Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Media Commissions in Nepal: Past and Present

I am publishing a working I prepared for Masters First in 2006. This paper discusses recommendations of three media commissions. I will be writing these commissions in detail in coming postings. These commissions are authentic text to know condition of Journalism in different periods in Nepal. It also tells how governments tried to deal with new issues. There is lack of analysis in this paper. Remember that it is what a student wrote as a assignment for college.

New media issues emerge as time passes. Issues like media monopoly, foreign direct investment were not in Nepal even before 40 years ago. The government of Nepal have formed three media related commissions and many taskforces in past, to find the ways for these issues. Early two commissions were press commissions. The last commission: High Level Media Suggestion Commission has deadline of 27 Bhadra 2063 (12 September 1, 2006). Most of the recommendations of past commissions and taskforces never came in practice.

I think some of their recommendations are still useful. They would have change the environment of the status-quo media environment in Nepal.

When we trace the history of journalism in Nepal, Sudha Sagar comes in the front. It was published in 1898. (Khatry, Tek 1979) In 1901, Gorkhapatra came to existence. Radio began from 2003 B.S. This was named Nepal Broadcasting and remained for few months. Revolutionaries who fought to overthrow the Ranas regime began broadcasting in 25 Mangsir 2007 B.S. (1951) from Bhojpur. This radio was moved to Biratnagar on 20 Magh and It got the name, Prajatantra Nepal Radio. (Onta, Pratyoush 2004). From 20 Chait 2007, officially Radio Nepal started its broadcasting as Prajatantra Radio Nepal.(Bhattrai Binod 2000). Television transmissions began from January 1985. (K.C, Shayam Bahadur 2000). Today private sector, non-commercial organizations owns print, Radio and TV in Nepal.

Intention of Paper This paper will focus on media commissions that came to existence in past. From these commissions I will trace the historical and institutional development of Nepali media. My emphasis will be on important recommendations of these commissions. The book, Prakashan ko Digdarshan, containing Press Commission Report 1957 and National Press Commission Report 2038 became helpful to me. At last, I will discuss on the issues the High Level Media Suggestions Commission need to rise. I begin from Press Commission 2015 (1957).

Press Commissions 1957
People had experienced the eight years of the Post Rana system when the government formed the first press commission in 2014 v.s. under the chair of Surendra Raj Sharma. It could not work. So the next commission was formed on 10 Posh 2014. Its members were Krishna Prasad Chapagain (Chairman), Renu Lal Singh, Jib Nath Lohani, Gopal Das Shrestha , Manik Lal Shrestha. Ram Raj Paudel and Prakash Man Singh. These seven people had following five mandates:
To study the history of Journalism from 2007 v.s. and recommend measures to develop healthy and responsible journalism in Nepal.
To study the overall state of press in Nepal.
To recommend on the subsidy and facilities that government need to provide journalists, and responsibility of press towards government.
To recommend the ways to make good relation between government and press focusing Press Salahakar Samiti (Press Advisory Committee).
To think over the possibility of Rastriya Sambad Samiti and recommend on the necessary management of Samiti.
The commission sent questionnaires to journalists, writers, teachers, social workers, politicians, business people etc. The commission gave following important recommendations:
Rastriya Sambad Samiti (National News Agency)
In absence of Nepali News agency in Nepal, Indian agency Hindustan Samachar progressed a lot in three years. Therefore, the commission saw Rastriya Sambad Samiti as a pride of the country.

The first news agency, Nepal Sambad Samiti came to existence as a non-governmental initiative on 1 Poush 2016. (16 December 1959). Press representatives of newspapers of Kathmandu like Swatantra Samachar, Nepal Times, The Commoner, Janta , Dainik Nepal, Nepali etc formed it. Journalists: Pasupati Dev Pandey, Manindra Raj Shrestha and Shankarnath Sharma established another news agency on 12 May 1960.

The Panchayat government merged the two news agencies and named it Rastriya Sambad Samiti (RSS) on Feb 18, 1962 (7 Falgun 2018). The adhoc committee of RSS contained Ram Raj Poudel from the Gorkhapatra, Manindra Raj Shrestha from Sagarmatha Sambad Samiti and Govinda Biyogi from Nepal Sambad Samiti.

