September 16, 2009-Two journalists from Nepal are visiting the University of Montana this week to explore a possible exchange agreement and to share ideas.
The journalists, Rajendra Dev Acharya, news director of Nepal Television, and Prabal Raj Pokhrel, head of the Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, are visiting classes, meeting with faculty members and touring the campus community and Don Anderson Hall this week. They will talk in two open panels on Wednesday and Thursday.
“It’s easy to do journalism in democracy, but it is very difficult to democratize the journalism,” Acharya said about the challenge of trying to transform Nepal’s media, which operated under a monarchy until last year when the country became a republic. Insurrection and civil strife dominated the past decade in Nepal, with the Maoist party finally toppling the monarchy there.
“People [in Nepal] have been starving for democracy,” said Pokhrel, adding that most of his country lives in extreme poverty and their voices have been suppressed.
The new democracy, and with it a new wave of journalism, is finally giving those voices a chance to be heard, said Pokhrel and Acharya.
A transformation is needed in Nepal to turn partisan journalism into objective, unbiased reporting, Pokhrel said. Nepal’s Tribhuvan University is teaching this kind of objective reporting to its students, he added. The journalism and mass communications school, located in Nepal’s capital city, has about 500 students and was founded 50 years ago.
Four UM photojournalism students have done internships in Nepal over the past five years, documenting serious social issues like impoverished Nepalese girls being sold into prostitution, said Clem Work, the UM journalism professor who has acted as the host for the journalists.
UM journalism student Ivy Garlow did an internship and freelance work in Nepal this summer and said it was something she will remember forever.
Garlow’s work in Nepal included photographing a new road that is being built by hand to aid travel into a remote Nepalese village.
Besides all of the new knowledge she gained about Nepalese cultural, economic, environmental and social issues, she also enjoyed just getting to know the people, Garlow said. Everyone was really friendly and helpful, she said.
Work said he hopes that a permanent exchange agreement will come out of the Nepalese journalists’ visit.
“My sale pitch basically was: ‘Here is an emerging democracy with a vibrant press but one that is in need of strengthening,'” Work said. “It’s an exciting time in a country that is already pretty darn interesting in terms of culture and history.”
Acharya, who graduated from UM in 2005 with a journalism master’s degree, started talking about a potential exchange program between Tribhuvan University and UM when Work was in Nepal last year visiting his son who was interning there.
“Since I was a student here I like the journalism school very much and there is a mountain culture [like in Nepal],” Acharya said.
The journalists will be talking at an open forum titled “Nepal: Politics, Culture and Media in the World’s Youngest Republic” at noon Wednesday in the Old Journalism building room 303. A second forum titled “Journalism and Human Rights in South Asia and China” will also be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in Don Anderson Hall room 210. That forum will also include panelists Mansfield Professor of Modern Asian Affairs Phil West and associate provost for International Programs Mehrdad Kia.
Journalism is often classified by geographic location instead of people trying to see universal connections across the globe, Acharya said.
“They hardly ever have a sense of brotherhood,” he said. “These two globes can be together through the academic experience.”
by Carmen George Montana Kaimin