Blogging for democracy in Nepal
Nepalese journalist Dinesh Wagle speaks about how his blog defied government regulations and spread news about Nepal around the world
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Los Angeles --- Dinesh Wagle refuses to live his life in fear.
He will talk about the dangers and difficulties of working as reporter in his Himalayan homeland, where journalists continue to face threats from Maoist rebels as well as their own government, but he will never talk about quitting his job.
He didn't think about quitting when Nepalese ruler King Gyanendra issued a Royal Proclamation that placed restrictions on the media and warned journalists about challenging the government. He didn't think about quitting when authorities summoned his editor at Kantipur Daily, Nepal's largest daily newspaper, for questioning. He didn't even think about quitting when military personnel summoned him for questioning about his blog, United We Blog!, which was one of the few Nepalese news sources that was defying the proclamation.
Wearing a t-shirt that said "United We Blog! for a democratic Nepal," Wagle spoke about how his blog provided him with a new medium in which to tell Nepal's stories to the world at an event called "Blogging from Nepal" held at UCLA on Wednesday.
"Blogging was a medium of expression that I could use to express myself [in a way] that I couldn't in my job," Wagle said.
Read more about Dinesh Wagle in an AsiaMedia profile.
On Feb. 1, 2005, Nepal's ruler dismissed the country's standing government, assumed absolute power over the country and declared a state of emergency. The government eventually lifted the state of emergency on Apr. 30, 2005, but the independent media in Nepal continues to live in fear of government action against press organizations that challenge the monarch. Kantipur Daily, the newspaper that Wagle works for, had to be careful not to publish reports or editorials that directly questioned the legitimacy of the King's government.
Wagle saw his blog as a way to avoid censorship because the government could not determine whether United We Blog! was an actual media publication. He said he told government officials that United We Blog! was simply another form of web publishing and told them that it did not need to be registered as an official media publication. Registered media publications and organizations are subject to government restrictions in Nepal.
He nevertheless sees the importance of maintaining the same professional standards in his blog as he does when writes articles for Kantipur Daily. He believes that alternative forms of media must gain people's trust and noted that very few people in Nepal use the Internet to read news stories.
"The mainstream media thinks the alternative media is insignificant and without influence," Wagle said.
Wagle and contributors to his blog have tried to expand their readership and gain credibility by featuring reports from the field and offering breaking news. They report from where the stories about protests and brutality take place, often putting themselves in danger to do so.
But Wagle said that they are not worried about government authorities assaulting or arresting them. He downplayed violence against journalists in Nepal and added that threats from authorities only encouraged him and his colleagues to write more often; they felt it was important to get the stories about protests and the press in Nepal out to the public and to the world.
Threats from Maoist insurgents, who are in a battle with the government to gain control of the country, do not worry Nepalese journalists either: "We're not facing the kind of danger that journalists in Iraq are facing," he said.
Wagle first learned about blogs while working as a technology reporter and started posting entries in a blog about his personal life in 2003, two years before the coup. He now blogs about political developments in the country and gives depth to the harrowing stories that characterize news about Nepal in the Western press.
Wagle fielded several questions from the audience during the event, including one about his own fears of being confronted by government authorities. His response to the question testified to his unwillingness to back down from anyone who wants to stop him from practicing journalism.
"I don't feel like I'm being harassed, and I don't think they ever will [harass me]," Wagle said. "And if they do, it won't be anything new."
Date Posted: 4/13/2006