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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Media in Madhesh

Dharmendra Jha

To raise any issue and to draw conclusion for or against the motion ‘Media in Madhesh', undoubtedly requires to mention two key words or phrases. Though the word Madhesh is the second in the phrase, here, it would be better to mention first in brief. Indisputably, Madhesh stands for the southern plain land of Nepal's territory from Mechi to Mahakali where various ethnic nationalities exist. Inhabitants of Madhesh are called Madheshi. Moreover, there are 22 districts of plain land from Mechi to Mahakali. To establish Madhesh after or before Madhesh Movement, various schools of thought have said Madhesh was derived from Madhya Desh (mid country) and Matsya Desh (country of fish).

Now all concerned parties of Madhesh have accepted that Madhesh is exploited and trodden part of Nepal where representatives of ruling class, clan or race have continued their ruling in this or that way. Some schools of thought think that the family members of the representatives of ruling class shall be recognized as Madheshi.

Recently, former Defense Minister Sarat Singh Bhandari, a member of ruling class, was ousted from the government led by Dr. Baburam Bhattari. Political parties are playing games for Madhesh.

To prove this, no one has to go anywhere.  One can just review two decades activities of political parties. One can see a former congressman Gajendra Narayan Singh standing with slogan for Madheshi’s rights and federal state making Nepal Sadbhawana Party, and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist waged war for republican state with federalim.Unluckily, Nepal Sadbhawana Party split and split and the parties raised after the Madhesh Movement as Madhesh Janaadhikar Forum and Tarai Madhesh Loktantrik Party were also split in the name of Madhesh and Madheshi. Now there are nearly a dozen parties in Madhesi. Underground armed outfits in the name of Madhesh and Madheshi have been being divided into many groups, hard to count them. 

Some underground armed groups have been run by high ranking security officers to exploit and ruin Madhesh. Such accusation and blaming can easily be found in media presentation or voiceless voice of Madhesh. Now, the biggest political party, Unified Communist Party of Nepal once said or accepted that Madhesh would be the final battle field for final success of its People’s War. Recently, Former, minister for the Defence Mr. Sarat Singh Bhandari spoke that Madhesh could be free from the current Nepalese sovereignty that shook the country. These flashes are enough to support that in the great game of Nepali politics, Madhesh is at stake where general people are unaware of the repercussion of this game. And, the ultimate choice of the people of Madhesh would be either a part of Nepal or not. Whatever will be the destiny but one can’t see Madhesh in other than this face. Therefore, media and media persons must be responsible to lead the society in a positive way. The issues of a prosperous Madhesh must be discussed with Madheshi people in their own language, mood, gesture and behaviour. For this, role of media is significant. Similarly, our existing media mindset can not supply the demand of making Madhesh peaceful and prosperous. Fight for the identity of Madhesh and Madheshi historically begins from 1952 when some Nepali Congress activists raised the issues under the banner of Tarai Congress. Bedanand Jha was handed over the leadership of Tarai Congress from his elder brother Kulanand Jha. But the issues raised with the initiative of Jha brothers were foiled after the coup of then King Mahendra. The candidacy of Ramraja Prasad Singh for the chair of graduate constituency in the Rastriya Panchayat tried to hold the sentiment of those Madhesh enlivened with Nepali political arena. Time and again issues of Madhesh remained alive with the efforts of Raghunath Thakur, R D Ajad. In 1990, the issues were more organized under Nepal Sadabhawana Party. These are some points that can create an image of Madhesh and Madheshi. Now, it is high time we thought what kind of media could best serve the interests of Madhesh.        


