#SajhaSawal

“When I see ordinary people speaking on the program, I feel motivated and confident that I also could speak in front of the public.”

This was what a 46-year-old woman from the rural area of Surkhet district told a researcher studying the impact of the radio/television show — Sajha Sawal, literally, Common Questions.

My questions! A woman speaks during Sajha Sawal’s shoot! Photo Courtesy: SajhaSawal
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The Tweeting Editors

Popular microblogging platform Twitter has become popular among the editors in Nepal.

Although the level of impact by the editors’ tweets is yet to be analyzed, they are expressing their opinions and debating on national issues on Twitter.

I follow as many tweeting editors as I could find with my Twitter account (@UjjwalAcharya) and it all went interesting last week when the editors exchanged views on system of governance (especially on directly-elected president).

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Internet Intermediaries & Freedom of Expression

(This post is a result of my participation in the South Asia Meeting on the Freedom of Expression and the Internet in Kathmandu, 2-4 November. This is my personal opinion but I owe to participants of the meeting whose comments may have helped me to shape this.)

By Internet intermediaries, I mean those companies or people who has a role in providing internet services to the people including, but not limited to, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), webhosts, web service providers, website owners, and also cyber cafes and telecommunication companies.

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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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Tweets: People’s voices

Click for full image.

Egypt is in turmoil. The North African nation is going through the mass protests it had never seen before in an attempt to rid itself from the clutches of 30-year autocracy of President Hosni Mubarak. Regime change in Tunisia, its neighbor, fueled the protests in the streets of Egypt that are growing violent, without any sign of subsiding until Mubarak steps down.

In the Egyptian as well as the Tunisian protests, social media on the internet such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube acted as a platform for the people to share their opinions with the world along with exchanging information. In fact, some of the optimistic social media advocates are calling these revolutions Facebook revolutions, which in my opinion is an exaggeration. People used these means of communication media to spread and share information, only because they are global and more powerful than traditional means – word of mouth or telephone.

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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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Wikileaks: Transparency vs terror

Wikileaks, a website dedicated to leaking secret documents, is a subject of debate, both legal and journalistic, since it began publishing memos sent to and from US State Department and 274 US embassies around the world. The diplomatic documents, some classified as secret or confidential and many unclassified, do not reflect the official policies of the world’s most powerful country, however they represent the attitudes and opinions of American diplomats, which has put the US in an uncomfortable position.

The US tried its best to stop the publication since Wikileaks informed it about having such documents. When US issued a warning that publication of the memos could put lives in danger, Julian Assange – the website’s founder and public face – cleverly asked the US to categorically point to the memos that are sensitive. The US, which denied any communication and comments, tried to block the way through many means including forcing firms in their land to withdraw services that they were rendering to Wikileaks. Amazon withdrew hosting, EveryDNS withdrew domain name services (meaning that when somebody types wikileaks.org, the internet is unable to find the server computer where the site is stored) and popular financial transaction service provider PayPal dropped their accounts (which constrained the donation collection by the site).

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Talking citizen journalism at miniBarCamp

Equal Access Nepal, an INGO, organized the Kathmandu miniBarCamp yesterday as a part of its to-be-launched-project on media workers’ network and citizen journalism platform.

I was asked to recount my experience of blogging during the Royal Regime 2005/06 and talk on citizen journalism. Other speakers who participated include Saurav Dhakal (on his storycycle project), Sarun Maharjan (on Web 2.0 and social media) and Dipak Jung Hamal (on his research on practices of citizen journalism by Nepali televisions). There were few participants but the discussion turned out to be lively and I really enjoyed being there.

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Cybersansar scandal: Greed for money

On Wednesday, Nagariknews.com ran a news story along with a ‘sting operation video’ on the copyright infringement by a well-known cyber business company.

Police arrested the owners of Dreams & Ideas – Dipankar and Abhinav Kasajoo who made name, fame and money through cyber business. They also redefined Nepali modeling industry with their very popular cybersansar.com and made money by developing websites for government agencies and others.

Their greed for money probably was much more and that put them into the illegal business of downloading pirated High Definition (HD) movies through torrents and selling them to customers through a website – givemehd.com (now closed) which lists hundreds of available movie titles.

Nagariknews sting video shows a man posing as a customer visiting the office of Dreams & Ideas and buying a 3D movie with Abhinav himself talking about it and handing a copied movie on external hard drive.

I wonder how they can do this so openly. Didn’t they know that was illegal or they were just trying to ignore? The news surprised many and a lot of people, including those in similar business, have asked me the same question: why they need to do so to earn a little more money?

It becomes even ridiculous with the price of the movie – Rs. 100 (US$ 1.5) for HD movie and Rs. 200 (US$ 3) for a 3D movie. With so many successful sites running, I know they earned a lot of money only through advertisements, and there was absolutely no need for them to go into something illegal.

In Nepal, we could buy a pirated DVD of any English or Hindi movie for Rs. 25 (less than half-a-dollar) anywhere as freely as we could buy a newspaper. Copyright law is not strongly implemented, but that’s not an excuse to anyone to do an illegal business.

Sadly, the Kasajoos are sons of Vinaya Kumar Kasajoo, a noted journalist and writer who is the chief commissioner at the National Information Commission and has been an advocate/expert for online journalism and related issues.

It’s still to see if they are proven guilty or not, but it should go down as a story of greed!

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