Back in 2007, Citizen Journalism in Nepal was still a vague fad. An excerpt from my piece for Toward Freedom magazine (27-11-2007)
After the April 2006 revolution, which saw the Nepalese King lose most of his powers and reduced to a strictly ceremonial figure, Nepali web focused citizen journalism has seen a rapid growth. According to WebLali, a roughly compiled directory of Nepali blogs and Blogger, there are about 200-300 blogs on various topics ranging from politics to aviation and tourism. The number seems insignificant, but in the Nepali context it is big achievement. Consider this: based on 2006 data, there are only 249,400 internet users in the country and GDP-per capita is $15,000. Only 48% of the population is literate.
Present scene looks encouraging, but citizen journalism in Nepal is still in its infancy and faces many problems. These challenges include the country’s troublesome record on press freedom, a rise in attacks against journalists and activists, ethnic tensions and financial constraints.
In early November of 2007, journalist Birendra Shah was kidnapped; his whereabouts remained unknown for about a month. Later the Maoists guerrillas admitted to the kidnapping and murder. Although the reasons remain unclear, it is widely speculated that Shah was killed because he was working on a story linking Maoists to cross-border smuggling. In June, Reporters Without Borders published a report saying that 72 journalists were attacked or threatened by armed groups including the Maoists since the beginning of this year.
In last four years, blogging, social networks, video sharing platforms and online forums have pushed Nepali media into a new era-where citizen input is getting recognized and reader engagement and interaction is encouraged.
Major news websites-Kantipur, Republica, Nagarik, Nepali Times, The Himalayan Times, all are making an effort to structure their presentation to attract more reader participation and contribution from bloggers. Compared to international media outlets, the push is weak, but the shift in attitude cannot be ignored.
For instance, the landing page for Kantipur has a discussion section, link to their Facebook and Twitter page, and the articles come with a “social media bar” which makes sharing easy.
In addition to making the media more interactive and responsive, social media is also responsible for the growth in Nepal’s citizen media. They act as an amplifier-strengthening voice of a concerned citizen, and sometimes as a bridge to connect a citizen journalist and the media.
Bloggers /citizen reporters are part of mainstream media outlets like Republica, and The Nepali Times-although for most part, they are limited to opinion/personal story journalism.
Blogs like Mysansar and Meroreport ( citizen media collective) have successfully established themselves as sources, thereby creating new roles for citizen journalists and breaking out of the usual opinion, rant pigeon-hole.
Meroreport has also introduced hyper-local citizen media; where local stories, most likely to be ignored by the national media is featured. With bilingual approach (Nepali and English, but Nepali certainly dominates) they have managed to move beyond urban areas and expand their readership and contributor base.
Mysansar on the other hand has evolved into mini media, with its share of corruption and human trafficking expose and huge following.
Bloggers as part of mainstream journalism and blogs emerging as trusted new source-the scenario presented above is very positive and encouraging, however, it is also misleading.
For all the success earned by MySansar and Meroreport, there are bloggers who don’t see any problem plagiarizing content. (Previous posts on content piracy and copyrights:
# https://bhumikasa.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/digital-securityprivacy-and-copyrights/ )
and there are regulators and individuals who don’t respect free speech and free expression rights-as exhibited by the Press Council’s overreach on MySansar-Chaudhary Group bullying scandal.
Citizen media landscape in 2007 was vague and uncertain. In 2011, although much has been achieved, the base is still weak-thanks to legal loopholes, political uncertainty, and uneven standardization.