Origin and Evolution

Simply, media refers collectively to all media technologies including the internet, television, newspapers, film and radio. In the countries that have a high level industrialization since the 1950s, the media has a key role in political power. Though the term "media" was introduced in the 1920s, its origin must be linked to the invention of the printing press in the late 15th century that gave a rise to some of the first forms of mass communication by enabling the publication of books and newspapers on a larger scale. In history the first high-circulation newspapers arose in the eastern United States in the early 1800s. In the 1840s, the first commercial electrical telegraph was developed, allowing separation of communications from transportation, and enabling messages to be transmitted instantaneously over large distances. Cinema began to be a large-scale entertainment industry in 1894, with the first commercial exhibition of film. The first commercial broadcasts in the United States began in the 1920s.The first television broadcast for a mass audience began in 1936 inGermany and UK. Regular mass TV broadcasts in the United States only began in 1948, with a show hosted by Arturo Toscanini and starring comedian Miltone Berle.

Since the '50s, when cinema, radio and TV began to be the primary or the only source of information for the huge population, these media began to be considered as central instruments of mass control. It is widely known that media plays a significant role in shaping public perceptions on a variety of important issues, both through the information that is dispensed, and through the interpretations they place upon this information. Media also plays a key role in shaping modern culture, by selecting and portraying a particular set of beliefs, values, and traditions (an entire way of life), as reality. That is, by portraying a certain interpretation of reality, they shape reality to be more in line with that interpretation. Since the emergence of popular saying by Edmund Burke Media is the fourth estate, the word media has been changed its weight and value.

Importantly, a wider spectrum of journalists including Indrakant Mishra, Chandralal Jha, Vijay Lal Karn, Panna Lal Gupta, Ram Sworoop Prasad BA, Bindeswor Prasad Mandal, Rajeswor Nepali, Shishu Prasad Devkota, Anil Prasad Anal, Baidyanath Jha, Ram Bahadur Chand, Ramesh Ghimire, Karndev Bhatta and Lyakat Ali have substantially contributed to the development of journalism in Nepal-Madhes in different time period.

Media in Nepal

In Nepal, media includes radio, television, newspapers, and internet.Historically, radio has been the most prevalent form of mass communication in Nepal. Government-owned Radio Nepal has been the sole domestic radio provider since 1951, and by 1995, it was broadcasting in short-wave, medium-wave, and FM frequencies. Since 1990, FM radios are in operation by the private sectors in and out of the Kathmandu valley. Especially in Madhesh, private operators have been active in running FM radios after the victory of People's Movement-II that replaced monarchy from Nepal. There are three hundred twenty two FM radio are in operation in Nepal. Out of them nearly hundred FM radio are operating in Terai Madhesh.

Television in Nepali media started with government-owned Nepal Television in January 1985. It was established to shape the slogan "Communications for Development" under the sixth development plan (1980-1985). Since 1985, Nepal has more than a dozen of television in operation and some are waiting for operation .The history of daily newspaper also goes to the government-owned Gorkhapatra daily. The victory of People’s Movement-I in 1990 paved the way for private daily newspapers and now more than dozen of broadsheets are published from Kathmanduvalley. Nepali media is recently more influenced with Internet Service Providers (ISP). With top level domain, the Nepali internet service is running on. Online newspapers and other services have been frequently widening The Ministry of Information and Communications has said 417 FM radios licenses issued till 2011. Likewise, 32 television channels were given licenses for their services and 715 cable operators and 91 downlinks were given licenses. Therefore, it is true to say that the life of Nepali media is of just two decades. In 1990, the restoration of democracy paved the way for private sectors to invest in media since the private sectors dared to invest. However, some disappeared due to political instability and armed conflict. After the fall of monarchy, the electronic media as FM radio and television channels took stride, and mobile like media spread almost in all parts of the country. One can receive sort of information at the peak of Everest to the southern no man's land by with well equipped mobile set or laptop. Media that produce news and views must be mature and responsible. More than a dozen out of 32 license issued television broadcasters including the government-run Nepal Television and NTV2 Metro have in regular operation. The private broadcasters are : Kantipur Television owned by Kantipur Publication is located at Tinkune, Kathmandu; Image Channel owned by Image Groups of Companies at Lazimpat, Kathmandu; Avenues Television, located at Tripureswor, Sagarmatha Television at Bijulibazar; Channel Nepal, the first Nepali language satellite channel, ABC Television, News24, Himalayan Television, Mountain Television, National Television and  Nepal-1. Nepal-1 is broadcast from India. These televisions have been operating service more or less all over the Madhesh. 

