Pro-people Media (English)
The Community Press in Nepal
Brief History of the Nepalese Press:
IT IS A historical paradox that Jung Bahadur Rana, the first Prime
minister who establish a century–long rule of hereditary premiers
since 1843 was also the one who introduced the first modern printing
press in Nepal.
On his return from an official visit to England in 1851, Rana also
brought home a hand press, ushering in the age of mechanical printing
in Nepal. Fifty years later in 1901, his nephew Prime Minister Dev
Shumsher issued a special decree authorizing the publication and
management of Gorkhapatra, the first newspaper in Nepal. Born a
weekly paper, it became a daily 60 years later, one of Nepal's largest
today. The Rana autocratic rule ended when democracy took root in
1951 and heralded the birth of newspapers in the private sector.
Awaj, edited by Siddhi Chandra Shrestha, was the first private sector
daily newspaper published in 1951 from the capital city of Kathmandu.
Two years hence, a number of weekly, fortnightly and monthly papers
were launched from outside Kathmandu, marking the beginning of community
newspapers in the country.
There are four phases in the history of the Nepalese press:
1) Before 1950, no private press existed except for a few Nepali
language monthly publications. Some literary and political magazines
published from India were also aimed at the Nepali readers.
2) In the 1960s, when the country enjoyed multiparty democracy
for a short 10-years period, the number of registered newspapers
and magazines reached 221.
3) From 1961 to 1990, when the king ruled directly in the name
of Panchayat System, all political parties were banned and press
laws and policies were restrictive. A referendum in 1981 led to
slightly liberalized press policies that allowed newspapers to publish
alternative political views in the next 10 years.
4) Since 1990, after the multiparty democratic system was restored,
the press has enjoyed unprecedented freedom. Within 10 years, over
1,600 newspapers were registered across the nation and big bigness
companies started to invest in print and electronic media.
PRESENT STATUS OF THE PRESS:
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, promulgated in 1990 after
the multiparty democratic system was restored, upholds the freedom
of the press and the people's right to information. A national Communication
Policy formulated in 1992 aims to nurture a well-information society.
The Press and Publication Act and Regulation were revised to suit
the tenets of multiparty system.
(For detail please see the Tables 2, 3 and 4)
Although the number of registered newspapers seems large, the actual
number of newspapers in circulation is quite low. The Annual Report
of the press Council Nepal for 2000-2001 reveals that out of 1,620
registered newspapers only 419 (25.86%) are publishing, and only
192 newspapers are publishing regularly. No magazines or newspapers
of any kind are registered in 19 of the 75 districts, Nepal's administrative
The imbalance in media presence between the Kathmandu Valley and
rest of the country is quite pronounced. The Kathmandu Valley, which
comprises three districts and the capital city and a population
of less then 1.5 million, is home to over half the newspapers registered
in the kingdom of 24 million people. Out of regular 192 papers,
87 are published from the Valley. Not one of the newspapers published
from outside the valley has a circulation above 10,000 copies. All
the 10 broadsheets – six in Nepali and four in English –
come out of Kathmandu. All but one publication of "A"
category listed by the press Council originates from Kathmandu.
DETERMINING FACTORS OF COMMUNITY PRESS IN NEPAL
Like an oasis in the desert, the development of the capital of
Kathmandu and Kathmandu Valley has been an artificial process. More
then just a political capital, the valley is also the center of
education, health commerce and media. Across Nepal, however, the
picture that prevails is one of poverty and underdevelopment.
The latest official census shows that less than 15 percent of the
24million population lives in urban areas. In other words, more
then 20 million of the people do not have access to Nepali media
that largely caters to an urban, elite audience.
Media concentration in the urban centers does not augur well for
strengthening democracy and enhancing development. Until mass media
could play a vital role in changing the life of the people, they
become a waste of time, energy and precious resources.
Hope lies, however, in the small press functioning in district
headquarters and in the rural and remote areas of the country. They
can increase awareness and deliver relevant information and knowledge
to the masses. To assure the viability of the community press in
a country like Nepal, it seems most important to define target audience,
ownership, control, management and certainly, content.
Apart from local newspapers published in various district headquarters,
various experiments and practices are now underway in the field
of community media. These include small media initiatives such as
handwritten or printed wall newspapers, community audio towers (broadcast
through loudspeakers mounted on a pole, a tower or the roof of a
house), rural newspapers, and even street drama or people's theater.
