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Media Development

The media development policy of the FES is specially designed to ensure the professional work of journalists and make possible a free flow of information so as to enable all sectors of society to have access to information, including the unprivileged groups. A democratic society cannot be created without the independence of media pluralism. On the basis of critical and comprehensive news, views and information citizens, voters, consumers and workers make meaningful choices that affect their lives, liberty and property. Thus, in an emerging information society, the right to information has become a key to the governing process and establish the transparency of decision-making. Commitment to the promotion of media and communication is, therefore, one of FESís policies aiming to strengthen democratic and development structure and civic political culture. The first project objective of media development in Nepal is to establish functional structures of the social communication in order to promote democratic processes. As such, efforts are made to:

  • Establish progressive functioning of media structures and organizations so that they can contribute to supporting democratic decision-making processes;
  • Generate awareness about the public service function of broadcasting among the policy makers in the field of policy making and radio;
  • Build the capacity of the organizations engaged in civic education to get media access to reach the public;
  • Raise public awareness on the role and function of media for strengthening the resilience and dynamism of democratic societies;
  • Improve the working conditions of media employees and organizations;
  • Strengthen the performance of media professionalism; and
  • Increase the influence of NGOs in informing the public on various important topics and problems including the changes caused by modern communication technologies.

Another objective of FES media development in Nepal is to support its partners to have access to social communication through media. Under this objective, the project target intends to:

  • Make the media sensitive to women and gender issues;
  • Generate and disseminate information about critical social and political issues to social groups and organizations;
  • Support the disadvantaged people to actively participate in the communication process; and
  • Promote the development of an informed, democratic and cohesive society.

Accordingly, FES has been supporting its partner organizations to raise timely and topical issues for public debate with the purpose of attracting the attention of and action from the concerned quarters; giving orientation on various media aspects to the media practitioners, including journalists, academics, opinion makers, social workers and civil society; and for enlisting the participation of practitioners and decision-makers in the media sectors. Most of the prominent media organizations of Nepal have been associated with FES activities in one way or the other.

In a span of six years of its establishment, FES was continuously involved in various activities, promoting technical and organizational support, improvement in legal framework, a democratic political dialogue independent of partisan influence and thereby fostering a culture of media professionalism. The basic parameters of right to information are objectivity, accountability and openness of information flow to the citizens incorporated in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990. Accordingly, the activities of the partner organizations of FES seek the desirability of freedom of information. If the voice is unevenly distributed as in income, wealth and power, the space for democratic participation of the weak shrinks. This is the reason that FES encourages its partner organizations to undertake need-based activities in tune with the local conditions.

FES is receptive to proposals that are designed to address important issues with the purpose of enhancing professionalism, making society better informed and keeping the media abreast of changing times, needs and demands. FES has supported more than 180 media activities in Nepal in the last five years. Most of the media activities have been organized outside Kathmandu with a view to encourage the local media and build a sense of public participation among individuals and societies isolated and distanced from the mainstream media activities.

Types of activities and the number that were supported by FES in the past are listed below.

Table 7 Media Activities

Types of Activities
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
Total
Seminar/Workshop/Conference
2
14
30
39
26
29
17
20
6
183
Trainings
-
1
1
1
2
-
-
-
-
5
Study Tours
-
2
5
3
1
5
1
-
-
17
Studies and Publications
-
2
2
-
5
2
1
-
-
12
Material Support
-
1
3
1
3
3
1
-
1
13
Total
2
20
41
44
37
39
20
20
7
230

In media, the strength of FES lies in supporting greater information flow and transparency for informed public debate and in garnering social capital. The majority of FES media programmes are seminars and workshops that focus on timely and topical issues of public interest which report developments likely to impinge, positively or negatively, on citizen life. Often, it is the first time that such topics are discussed and debated upon, demonstrating the ability of the media to operate as a watchdog in the responsible pursuit and practice of their profession. Since these seminars and workshops enlist the participation of a number of senior journalists, the policy issues they raise capture a wide range of perspectives and enable the participants to:

  • Accomplish reasonable social competence in communicating;
  • Attain basic and advanced knowledge about the public issues and life; and
  • Develop a certain political stance and judgment about and people.

