and also that using social media outside office doesn’t affect the performance of the employees.

That’s true but equally true is the fact that banning social media alone doesn’t increase productivity of the employees and those who do not want to work can choose to sit idly or check in other websites for amusements. The risk of office information going outside is not curbed by the ban as the employees can use social media outside office. With ban of the social media in the office, there are increased chances that such information flow goes unnoticed.

Banning social media is a bad choice. The good choice is regulating the social media use by formulating social media guidelines.

SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES

Social Media Guidelines, the set of rules developed by organizations to regulate the use of social media by the employees, is becoming a standard office document. The guidelines defines what an employees can do or cannot do on social media because, as International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies put out, ‘personal conversation within social media networks should be considered public rather than private’.

When writing anything publicly, any organization desires that their reputation, along with the reputation of the employees, are undamaged. While the guidelines encourages use of social media, it discourages using it hampering office works, identifying oneself as employees, putting out office information and writing about colleagues and work environment.

With a guideline, it would be easier for organizations to regulate the use of social media, demand fair use and, if required, take action against the misuse of social media. Without one, the organizations will be helpless when some employees perform undesirable social media activities.

I believe that if we fail to pace along with technological or any other development, it would create a gap, or a digital divide, that at times becomes non-bridgeable. And, in such a scenario, promoting fair use of new technological advancement with proper set of guidelines benefits all.

[This article was published on the Op-Ed page of the Republica national daily]

Continue Reading

Thank you, UNMIN

Flag lowering ceremony of UNMIN. UN Photo by Chandra Shekhar Karki

At January 15 midnight, United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) concludes its four-year long stay as monitor of the Maoists combatants and arms. Although, it’s exit didn’t coincide with the conclusion of peace process – the official end of the Maoist’s People’s Liberation Army that fought hard and violent for more than 10 years, UNMIN’s role in bringing the peace process to this spot is laudable.

Continue Reading

Questioning Kantipur’s SMS feedback approach

Kantipur Publications this week began a service for readers of the print newspapers – both Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post to send their feedback on opinion pieces and editorial via SMS. It’s a noble innovation and the publications should be praised for it.

Rate not mentioned. Click for image.
But there are two questionable issues in the practice: First, is it ethical not to state that the feedback sent through SMS is charged at premium (not normal) texting rate? Second, when a reader pay for a feedback in assumption that it would get printed, can the publication take the money and not print them?

Every SMS sent is charged at premium rate (Rs. 3 + applicable taxes = Rs. 3.74 nett) so clearly Kantipur Publications is looking to earn through the comments and poll votes their readers send to 8080 – their special number. The rate is stated in an advertisement that Kantipur has printed.

And, what I also don’t like is that the advertisements and/or text of The Kathmandu Post does not mention that the SMS are charged at premium rates. Kantipur mentions the price in its advertisement only.

Continue Reading

Lessons from boxer’s death

Twenty-one-year-old boxer Raju Budhamagar passed away Wednesday, a day after he fell down unconscious in the ring after receiving a punch during a semifinal match of the Inter-Municipality Boxing Tournament in Hetauda.

Before I begin, let me express a heartfelt condolence to the Budhamagar family. May his soul rest in peace.

Tragedy happens in sports as in any other fields, and tragedy in boxing is not uncommon. In the last three decades, more than 200 boxers have died during a bout or training. Despite that, the sport has endured the repeated call for ban owing to life risks. Fortunately, there were not much tragedies in boxing in Nepal, until this one. Although Nepal Boxing Association president Rabiraj Thapa recalled dying of a boxer during a training session three decades ago, Budhamagar´s death is the first major tragedy to happen to Nepali boxing.

Continue Reading

Resolutions 2.0 11

I am normally not a great follower of resolutions but despite that I am making a list of 11 things I want to do in 2011.

RETHINK LIFE: I was to do a lot of thinking on life. Review what I have achieved so far and what I expected me to be. This is probably an effect of reading The Last Lecture and Tuesdays with Morrie – two great just-before-death memoir and advices of two professors. Possibly I would also buy The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction to try to understand a little more about life.

Continue Reading