Altogether, they are sometimes called the alternative media. They
proclaim a precise role in raising people's problems, creating awareness
about relevant subjects and giving a voice to the people. Sometimes,
they join in advocacies for social change.
These community media initiatives are spread out in many parts
of the country. International development organizations such as
UNICEF, UNESCO and Plan International are cooperating with elected
local government agencies and national and local development organizations.
External development organizations are extending supports of hardware,
technology and skills training. In some cases they help carry the
cost of operation and production, while some organizations subscribe
in bulk for their target groups or organizations. Most of these
groups have proved quite effective in delivering relevant messages
and increasing the level of awareness of the targets groups. Yet
because of their limited reach, these community media initiatives
are quite insignificant in reaching out to the vast majority of
Nepal's media-marginalized people.
Most of the regional and district level newspapers, which have
wide readership, claim to be national newspapers. This is because
of false sense of pride that comes from being a national paper.
In some cases, it is also possibly because of the advertisement
policy and regulation, which allow big tender notices and bids to
be printed only in the national newspapers. For this reason regional
and district newspapers hesitate to be called community newspapers.
Their importance and their role in serving the local community should
be recognized and promoted. The importance of regional and district
newspapers registered as mainstream journalism should be given due
In assessing the role of the community press in the Nepali context,
all these important factors should be considered. They could also
help clarify the distinction between the community press and the
national press under three main topics: Target Audience, Ownership/Control,
It may be useful at this point to further consolidate the criteria
for defining the community newspaper in Nepal:
• Based outside the Kathmandu Valley
• Circulation less than 10,000 copies
• Having no national chain of distribution
• Frequency: daily, bi-weekly, weekly and fortnightly
• Size: Tabloid or magazine size
• Investment of local people or institutions/ organization
• Having more than 75 percent local staff in editorial section
• Majority of revenue from local advertisement and sale/subscription
• More than 50 percent of the editorial content on local issues
• Raising local issues and problems regularly
• Dedicated to raising the living standards of the local people
by providing them relevant and essential information and knowledge
• Giving voice to the voiceless people
• Advocating development of infrastructure that promotes socio-economic
development in the community.
A good example of a community/rural newspaper is Gaunle Deurali.
Literally it means a meeting place in the villages. Launched with
the support of Nepal Press Institute and the Asia Foundation in
1993, it is a weekly rural newspapers published by a local organization
called Rural Development Palpa (RDP). It is based in Palpa district,
310 km west of Kathmandu. RDP's professional staff working together
with community–based contributors, mostly barefoot journalists,
produces the newspaper. It is distributed in more then 35 districts
of the country.
Gaunle Deurali is produced for and by the rural people of the Middle
Hills of Nepal, a unique geographical area sharing many common problems
and challenges but also a rich cultural tradition and ethnic diversity.
A special focal point for Deurali is the literate adult readers
living in remote rural areas who have attended non-formal education
classes. They often have no access to reading material.
RDP's experience demonstrates that voiceless, rural people could
be empowered when their problems and feelings are expressed in the
media. They realize that they have a place in their own community
and in the decision-making process. Their sense of self-confidence
is enhanced. Even better results unfold when rural people are given
a chance to product their own newspapers articles, respond to each
other's views, and participate in the production of their newspapers.
RDP is doing this by conduction writing and basic journalism skills
seminars for the grassroots people under a program known as Barefoot
RDP saw a need to develops a new breed of journalists based in
rural areas, dedicated to changing the fate of rural people and
giving voice to the underprivileged, and could write about the people's
problems and aspiration. To address this need, RDP has focused its
journalism-training program on development workers, teachers, students,
farmers, health workers, housewives, and members and staff of Village
Development Committees. They now compose a corps of barefoot journalists.
Following the Gaunlel Deurali model, another rural weekly paper,
Gaunghar was started in Dang, a remote valley about 500 km west
of Kathmandu with the support of the Asia Foundation and the Nepal
Press Institute. Both newspapers now have their own offset printing
press and desktop publishing unit.