The commission recommended the government to finance the RSS only for five years. After that, it should be independent. This never happened.

Press Salahakar Samiti (Press Advisory Council)
Focus of this commission was to maintain good relation between journalists and government and the formation of a Press Advisory Council.
This Press Commission recommended an autonomous and independent Press Advisory Council in Nepal. Its members would be peoples from non-government sectors, media people, and intellectual. This council was supposed to oversee complaints against newspapers, to provide government subsidies after classifying newspapers and formulate code of conduct for journalists. On the commission’s recommendation, the government set up a Press Advisory Council in 1969, which a standing judge of Supreme Court headed. Following the recommendations of New Communications Plan 1971, this committee was turned into a Press Council, constituting 12-members in 1972.

Journalism Education and Training
During their field visit and discussion with participant, the members of this commission found few trained journalists in Nepali media. That is why it requested to open a journalist school to provide training to working journalists in Nepal, and even to send students to study journalism abroad under the Colombo Plan. Due to this, study of Journalism in certificate level started in Ratna Rajya Campus in 2033 v.s. Diploma level’s study began in 2038 in same campus. (Rai, Lal Deusa 2063 v.s. ). Masters studies are going on in three campuses: Ratna Rajya Campus, College of Mass Communication and Journalism and Kantipur City College from 2001. Many trained journalists are involved in Nepali journalism today.

Pathetic Condition of Press
Commission also monitored printing presses in Nepal. Their condition was pathetic. Only few of them were in good condition. In addition, mainly family members managed them. That means it was only a family business. It had not gained a professional status. Even they lacked work. Therefore, the commission requested government to take following measures:
· Stop sending the government’s printing works in abroad.
· If press publishes illegal publications, the charge should be on writers or editors instead of the press owners.
· Change in law that had provision of levying more tax on paper import than that of book import.

Reform in Journalism Sector.
The Commission recommended following measures to improve journalism sector:

v Provide subsidy to newspapers on news print, press ink by government.
v Provide government advertisements also to non-governmental print media.
v Give concession to print media on transportation and improve the efficiency of postal service. Provide telephone line to journalists without any deposit.
v Provide press pass to journalists so that they easily get information from government organizations.
v Abolish clause 36 of Press Law 2009 v.s., which authorized government official to prohibit publishing in the pretext of ‘public welfare’.

This commission’s report is a mirror of Nepali media in 1950s. We can find real picture of Nepali media and journalists through this report. It has even praised Nepali journalists for surviving in that kind of smothering condition. There was little help from government. It was harassing journalist instead with vague legal provisions. There was provision no press pass for journalists. This provision started only after 20 Asoj 2015 v.s.. Journalism was a one-man show.
Infrastructure required for prosperous media was also lacking. Transportation facility was poor. There were few industries and even educated people were few.
Actually, we see this kind of picture in media sector in infant age in world.
As mentioned earlier the government fulfilled some recommendations. It kept on misusing government owned media despite people’s will. It is still going on.

Royal Press Commission 2038 B.S.
Social situation was better than 2015 in 2038. The political road that began in 1950 ended in one-party political system in 1960. Owing to Panchayat Regime’s mantra of development and nationalism, many places were accessible. But, the government moved heaven and earth to control recalcitrant journalists. Many pro-democracy newspapers stopped at that time. Moreover, those remained published faced harassment. The government misused state media (Nepal, Kishor 2055 v.s. ).

This situation changed with the referendum in 2036 v.s. On the occasion of 11 anniversary of Nepal Patrakar Sangh, late King Birendra announced that he would form a Royal Press Commission to know the problems of Journalism sector. He formed a Royal Press Commission on 11 Fagun 2037 v.s., under the chairmanship of Trilok Pratap Rana. Its other members were Khadga Man Singh, Pradhuna Rajbhandari, Grishma Bahadur Devkota and the chairman of Nepal Patrakar Sangh. During their tenure, this commission discussed with journalists, peoples related to media organization, and studied report of Press Commission 1957, National Media Policy 2028 B.S., annual reports of Press Council Nepal as well as studies of government and non- government sectors.
Here I will only discuss few important recommendations:

Institiutions to be established to enhance Journalism sector.
a) Establish Royal Nepal Institute of Mass Communication for higher level of training to journalists and provide opportunities to study and have training from abroad to able journalists.
b) Establish Janasanchar Adhyan Sasthan for research about technology and manpower needed for journalism filed in Nepal.