Media in Madhesh Andolan (Movement)

The term 'Madhesh Andolan' here is used to denote the period of the movement started by burning Interim Constitution under the banner of Madheshi Janadhikar Forum Nepal, for the establishment of federal state and proportional participation in all bodies of state. As we know the issues of Madhesh were presented before the ruling class of Nepali in 1952; and then Nepali Congress activists in the name of Tarai Congress fought for the issues for the Madheshi people. The Forum-led Madhesh Andolan gradually got more or less support from almost all parties. Madheshi members were for the federal state and proportional participation in all bodies of state. During the Madhesh Andolan, media persons and right activists were accused of ignoring and misinterpreting Madhesh Andolan by Madheshi activists. News prints were burnt, media vehicles and media persons attacked by Madheshi activists. Media persons accused Madheshi activists of enforcing them to be puppet of their Andolan and attacking the idea of freedom of press and expression. Harmony between Madheshi and Pahadi community was being disturbed by such accusations during the Andolan. Some of non-Madhesi media persons were beaten and threatened by them. Media persons could not present themselves impartial during the Andolan. Most of the media based in Kathmandu were blamed for favoritism. Madhesh based media were found fuelling the conflict. Peaceful movements were made out and violence provoking activities were given priority. Madhesh Andolan was concluded just before the election of the Constituent Assembly forming three Madhesh based parties- Madheshi Janadhikar Forum, Tarai Madhesh Loktanktrik Party and Sadbhawana Party Nepal.

Media Habit in Madhesh

Print Media

Kathmandu-based dailies are found and read in Madhesh. Among them the Katipur, the Gorkhapatra, and the Annapurna Post were found popular in Madhesh during the Madhesh Andolan. Recently published Nagarik daily is widening its space in Madhesh. Even the locally published dailies have their influence in Madhesh. There are many news papers (nearly three hundred) being published in Madhesh. According to Department of Information morethem 5900 news papers have got permission for publication all overNepal. But to everyone's surprise, many of them are owned by non-Madhesis. Still, numbers of Madhesh-based media are under the control of the non-Madhesis. Many Indian newspapers are also found and read in Madhesh.

Electronic Media

In addition to the Radio Nepal, Kantipur FM, Nepal FM, Nepal Vani FM, Image FM and Communication Corner, region-based local FM radios are enjoyed in Madhesh. Before Madhesh Andolan, no Madhesh (local) FM radio existed. But, following the Andolan, now, we can see a lot of FM radios. They are trying to serve Madhesh and Madhesi locally.

TV Channels

Nepal Television and Kantipur Television are widely viewed in Madhesh for news-based programmes. Mostly Indian channels are entertained in Madhesh. Nepal One TV, for it is Madhesh special, is watched in Madhesh.

As we know the media is the key instrument of mass control, it has been playing significant role in shaping public perceptions on important issues including the shaping of modern culture, by selecting and portraying a particular set of beliefs, values, and traditions as reality. In spite of this, the media in Nepal has been facing threats from all sides. Media has the access in Madhesh to influence the people to shape their views in a certain way. Madhesh has been the battle field as well as business hub because of open border between Nepal and India. The open border let people enjoy the Indian print media as well as electronic media. Simply in Madhesh one can see all media available. All Nepali television channels, all national broadsheets and different FM radio services have their access in Madhesh. Almost all presentations of the existing media have links to the Madhesh.