Nepali is the language of choice of newspapers. Out of 419 newspapers
under publication 387 are published in Nepali. The number of newspapers
published in other languages follows: English 16, Newari 4, Hindi
3, Bhojpuri, Marwari, Maithili, Tharu, Tibetan, Nepali-Hindi, Newari-English,
Nepali-Kirati and Nepali-English- Hindi one each. Some newspapers
occasionally insert some pages in the local dialects and languages.
Many journalists have contributed to promoting the community press
in Nepal. Bharat Dutta Koirala, Gokul Pokhrel, Aditya Man Shrestha,
Hem Bahadur Bista, Vinaya Kasajoo have played and are still playing
important roles in this effort. The editors who are actively involved
in the community press in five Development Regions of the country
are Nakul Silwal, Dilli Ram Nirbhik Gobind Chandra Chhetri, Bhawani
Baral and Harsha Subba in the Eastern DR; Jagadish Sharma, Satrughna
Nepal, Deepak Shrestha, Hiranya Lal Shrestha, Dharma Raj Aryal and
Bishnu Chhimeki in the Central DR; Mehgh Raj Sharma, Karna Bahadur
Karki, Bal Krishna Chapagain, Arjun Gyawali, Madan Paudel, DR Ghimire,
Binod Pahadi ,Bharat Pokhrel, Madhab Nepal, Lekh Nath Gyawali, Surya
Lal, Narayan Sapkota, Narayan Karki, Krishna Prasad Bastola, Badri
Binod Pratik, Kusum Kesab Parajuli, Punya Paudel and Madhab Sharma
in the Western DR; Narayan Prasad Sharma, Amar Giri, Sushil Gautam,
Pratap Regmi, Panna Lal Gupta, Purna Lal Chuke, Hemanta Karmacharya
and Shiva Dotel in Mid-western DR and Khem Bhandari, Karunakar Pandey,
Ram Lal Shaha and Karna Dev Bhatta in the Far- western DR
TODEY'S COMMUNITY PRESS
Size, paper, printing quality and the content distinguish the community
press from the national press. While the national dailies are commonly
broadsheets, the community dailies are tabloid in format but certainly
not in content and tone. Most community papers are printed on cheap
paper and print quality is not good. Although the community press
carries local and people- related stores, their story mix is not
as varied as the national papers. Most community papers lack professional
skills, do not seem to have clear marketing plans, and are mostly
not financially healthy.
A Press Council report locates the regularly published community
newspapers in the different regions of Nepal:
|Central DR (Excluding Kathmandu Valley)
(Source: 26th Annual Report of Press Council Nepal FY 2000-2001)
• DR stands for Development Region
Out of 107 newspapers, about two dozen newspapers have wide circulation
and influence in the community. They include 5 in the Eastern DR,
6 in the Central Dr, 10 in the Western DR and two each in mid-Western
and Far-western DRs. The community press has not been able to play
an influential role in the political and socio-economic fields at
the national level. In the regions and the communities, however,
they enjoy both authority and respect.
STATUS OF COMMUNITY PRESS IN EACH DEVELOPMENT
Eastern Development Region:
A total of 248 newspapers of various categories are registered
in the Eastern DR. Of this. 77 papers are under publication and
only 35 papers are regular.
Bibechana Daily, Purbanchal Daily (Both from Jhapa district), Blast
Times Daily and Morning Post Daily (Both from Sunsari) are prominent
papers, with good influence and wide readership in many districts.
Regional edition of two Kathmandu- based broadsheet dailies are
printed and distributed in this region. This is the largest media
market outside Kathmandu Valley. All the national dailies and weeklies
are accessible by plane or bus within a few hours.
Nepal Press Institute's Regional Media Resource Center based in
Morang, Biratnagar has been working here to help the region's community
media. The Center has specific plans and programs to train journalists
and promote a free media environment in the region.
Publication Trend in Eastern Development Region:
(Source: 26th Annual Report of Press Council Nepal FY 2000-2001)
Central Development Region:
Katmandu Valley is situated in this development region. The capital
city is already media-saturated. A total of 1,120 newspapers of
different categories are registered in this region, including 273
papers under publication and 134 regular papers. But when Kathmandu
Valley is excluded, the number of regular papers goes down to 49
Pratik Daily (Birgunj), Prayas Weekly and Kurakani Weekly (Both
from Makwanpur), Kabhre Times Weekly (Kabhre) and Pardarshi Daily
and Chitwan Post Daily (Both from Chitwan) have wide readership
in their districts. Since Kathmandu is situated in this region,
all the Kathmandu-based newspapers are marketed here quite easily.
