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.
Prateek Pradhan, editor-in-chief, baahrakhari.com, recalls the Nepal King’s absolute communication clampdown in Nepal more than a dozen years ago, and discusses the lessons learned.
Ujjwal Acharya: In February, 2005, King Gyanendra cut off all communication channels, including the internet, for weeks. You were the editor of The Kathmandu Post daily newspaper. How do you remember the time?
Prateek Pradhan: I very vividly remember the day. The King was addressing the nation at around 9:30 am and he has just announced that he was taking over executive powers. It was shocking, as the country was a democracy and we never thought at that juncture that King Gyanendra would take such a bold step. At that time, I was editor of the Kathmandu Post, and I got a call from the royal Secretariat and was summoned to a meeting. The Secretary also told me that that was the last phone call he was making.
We (editors) went to the palace to meet the Secretary, and we protested. He threatened us that if we didn’t comply with the authorities, anything could happen to us. At that time, all phone lines were cut, internet was cut, and there was a kind of chaos as people didn’t know what was happening. Military surrounded all media houses; young military officers were going through all the contents we were writing. It was very difficult time for media and journalists. It was very very difficult to publish newspapers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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):