Press council
The commission thinks that it is bad to appoint council members by government. This makes the council loyal to government. It recommended the government to make the council an autonomous and responsible body for audit bureau of circulation. Others recommendations about the council are following:
· Include working journalists and representatives of Nepal Patrakar Sangh in the council.
· Present Council’s annual report in National Panchayat.
· Need to make a provision to provide newspaper compulsorily to council.

Nepal News Agency (RSS)
· Make RSS independent and free from government influence. Though it seems autonomous, the provision of its chairperson, general manager and board of directors being appointed by the government, made this organization loyal to government. (Shakya, Rabin 2001)
· All departments and ministries should buy news from RSS.
· Focus on news from village and districts.
· To end monopoly of RSS, private news agency should be formed.
In present condition, one non-governmental news agency is in existence named: Independent News Service (INS). Hem Bahadur Bista of INS says there is no legal provision to register the news agency. According to RSS Act 2019 v.s, it was illegal to establish a news agency by general people. Its amendment cancelled this provision. Yet there is no legal basis to established new news agency.

Nepal Journalist Association (Nepal Patrakar Sangh)
This association was established in 1952. Only editors were members at that time and it was Kathmandu-centric. The commission recommended including working journalists in the association. This shows that this association was not active at that time. The commission requested the association to provide training to journalist and recommended government to send journalists abroad for scholarship

Gorkhpatra Sansthan (Gorkhapatra Corporation)
The commission recommended the government to increase the circulation of Gorkhaptra, the oldest newspapers still in existence in Nepal, and to collect news from diverse areas. At that time, Gorkhaptra and The Rising Nepal were using RSS news only.

Radio Nepal
The commission mainly related to print media. Yet it had recommended few measures to Radio Nepal. They are as follows:
· RN needs to improve its program according to Audience surveys.
· Give more importance to national news.
· Instead of following protocol, it needed to give emphasis to news value.
· Need to make Radio technology accessible inside Nepal.

Nepal Television
The commissions also recommend doing feasibility study of television broadcast in Nepal. Few well to do Nepali were watching foreign television channels at that time. Nepal television (NTV) began in 1985. Government owned this. Nepali people are blaming government for misusing it. NTV’s monopoly ended after 1990s. Today there are few private TV channels.

High level Media Suggestions Commission 2006
Nepali media changed totally after 1990s. 1990 constitution guaranteed press freedom, freedom of expression, right to information including other fundamental rights. More than this it barred the government from seizing press and cancelling press registration. This encouraged private sector to investment in print media. Kantipur Publication began its papers: Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post in 1993. Others also followed it.
National Communication Policy of 1993 opened broadcasting to private sector. Nepali media thrived in democratic environment. Media freedom came under threat after the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) waged its ‘people war’ in 1996s. Cadres of CPN (Maoist) and Royal Nepal Army harassed Nepali journalists. After the government declared the State of Emergency in 2001, the situation of Nepali media became worse. February 1, 2005 movement of King Gyanendra compelled media to censorship. Assuming executive power, he barred FM radios from airing news. Recalcitrant media were denied welfare advertisement in the name of One Door Policy of Advertisement. This situation changed only after mass revolt in April 2006.

On 13 June 2006, new government has formed a High Level Media Recommendation commission under the chair of Senior Advocate and member of the National Assembly, Radheshyam Adhikari It include a seven members. High level media suggestions commission on June 13, 2006. With Six media experts added later, it has 13 members.

After 1990, governments have formed media reform committees and task forces. Many of their recommendations never materialized.
From the recommendations of these committees and the demands of FNJ, Broadcasting Association of Nepal, Online Media Association Nepal and Save Community Radio Movement, I think the following issues will come in the upcoming commission.