About half a dozen communities are operating Community Audio Towers
and numerous wall newspapers in this region.
Trend of publication in Center Development Region:
|Regular (Outside Kathmandu Valley)
(Source: 26th Annual Report of press Council Nepal FY 2000-2001)
Western Development Region:
A total of 145 newspapers of different categories are registered
in this region, including 36 papers under publication and only 6
Jana Sangharsha Daily, Lumbini Daily, Mechi Mahakali Daily (all
from Rupandehi/ Butwal), Gaunle Deurali (Palpa) Janamat Daily, Adarsha
Samaj Daily and Pokhara Hotline Daily (all from Kaski/Pokhara) are
influential and widely distributed papers. Gaunle Deurali Weekly
has readers in 35 districts. Almost all the district headquarters
and urban centers of this region have access to Kathmandu–based
A private news service has been registered in Butwal/Rupandehi,
but has not started operation.
About half a dozen communities are operating community newspapers,
and handwritten wall newspapers are published in various communities.
Trend of publication in Western Development Region:
(Source: 26th Annual Report of Press Council Nepal FY 2000-2001)
Mid-western Development Region:
A total of 70 newspapers of different categories are registered
in this region, including 24 papers under publication and only 6
Naya Yugbodh Daily, Gaunghar Weekly (both from Dang) and Nepalgunj
Express Daily (Banke) have wide readership outside their district.
Only a few district headquarters and urban centers have access to
In the rural areas, many communities produce hand-written wall
The Regional Media Resource Center of the Nepal Press Institute
based in Nepalgunj has been playing important role in modernizing
and promoting the community press in Mid-western and far-western
regions through training programs, production facilities, feature
Trend of publication Mid-western Development Region:
Dailies Bi-weeklies Weeklies Fortnightlies Total
Registered 7 4 58 1 70
In publication 2 2 20 0 24
Regular 0 0 6 0 6
(Source: 26th Annual Report of Press Council Nepal FY 2000-2001)
Far-western Development Region:
This is this most underdeveloped region of the country. A total
of 37 newspapers of different categories are registered in this
region, including 9 papers under publication and only 2 regular
Three dailies of Mahendra Nagar – Far West, Abhiyan and Nayamuluk
– have circulation of about 1,000 copies. Limited copies of
Kathmandu-based newspapers reach the district headquarters and urban
areas of Terai day after publication. This is Nepal's poorest region
in terms of access to media.
The Regional Media Resource Center of the Nepal Press institute
based in Nepalgunj conducts various programs for journalists of
Trend of publication in Far-western Development Region:
Dailies Bi-weeklies Weeklies Fortnightlies Total
Registered 7 3 27 0 37
In publication 4 2 3 0 9
Regular 1 0 1 0 2
(Source: 26th Annual Report of Press Council Nepal FY 2000-2001)
Compared with broadsheet national newspapers and the state- owned
and widely received electronic media, the community press has limited
influence. Very few community newspapers have generated special
readership. The number of the subscribers of national newspapers
in a particular community exceeds the total number of readers of
the community newspaper in the area. This is not a favorable situation
for any community paper. The lack of in–depth and analytical
reporting of local issues, covering official news of reports of
formal programs and sensationalized reporting also afflict a number
of community newspapers.
Jana Sangharsha Daily (Butwal) and Blast Times (Dharan) are the
only newspapers, which claim to have circulation of over 10,000
copies. About two dozen papers produce around 5,000 copies regularly.
The other papers run 1,500 to 2,500 copies. Indeed, the readership
and influence of the community press remain limited to the locality
where they are being produced. Almost all the papers are printed
in Nepali language, although some with limited circulation allot
separate pages for articles in the local language/ dialect.
In addition to these adverse situations, the community newspapers,
particularly weeklies and fortnightlies, always lag behind the broadsheet
dailies published from Katmandu which are glamorous, attractively
printed and offer variety quantity and quality in their content.
The sad, bitter realities of limited circulation, small geographical
areas covered, inadequate investment and market, poor content and
quality, unhealthy competition for advertisement, low-paid and untrained
staff members – all these have diminished the role the community
press plays in Nepal's decision-making circles. Instead of assuming
its honored place as watchdog and voice of the community, the community
press in Nepal is struggling for its own survival.
