Mr. Mohan Mainali is a veteran journalist, a media trainer and a renowned documentary maker of Nepal. He is famous for his extensive visits to Nepal's rural areas for bringing people's story to the forefront. Mainali has completed Masters Degree in Sociology from Tribhuwan University and has edited a book named "Samabeshi Loktantraka Adharharu" (Bases of Inclusive Republic) and has co-edited "Madhesh: Samasya ra Samadhan" (Madesh: Problem and Solutions). His recent book 'Upallo Thalo' in Nepali language has very recently hit the kiosks of Nepal's major cities. His acclaimed documentaries including "The Living of Jogimara"," Timber to Tibet" and "Puneko Pant" has been screened in many film festivals around the world.
Columnist and correspondent of the Telegraph Weekly and its online edition telegraphnepal.com Sujit Mainali interviewed this media-person on several facets of Nepal's society and the current trend of Nepali journalism. Below the excerpt of this exclusive Interview: Chief Editor.
TGQ1: You have made an extensive visit across the entire country. Based on your visit and interaction with the people from different sections of the society, do you believe the ongoing debate on the socio-political transformation of the nation has in any manner reflected the concerns of Nepali population?
Mainali: When we met Ganga Bahadur Gurung of Pangsing, a small village in northern Gorkha, he forced us to listen to his concerns. His concerns were high school education, trail that is safe enough for men and women to carry loads on their back and basic health services. Ganga Bahadur's concerns represent common concerns of majority of the Nepali population. Beside these, bridges to cross rivers and streams, animal health services and supply of drinking water, etc are other concerns of people. Depending upon where you live, you may add some more points like supply of fertilizer and fuel and so on. These concerns are related to the basic needs of the people.
There are specific concerns of the people of some sections of our society. Elimination of caste based discrimination which has its deep roots in our society is one of the major concerns of the Dalits who comprise of more than 13 per cent of total Nepali population. Women, no matter where they live, which caste/ethnicity they belong to and how wealthy they are, they are also being victimized by several forms of discrimination.
"Afno bhasha afno bhesh pran bhanda pyaro chha." The slogan that we heard during the Panchayat era has became true forever. You may not hear concerns about it so often, but it's deeply rooted in the heart of majority of the people, especially when they feel they are in danger.
I have found that some of the concerns have been well reflected in the national debate except concerns about people's basic needs. However, the solutions which have been proposed and stressed might not be the right solutions. I am skeptical about its results. Nepali history has shown that legitimate concerns of the people have been used by politician to gain power. Once you gain power, you ignore the people paving the way for others to pick them up and use them as a tool to gain power by overthrowing the one that is in power.
If we go through the demands submitted by Nepali people to the members of the CA, we find that the common people are not that much concerned about the means, but about the end. It is the elite political/social group that is more concerned towards the means of governance and way to deliver these services to the people. And this emphasis on the means rather than the ends largely benefits the elite group only.
TGQ2: Nepal used to be known as an accommodative and highly tolerant society. But of late, it seems as if acrimony among the communities is gradually increasing. Do you foresee any possibility of ethnic confrontation in this Himalayan nation in the near future? And kindly let us know whether the long prevailing social adhesive which has been keeping the whole Nepali population intact is gradually fading away or it is just the otherwise?
Mainali: First of all, I disagree with your view that our society was accommodative and highly tolerant. As someone who comes from remote corner of eastern hills, I have experienced ugly faces of Nepali society so often. It has created boundaries of caste, class, color, occupation, geographical location, sex and so on. When you try to enter others' traditional boundary, you are treated as an intruder. This applies not only to the dominant group, but also to other groups. Every group, every language and every society has developed many words/sayings to insult others. This means that we treat each other very badly.
The fragmentation which exists in our society has come to the fore now. This situation might lead us to ethnic confrontation, as you have feared, if we fail to resolve it in a proper manner. You are right in that the factors that kept us together since long is becoming weaker. Those relations have been proved to be unequal and we have not defined new relations that would unite us. We are not making serious efforts to define them either. This is the most serious problem Nepal is facing today.