Restructuring of Government Owned Media Organizations.
Electronic Media as public broadcasting service. RSS, GP, Nepal TV and Radio Nepal. This is an important issue. All government misused these media. During April revolution the then government did flagrant misuse of them.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
Long Term Policy on Communication 2059 v.s prevents FDI in print media. It allowed 25 % FDI in electronic media. Nepal Media Society, an organization of few broadsheet dailies waged war against FDI in Nepali media in 2001. They blamed newspapers The Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post for FDI. The government committee which was formed to study on this issue made the issue more complicated. It requested government to legally bind media owners to show their source of investment. Until today no media have to show the source of investment in the beginning of their business. Indian government has allowed 26 percent of FDI in Indian media (Paul, Weiss and others 2005).

Media Concentration.
This issue evolved in Nepal with the issue of FDI in media. I think this issue brought
fraction in Nepal Media Society. Kamana Prakashan criticized both FDI in media and
media monopoly. Media power is also a political power. We know how Autralia-born media mugal, Rupert Murdoch used his media in British Politics for Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Even Italian media mogul, Silvio Berlusconi misused his media for Politics in Italy. (Tunstall, Jeremy and Michael Palmer. 1991).

So media concentration is bad for democracy. Long Term Policy on Communication 2059 v.s has barred one media house from owning three forms of media. Laymen believe Kantipur media house owns the three media.
Legally these three media are under three discrete media houses. Raghu Mainali, a member of this commission thinks to check the media monopoly of the Kantipur media houses, anti- Monopoly Act is needed.

Problems of Working Journalists.
Nepali media did well in after 1990. Yet the condition of Nepali working journalists is worse. Federation of Nepalese Journalists and Working Journalists Struggle Committee (WJSC) are lobbying to amend the Working Journalist Act. They are saying the welfare of journalists should come under Working Act.

Authority for broadcasting and Online Media.
There is no authentic body to watch over broadcasting and online media. There is no guideline to award license for FM radios. New law for online media is required. The new commission must deal with these issues.

Media commissions are authentic documentation of media scenario in Nepal. They show how different media issues cropped up in Nepal and how these issues were treated. If we compare different press commissions, we find that some issues like misuse of government media and the welfare of working journalists are in discussion from 1950s. Still government has not found way out of them.

Bhattari, Binod. 2000. Radio: Sound of Openness. In Media Nepal 2000. pp. 95-121. Kathmandu: Nepal Press Institute.
Birahi, Harihar. Ed. 2060 v.s. Prakashan Ko Digdarshan. Kathmandu: Press Council
K.C., Shayam Bahadur. 2000. Television in Nepal: Opportunities and Changes. In
Media Nepal 2000. pp. 123-140. Kathmandu: Nepal Press Institute.
Khatri, Tek Bahadur. 1976. Newspapers. In Mass-Communications in Nepal. pp. 11-18. Kathmandu: Department of information.
Nepal, Kishor. 2055 v.s. Nepali Patrakarita ko Bikaskram. Kathmandu: Press Council
Onta, Pratyoush. 2004. Radio Nepal Bhanda Pahileko Yug ma Nepali ko Radio
Anubhav. In Radio Nepal Ko Samajik Itihas. Pratyoush Onta et. al. eds. pp. 35-
54. Kathmandu:Martin Chautari.
Paul, Weiss and others. 2005. Foreign Investment in the Indian Media Sector. Accessed on 21 August 2006.
Rai, Lal Deusa 2063 v.s. Snakottar Taha ma Patrakarita/Aamsanchar Sikysa Ratna
Rajya Campus ko Anubhav. Media Adhyan 1: 225-230.
Shakya, Rabin. 2001. RSS: Challenges Ahead. In Media Issues in Nepal. P. Kharel, ed.
Pp. 89-109.Kathmandu: Nepal Association of Media Educators .
Tunstall, Jeremy and Michael Palmer. 1991. Media Moguls. London : Routledge

1 comment:

  1. I have been visiting various blogs to know more about journalism and I have found your blog quite useful. Please tell me more that Press Pass is how much important for a Journalist... Regards