The Constitution of Nepal is considered one of the most liberal
anywhere in the world when it comes to upholding freedom of expression
and freedom of the press. Nepal's Constitution stipulates that no
newspapers or printing press can be closed down, and prohibits prior
censorship. Although the publication and press Laws and Regulations
clearly define what can and cannot be printed, many laws may have
to be passed to fully realize the intent of the Constitution to
promote the people's right to information and privacy. There are
libel laws that need updating, too.
Every year, newspapers are sued for libel not only by political
elders and government officials but also by common people. The Press
Council handles complaints as well. There are a few cases of journalists
cited for contempt of court and rare cases of journalists being
imprisoned for the same. The imprisonment does not last more than
a week and financial redress does not exceed Rs.500. Civil society
groups have proposed to draft strict and effective libel laws to
make the press more credible and responsible.
A remarkable shift of ownership of community newspapers is unfolding.
Business companies and cooperatives are replacing persons or families
as newspaper owners. Purbanchal Daily and Bibechana Daily in the
Eastern Development Region, Lumbini Daily, and Janasangharsha Daily
in the Western Development Region are examples of such initiatives.
Another noticeable trend regarding ownership is the establishment
of media cooperatives. In the Nepalese context, cooperatives are
neither totally motivated by profit nor solely by public service.
Cooperatives have been formed not only for FM radio stations but
also for publication of newspapers. Pokhara Hotline Daily, Mechi
Kali Daily, Radio Lumbini in the Western Development Region are
owned and run by cooperatives of journalists and businessmen.
Nonprofit, non-government organizations have also started to enter
the print and broadcast sectors. Gaunle Deurali Weekly and Gaunghar
Weekly are owned, published, and operated by NGOs and Radio Madanpokhara
is owned by elected local government (Village Development Committee).
Still, a considerable number of personally owned and managed community
newspapers exist in the country.
In some cases journalists working in a group have spilt and started
two or more papers but there are few examples of mergers of two
or more papers.
Some well-known editors and publishers like, Nakul Kaji (Jhapa),
Krishna Prasad Bastola (Pokhara), Bal Krishna Chapagain (Butwal),
Karna Bahadur Karki (Butwal), Vinaya Kasajoo (Palpa), Narayan Sharma
(Dang) and Jagadish Sharma (Birgunj), who have published their own
newspapers for more than a decade, have now formed business companies,
cooperatives and NGOs to facilitate the publication of community
Out of 419 newspapers under publication in the country, 314 papers
employ offset press facilities and only 105 papers are printed by
treadle or letterpress machine. All the community papers, which
use offset technology, are printed on sheet fed-offset press. No
community papers are printed on web offset press. Quite a few of
the community papers are using metal type, hand composing and treadle
press using electricity motor.
(For details, please see Table 6 in the Appendix)
The Nepal Press Institute (NPI), through the Regional Media Resource
Centers, conducts training on computer assisted journalism desktop
publishing, designing, and management of small newspapers regularly.
Media Development Fund (MDF) provides subsidies for loans to establish
offset printing press, desktop publishing unit and training on the
management of printing business. They are playing crucial role in
popularizing computer in editorial work and modernizing printing
technology of the community papers and improving their look.
Community newspapers, which are printed on letterpress, have their
own printing press while less than half have their own offset press.
Most community newspapers, which are printed on offset press, have
their won computer terminals. Fax and telephone are most used means
Very few community newspapers use email or Internet. The telecommunication
infrastructure in the regions outside Kathmandu Valley is quite
poor. Out of 15 Internet service providers based in Kathmandu, only
two ISPs are providing services in less than a dozen urban centers
of the country. The service is costly outside Kathmandu. Two of
the community newspapers had started online (Internet) publications
but could not sustain it.
There is no separate government policy, law or regulation for community
press. The government provides facilities to the regular papers
in the form of either social service advertisement or subsidy in
newsprint. The recipients of facility are categorized by Press Council
Nepal, which also functions as the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC).
But it has no separate system or criteria for categorizing the community
papers. Due to the absence of independent ABC and separate rules
and regulations, regular community newspapers are not identified
properly and their needs undermined. In the meantime, some papers,
which never reach any reader or newsstand, are enjoying the government
facilities as regular papers.