TGQ3: Nepali journalism is often accused for not being serious towards the larger interests of the country and its population, moreover, some even accuse that Nepali media is serving more the aliens than their own country. Do you think Nepali journalism has succeeded in fulfilling the need(s) of people and country’s genuine interests at large? And what kind of role Nepali journalism is playing now when our country is experiencing the most troubled period in its modern history-so called the period of building a new Nepal?
Mainali: Some of the duties of mass communicators as defined in 'An Introduction to Mass communication' are: "Report the achievements, and the transgressions, of men and women in public office. Interpret the aspirations of all peoples, including minorities, for a better way of life... Persuade a community, state, or the nation to improve its educational programs, control air and water pollution, and builds more efficient and safe transportation systems."
If we judge Nepali media based on the above guidelines from the book written more than three decades ago, we will find mixed judgment. In some areas, Nepali media have done well and in some areas they have miserably failed. Nepali media has yet not developed itself to fulfill those duties effectively. We have not been able to give due attention to voiceless people. Our tendency is to give much attention to the politics at the cost of other essential components of our society.
Nepali media has done remarkable job in informing people. For example, more than two decades ago, the dam of a glacier lake in the high mountain of Taplejung district collapsed. It caused death of many people living downstream. It took more than a week for Nepali media to publish news of that tragic event. This year, we saw similar type of disaster in Seti River in western Nepal. But our media, especially electronic media, were quick enough to alert people living downstream which saved lives of many people.
Media sector has not been as bad as the other sectors of the society. Various opinion polls carried out in past suggest that media is the most trusted institution in Nepal. However, we have to behave as the most educated and responsible citizens (as demanded by the profession) to motivate people to lead the country out of the problem.
TDQ4: The media industry of Nepal is said to be on the verge of collapse (?) We are informed that the journalists working in even the big media houses have not been receiving regular salary since several months (we have authentic information that journalists and other workers of some reputed national dailies have not received monthly salary since six months). Mr. Mainali, how and why this unfortunate situation arises? Do you foresee any solution to solve the severe financial crisis that Nepali media sector is facing these days? This comes at a time when it is widely rumored that foreign funding pours in like anything in Nepali media especially big media houses? Is it a bogus claim or very close to the truth?
Mainali: Some media houses might be suffering from financial crisis, but I don't think entire media industry is on the verge of collapse. Even if some media houses shut down, Nepali media industry is not going to collapse. We have seen collapse of many newspapers in the past, but the industry survived.
How and why this situation arises? I am not a competent authority to search for the answer of this question. Economists and media managers might be able to answer this question. My estimate is that this is happening because our economy is shrinking and most of the media houses lack management skills. Why should we have so many newspapers, television, radio stations? If we don't need so many newspapers, TV, radio stations, why should we worry when some of them are on the verge of collapsing?
Foreign funding might have been pouring in Nepali media as in other sector. Foreign influence comes easily in a fragile society like ours. But first part of your question suggests that it is not true. If foreign money is flooding in big media houses, they simply won't have faced the problem of feeding their reporters and support staff.
TGQ5: After the ouster of monarchy, the old structure and symbol of nationalism and national unity has been demolished and the talked new structure is yet to take a formal shape. Several communities are forwarding variety of demands and some of those demands have brought ethnic communities in a situation of direct confrontation. Amidst this state of affairs, what could be the new base of Nepali nationalism and new symbol of national unity, Mr. Mainali?
Mainali: Toady's Nepal is flooded with "claims and counter claims." We have to accept legitimate claims and legitimate counter claims. Claims and counter claims that are based on equality/equity, norms and values that human civilization has developed should be accepted. Here, we have to remember that formal structure such as policy and law may treat us equally. But that's not enough. Ultimately, it's our daily behavior that creates unequal society. Caste-based decimation has been abolished long ago by law but it's still widely practiced. I believe that we should build the society that doesn't discriminate people and share resources and opportunities in an equal and equitable manner. That will be the symbol of nationalism and national unity. But the unfortunate thing is that we are not heading towards this direction.
Exclusive for telegraphnepal.com/Telegraph Weekly