The topics and issues are not only diverse but also relevant both to the media practitioners and the general public.

Another strength lies in supporting its partner organizations to conduct workshops that seek to orient the participants to specific issues like the code of ethics, Working Journalists Act, coverage of gender issues in the media, right to information, community radio and a host of important topics with the help of experts and resource persons, and illuminate advocacy of social and national causes. The rationale is to support the independence, integrity and ability of the media to serve the public.

Another area of FES support concerns with the initiative of Tribhuvan University, the premier University of the country, especially its faculty of journalism which is planning to introduce an MA level course in Journalism and Mass Communications. In that context FES has supported seminars on curriculum development covering also the Bachelors level course on Journalism and Mass Communications. Moreover, the construction of a course sets out a new agenda of issues, topics and themes which meet the expectations and interests of the teachers and students and can face the challenges of social transformation.

These exercises have proved to be a great success in bringing together numerous media practitioners, including some very prominent and senior ones, to discuss on various issues.

FES Nepalís policy to decentralize the majority of its programmes outside of Kathmandu valley has generated wide appreciation from the beneficiaries. Senior journalists are among the resource persons for most media programmes. FES supports discussion among journalists some of the major issues pertaining to their profession, helping them in building opinion and will-formation and in consolidating the sphere of freedom as the fundamental rights of the Nepalese citizens.

A pluralist society can make room for the richest possible participation in public life if media pluralism is encouraged and diverse views are articulated objectively to educate the public. Accordingly, FES has supported the training of 20 journalists, half of them women, of some of the major media institutions. The programmes were organized at the New Delhi-based Indian Institute of Mass Communication which helped arrange it for experts in the respective fields. The FES-supported programmes in the Indian capital were exclusively tailored to meet the needs of the Nepalese journalists. Given that many training programmes are organized in Nepal by various institutions, FES decided to support specialized training abroad for basically mid-career journalists working in well-established and reputed media organizations.

Study tour programmes also constitute a part of FES media activities. Over a dozen journalists from the print media, news agency as well as broadcast media have benefited from it. The purpose was to offer the participants' exposure to the emerging trends and practices in other countries and update them on the technological and informational change affecting media development. The participants in such programmes were either senior or mid-career journalists. During the tours, they had opportunities to meet media experts and highly experienced journalists for exchanging ideas and experiences.

FES has supported study and publication projects. Written by senior media academics and practitioners, five books on mass communication and journalism have already been published. In this regard, the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus, Tribhuvan University; Professional Journalists Society, Asmita Womenís Publication House, and Nepal Association of Media Educators received support. The contents of the media books focus on areas like mass communication in a pluralistic society, principles and practices in Nepalese journalism, code of ethics for media practitioners, gender issues in the media, media for democracy and media issues. The publications are expected to be useful for, among others, students of journalism, media academics and media practitioners..

FES has been bringing together media policy makers from various countries to discuss important topics. One example is the harmonization of media laws in South Asia. The other is building networks for taking initiatives and providing sources of opportunities to media associations and unions. Nepal Press Union and the Federation of Nepalese Journalists reach their affiliate members through a number of FES-sponsored programmes.

The overall media-related programmes have been geared to contribute to a higher degree of professionalism that not only raises the credibility of media organizations and performance but also contributes to the creation of a better informed society. A sound development of media contributes to the consolidation of democracy and democratic practices. Raising public awareness on the need for equal status and opportunities for women also being one of the objectives of FES activities in general, the media programmes supported by FES in Nepal put due emphasis on enlisting womenís participation as resource persons or in other capacities.

While some categories of the programmes supported so far will continue to receive similar assistance in the coming years also either as follow-up work or in some other manner, FES will also probe into other areas. The broadcast media and their issues will be given more emphasis in the ensuing years.

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