It seems that the government's only policy is to subdue the political
voice of the national papers based in Kathmandu. The government
does not seem to fully appreciate the role and importance of the
community press in disseminating relevant information of development
and public importance and provide a forum for the neglected, voiceless
majority of the Nepalese people.
It is estimated that about 2500 people are involved in the community
press but quite a few of them have acquired academic education in
journalism and mass communication. Very few too, have received short-term
training on basic journalism skills.
The Nepal Press Institute has two Regional Media Resource Center
in the Eastern and Mid-western Development Regions. These centers
conduct training for working and aspiring journalists in the local
areas. Very few journalists can afford the time and money needed
to get training or formal journalism education in colleges based
in Kathmandu. Some of them have to be satisfied with the 10-month
training provided by the Nepal Press Institute in Kathmandu. Due
to the increasing demand for journalism education programs in their
colleges some of the colleges outside Kathmandu have started journalism
classes. Rural Development Palpa, which publishes rural weekly newspaper
Gaunle Deurali, has been conduction Barefoot Journalism training
in villages for about 10 years now. Within this period it has delivered
basic writing and reporting skills to more than 700 people, mostly
student, housewives, farmers, school teachers elected representative
of local bodies and development workers based in the villages.
Journalism as a career was not as popular a few years back. The
young generation seems to be attracted to this profession because
of the glamour, fame, power and money associated with it. At the
community level, too, the number of young persons aspiring to work
as journalists is increasing. But they do not get opportunity to
develop this career outside Kathmandu. They learn journalism on
the job. Most of them work voluntarily, without any remuneration.
Some of them get part-time jobs and in the process get some kind
of short-term training, e.g. one-month basic journalism training
or one –week training in writing.
Bibechana Daily (Jhapa), Blast Times Daily (Dharan) and Jana Sangharsha
Daily (Butwal) are the only papers employing more then 20 editorial
staff members. Most of the papers have less then 10 full-time staff
members. The reporters and stringers outside the district work part
–time and are paid according to their output of stories.
The number of woman working as journalists is negligible. NPI/MDF
and RDP have set aside certain seats, about 25 percent, while conduction
training. But very few women continue to work as journalists. The
total number of women journalists working in community papers is
estimated to be less than 100. NPI, with the cooperation of various
INGO's has conducted training on gender-balanced reporting and mainstreaming
gender in media.
Since 1957, the Press Commission, Press Council, Nepal and Association
of Nepalese Journalists (now, Federation of Nepalese Journalists)
have formulated code of conducts for journalists. The latest code
was implemented in 1997. The press Council Nepal handles press complaints
but dose not have judicial power. Ethics issues and codes of conduct
for journalists are discussed frequently but not followed strictly.
Before the emergence of democracy, publishing newspapers was not
considered a profitable business. It was undertaken either as a
political venture or as a social service project dedicate to democracy
and uplift of the people. A considerable number of journalists,
mostly editors, went to prison during the Panchayat system. Serving
the country was their only motive. Making profit from journalism
was considered unethical. This "mission journalism" inspired
the conduct of most journalists 10 or 20 years ago. Papers were
known by the name of publishers and editors, who happened to be
a single person in most of the cases. It was just like a one-man
show. Most present-day community papers were born with this missionary
spirit, and many still live by it. The situation has not changed
much in the community papers. Still, no market plan or readership
survey informs most decisions to launch community newspapers.
During the autocratic Panchayat period, the average investment
in paper did not exceed Rs. one million. Ten-years back, a big publishing
company emerged in the capital city with a sizeable investment and
market plan. With the introduction of offset printing technology,
particularly after the emergence of private radio stations during
the last six years, investment in community media has increased
immensely. New media companies have started to come up with detailed
At present, less than dozen newspapers earn enough to support production
and editorial expenses through advertisement and sale. Most of the
newspapers that have their own printing facilities are sustaining
themselves using income generated from other printing jobs. Very
few staff members are fully paid. For many editors it is an honorary
work. They work full or part time with some other organization.