Media in Madhesh

Analyzing the points above, one can easily say the media can grow more in Madhesh. In Madhesh, Indian entertainment channels are popular. If Media activists investigate the reason why Indian channels are popular in Madhesh, the outcome of the investigation can inspire people to invest in media. When we say media, it means news and news-based interviews. But meaning of media is far beyond that and some of them are frequently produced in Indian media activists. To supply the true demands of Madhesh Andolan, media is yet to do more and more. Existing Media in Madhesh are not different from so-called national media. The news room has been influenced by the traditional mindset. For this activists and supporters of media have to do more.

Role of Media in Madhesh

The role of media in Madhesh can be defined by the rights of media provisioned in the Constitution and its nature. As the word 'media' is meant another form of democracy, in which, freedom of press and of expression are guaranteed. In Nepal, Interim Constitution is to be replaced by the new constitution from the Constituent Assembly. The new constitution is being finalized, however, some issues were guaranteed at the time of preparing Interim Constitution like federal state, freedom of press and expression under fundamental rights of people are some issues guaranteed and to come in the new constitution. Madhesh owns traditionally various ill practices of feudal society. Gender bias, untouchability and no education to daughter are some ill practices existing in Madhesh. Similarly, the byproducts of the armed conflict have led criminalization in Madhesh. In the name of holy purpose, each underground outfit is running its criminal activities in Madhesh as extortion, kidnapping. The security system seems failed. Most of the people of Madhesh do not believe in security system. They believe police and criminals are running rackets of kidnapping, killing and quelling rising voice. The role of media will be important to empower media persons focusing such ill practices of society.

Most of the sociologists agree that Madhesis can be divided into four major groups. Adibasi group of Tharoo, Dhimal, Gangai, Jhangar, Danuwar, Koche and Rajbanshi and the like come under this group, higher caste under Hinduism classification Maithil Brahmin, Bhumihar, Rajput, Kayastha and Yadav and lower caste including untouchable caste Khatbe, Mushar, Dusadh, Chamar, Dom come in the second group, and the people come from outside expanding their business like Marwari, Bangali, Shikh come under third group and the fourth is Muslims. They have their own issues and problems. For the development of Madhesh their issues must be addressed. Addressing their issues is challenging. Here is also the role of media.

Madhesh has its own geography and natural resources. Advantages and disadvantages of geography can be discussed among Madhesi people. How Madhesh can pave its economic roadmap with its natural resources may have known by the people here. The role of media will be beneficial for concluding such discussion among the people.

Madhesh is rich from cultural point of view. How Madhesh can perverse and promote its cultural heritage is a burning issue. Here, critical expertise of media will be fruitful. Festivals as Madhusrawani, Chhath, Bhratridutia, Jhijhiya, JatJatin, Samachakeba, Domkachh, Barsait, Dashara, Laxmipuja, Phagu and Judshital are celebrated by Madhesi people. In Madhesh, Eid and Bakar Eid are the festivals celebrated by the Muslim community. It is mportant to mention here that the Muslims participate in Hindus' festival while the Hindus participate in Muslims' and keeping harmony and religious tolerance. Such social harmonies are the assets of Madhesh. In Madhesh many such issues are to yet be researched for prosperous, harmonious and cultured Madhesh. Media can heal the wounds of the Madhesh Andolan. During Madhesh Andolan, media circulated some unverified news, politically vested news and violence-fuelling news that ruptured the harmony. The role of media is imperative to lead Madhesh on the path of prosperous, peaceful and new Madhesh.

The role of Media in Madhesh, in short, will be promoting all issues along with pluralism, freedom of press and expression.

Responsibility of Media in Madhesh

As it is already mentioned that Madhesh is in critical juncture of history, media and media persons should carry out historical responsibility. Nepali media is still premature. To say the reality that one of the most popular daily made the country fool presenting false news. During Madhesh Andolan, Madheshi media persons were found presenting unauthentic news stories more or less collected in the survey carried out by Freedom Forum. Responsible media means media presents responsible news and views for the sake of people. Though it is still a debate to define free media and responsible media but undoubtedly freedom and responsibility is tested in critical position. To make media responsible in Madhesh, different donor agencies and organizations need to pay attention.

As media has always been guided by the social responsibility, and promotion of social organizations, Madhesh can enhance the media activities. Media, considered one of the major social entities, has helped to strengthen the social units. Thus the importance of (I) NGOs can’t be ruled out in Madhesh.[1]


Madhesi Journalists

Though some derogate, saying 'these Madheshi journalists', the Madheis journalists are the products of Nepali journalists. As all Nepali journalists are unsecured by professional and physical threats, Madhesi journalists are not exceptional. In the past, Federation of Nepali Journalists successfully made government implement the Working Journalist Act. For the determination of minimum wages for the journalists, government has formed Minimum Wages Fixation Committee. For the professional security, the Working Journalist Act has empowered the working journalists. However, the effect of the Act is not seen in practice. Media houses have not shown their interest in implementing the Working Journalist Act. Sometimes, the journalists themselves are seen as obstacles for the implementation of the Working Journalist Act. Journalists or any media persons must get the written contract or appointment letter with clearly mentioned details as per the Act. But it lacks in practice. Journalists work without any written contracts. The government is powerful authority to implement the working journalist act in every media house. Physical security is another challenge. Impunity is increasing day by day. Madhesh is badly affected with impunity. The government is to provide strict security system to the people. Previously, non journalistic background persons were involved in media. But now persons with journalistic background are dominating media. In Madhesh comparatively less skilled journalists are working. Madheshi journalist means the journalist having the mindset of Madhesh. Mindset is not born-made. By birth one can be Madheshi but mindset should not be Madheshi. For Madheshi mindset, it needs Madheshi media environment. Madheshi media environment can be created by Madheshi media. Madheshi should invest in media. In short, Madheshi media means the mindset having the proximity to Madhesh. Existing media have been raising Madheshi issues but their proximities are different so the present their product differently. Otherwise, it will be unjust to say Madheshi media. No doubt, media have been blamed for being biased. True to say, such accusations are made only for their proximities. Different media houses have their own proximities and they are led by their own favourties. Media presents political party's news on the basis of their interests. This happens only for the proximity. All journalists are trained by the same guidelines and code of conduct but some breach the code of conduct. Madheshi investors can create Madheshi mindset for promoting such issues in center. To make Madheshi mindset the government can create appropriate environment. Proportional participation can create Madheshi mindset. In the existing media, there is no proportional participation. To say Madheshi media or Madheshi journalists is to make Madheshi mindset. For this Madheshis should invest in media, and promote and support the media.


1. Existing Media house of Madhesh must implement the working journalist act.

2. INGO, NGO, Government and donor agencies should provide trainings to the Madheshi journalists and make them equipped to collect news.

3. Madheshi people must invest in media. We have to establish different media houses in Madhesh. 

4. Media houses should be promoted for making television and radio programmes based on Madheshi issues.

5. Our newsrooms are not inclusive and balanced. So we have to correct our news room.

6. Journalists who are working in Madhesh are physically unsecured, Uma Singh, Birendra Shah, Arun Singhaniya, J P Joshi were killed (they all are related with media and they all are killed in Madhesh) and many journalists are beaten. We have to provide them physical security.

7. There is a need to promote code of conduct among journalists.

8. Now a day, Madhesh is a big market of media but they are not carrying issues of Madhesh properly. Big media should cover Madhesh issues.

9. There is little participation in government owned media and institution from Madhesh. Government should correct their policy.

10. There is need to restructure Madhesh.

11. Madheshis are not in the capacity of policy formulation related with media. We have to give this kind of opportunity to them.

12. It is not good to run media by government, there is need to establish PSB (Public Service Broadcast) instead of Radio Nepal and Nepal Television. Government owned media should be decentralized.

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