Poor circulation has directly affected advertising revenues. Big
business companies, products and industries depend either on national
papers or Kathmandu-based electronic media for advertisements. Community
papers get seasonal advertisements during national festivals, national
days, etc. The practice of seasonal advertisement has given birth
to several seasonal newspapers, creating unprofessional and unethical
competition. Because of government rules on the publication of government
notices, big tenders and quotations only in national newspapers,
the small newspapers are deprived of a good revenue source.
After the beginning of the regional publications of the two national
dailies from Eastern Development Region, local advertisers were
drawn towards those media, in the process creating unhealthy competition
There is tough and unhealthy, sometimes even unethical, competition
to snatch advertisement, which is so scarce for community papers.
There is no definite rate for advertisements. It depends on the
urgency and need of the advertisers and the paper.
At present, computer training institutes, educational institutions,
health clinics, radio repair centers, cold drinks produced by multinational
companies, motorcycles, real estate business, and restaurants, notices
of local governments are the most common and regular items of advertisement.
In addition to the regular advertisers, which are the biggest source
of revenues, annual subscription is reliable and regular source
of income. The rate of full-page advertisement ranges from Rs.5,000
to Rs.10,000 (about-70-130US dollars). All the papers are printed
in single color.
The average community newspaper costs Rs.2 (Rs.78=1$). But some
of the papers like Gaunle Deurali sells for Rs.5. They are marketed
through news stalls and hawkers. Postal service is the cheapest
mode of distributing the papers, particularly to the villages. Postal
charge for delivering within the country is Rs.0.10 per copy. This
rate has been constant for about ten years, but, unfortunately,
the postal charge for foreign countries, including India, is Rs10
per copy. Consequently, small newspapers like Gaunle Deurali, which
had a considerable number of regular Nepalese subscribers in India
and a few other countries, have to lose subscribers outside Nepal.
Printing is the biggest operational expense of community newspapers.
Staff salaries and newsprint constitute the biggest expenses for
papers with large circulation; otherwise expenses on rent and logistics
come before newsprint.
In comparison to the broadsheet national papers, space in the community
newspapers is quite limited. The size of the paper varies from 21cm
x 27cm to 32cm x 46cm. The size of most of the papers depends on
the availability of newsprint in the market. Daily papers have 4
pages while weeklies have 6 to 8 pages.
The community newspapers cover varieties of topics such as local
events, issues and problems, campus events, culture activates, sports,
local political and matters of local interest. They cover the national
news, too. But since readers get national news from other media
sooner then the local papers they do not give priority to them.
Some papers give much coverage on ethnic issues and news of insurgency.
Health, sanitation, nutrition, environment, human rights, child
and woman rights are usual topics. Some papers publish cartoon strips
and picture regularly. Tabloid papers sell more then sober papers.
About two dozen newspapers publish special reading materials, particularly
literary works, in the weekend. Some papers publish special pages
for children on Sundays or Fridays. Tabloids/sensational papers
publish entertainment material containing fashion, film/ cinema
and picture of a model woman on the back page regularly.
Conflicts and calamities in the neighboring countries get coverage,
but other foreign news does not get much importance. Readers prefer
light, entertaining and sensational news to serious and analytical
According to the Constitution, news and articles are not censored.
Print and publication Act (Section 14) mention that "acts causing
hatred or disrespect or ignominy or inciting malice against His
Majesty or Royal family or causing harm to the dignity of His Majesty;
acts impairing the integrity and sovereignty of the nation; acts
causing breach of security, peace and order of the Kingdom of Nepal;
acts causing enmity and communal hatred among persons belonging
to various races, ethnic group, religions, areas or communities
and acts adversely affecting the ethics, morals and social mores
of the public cannot be published in any newspapers or book .
During the emergency period the government suspended many fundamental
rights, including freedom of speech.
The number of newspapers using information and pictures from the
Internet is still quite small.
The Nepali press has not been able to reach the majority of people
due to low literacy rate, rampant poverty, difficult geographical
terrain and cultural and linguistic diversity. The elite and urban
people with political interests are the main target readers of the
press. Policy-makers and decision–makers, who live in the
capital city, hardly read any community newspaper. Students, schoolteachers,
government employees, businessmen and social workers who live in
the district headquarter, urban centers and the periphery are the
main consumers of community papers.
Community newspapers are hand delivered to local subscribers while
those living in the periphery and other districts receive them through
postal service. Some newspapers use hawkers while very few appear
on the newsstands.
Despite its important role in the community the community press
has not received due recognition and support from the government.
The process and criteria used for the classification of newspapers
are not favorable to the community press. There is on separate policy
or rule to support community newspapers. The advertisement policy
and prevailing rules put the community press at a disadvantage.
Prominent journalists working in the regional and small–scale
newspapers prefer their paper to be called national paper of regional
paper rather than community paper. They try to copy the Kathmandu–based
broadsheets and forget their particular role and target readers.
Due to the excessive centralization of media opportunities in the
capital city the growth of community newspapers has been problematic
from the beginning. Over the last six years, big media houses have
emerged with large investments and aggressive business policies.
They sell 16-page broadsheet paper for just Rs. 4. Two of them have
reduced their price to Rs. 2. Community newspapers cannot compete
with them not only in the market but also in getting advertisements,
as well as in offering quality and variety of content.
There is no opportunity to develop a career or academic education
in journalism outside Kathmandu Valley. Movement of skilled human
resources from urban centers to the capital city for better opportunity
is also one of the hindrances in the development of community press.
Due to inadequate and inappropriate telecommunication infrastructure
and other technical facilities, modern communication and technology
cannot be fully utilized in urban centers outside Kathmandu.
Recently the government granted permission to operate a private
TV broadcasting station to a publishing house which is already operating
two FM stations and publishing a number of newspapers and magazines,
including two broadsheet dailies. In the absence of law limiting
monopoly of media ownership, smaller media businesses will continue
to face unfavorable conditions and a crisis of survival in future
Although policymakers have realized the role and importance of
the community press in strengthening democracy and promoting economic
and social development, it is not getting adequate support and recognition
from the government.
Because of expensive modern technology, tough competition for advertisement
and market, inadequate opportunities and facilities for skill and
professional development outside Kathmandu, lack of business plan
and adequate investment, and inadequate infrastructure, the sustainability
of the community press is in question. It has not been able to play
its specific role in reducing the quantitative imbalance of information
in rural and urban area, increasing the exchange of community news
and articles, focusing the rural area and raising the voice of the
To enable the community press to fulfill the needs of the majority
of the information-starved people living in the rural areas (more
than 85 percent) and become an effective tool of development, the
government should come forward with well-defined policies, rules
and regulations. Proper environment for attracting large-scale investment,
opportunities for suitable market and skill development, better
communication and printing technology, are important components
for the promotion and development of community press in the country.
The community press has a crucial role in strengthening democracy
and enhancing development in Nepal, but this role has not yet been
recognized and utilized. Not only policymakers but also journalists
should realize the importance of the community press. Instead of
trying to be so-called national papers or copying Kathmandu-based
press the journalists working in small press outside the Kathmandu
Valley should be ready to play the role of a community press. This
may be the only way to justify their existence and ensure their
sustainability. Once this role is internalized other things like
appropriate government policies, laws and regulations, investment,
human resource development, market etc. will follow. Consequently,
the new era of community press will be accelerated.
Aamsanchar ra Kanun (Mass Media and Law), Kashi Raj Dahal, Nepal
Press Institute, 2002
Chhetriya Media: Bigat ra Bartaman (Regional Media: Past and Present),
Pratyush Onta, Martin Chautari, 2002
Mass Media Laws and Regulation in Nepal, Gokul Pokhrel and Bharat
Dutta Koirala, Nepal Press Institute, Kathmandu and Asian Mass Communication
Research and Information Center, Singapore, 1995
Media Nepal 2000, P. Kharel, Nepal Press Institute, January 2000
Nepali Patrakarita ko Bikaskram, (Development of Nepalese Press),
Kishor Nepal, Press Council Nepal, 1998
Nepal ko Chhapakhana ra Patrapatrika ko Itihas (History of Nepalese
Printing and the Press), (Part I and II), Grishma Bahadur Devkota,
Press Jagat (Press World), Harihar Birahi and Bishnu Sharma, Press
Council Nepal, 2002
Sight, Sound and Pulse, P. Kharel, Nepal Press Institute, 2002
Press Council Nepal, 26th Annual Report FY 2000-2001, Press Council
Acknowledgement: Article is published in the book "In Asia
and the Pacific The Community Press is Alive" by Council of
Asia Pacific Press Institutes (CAPPI), 2002)