Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Refugee media hit by cash crisis

News and features - South Asia
By TP Mishra
Source: http://www.mediahelpingmedia.org/
Monday, 21 April 2008

Nepali Sahitya Parisad- Bhutan, the publication house for The Bhutan Jagaran Fortnightly, a Nepali-Language newspaper written by and for Bhutanese refugees languishing in Nepal, stated the paper can no longer be printed due to lack of adequate funds.

The newspaper was continuously getting published since the mid of November 2001 with financial support from AUSTCARE, an Australian organization, through Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

General Secretary of Sahitya Parisad and Chief Editor for Jagaran Khem Shandilya informed that the possibility of paper’s closure has increased following the donor’s denial to grand further financial support.

The four-page black-and-white Bhutan Jagaran contains issues related to Bhutanese refugees. Closure of this bulletin’s hardcopy print would indirectly bar Bhutanese refugees from their right to information as it is the only Nepali bulletin meant for private circulation and widely read newspaper within this small community in eastern districts of Nepal. The support received from the AUSTCARE used to meet the basic expenses for the printing of the bulletin.

“I worry that the closure of this bulletin would create troublesome particularly to minors inside refugee camps who do not have access to internet and other national dailies of the host country”, says Shandilya.

According to Shandilya, the cost for the publication of the bulletin comes as just 3,000 Nepalese rupees per issue which is equivalent to 48 US dollar.

Editor Shandilya further said that he even wishes to publish Jagaran on a monthly-basis if any individuals, wel-wishers or media organizations extend financial support. Shandilya strongly urges donors to extend financial support to give continuity to Jagaran’s hardcopy print.

The possibility of the Jagaran’s closure comes at a time when The Bhutan Reporter (TBR) monthly, an English-language bulletin which started its publication from October 2004, has already shut down its hardcopy publication since February in lack of funding. TBR, which was even funded for three months by World Association of Newspaper and later for a year by Rajen Giri, a US-based Bhutanese refugee, is now no more seen getting printed following the completion of the contract period with the sponsors.

The publisher of TBR IP Adhikari says attempts were underway to find sponsors so that they can give continuity to the hardcopy publication of this only-English bulletin in the Bhutanese refugee community. “We are committed towards its hardcopy print should it become possible to find a long-term sponsor”, says Adhikari.

All of the staffs including editorial team members associated with the Bhutan Jagaran and TBR are working on volunteer basis. These bulletins lack advertising and other means of income generation in accordance with the legal laws of the host country.

Meanwhile, the Bhutan Chapter of Third World Media Network (TWMN) has appealed the international organizations working for the promotion of media sector to extend possible financial support to make the existence of the bulletin alive.

“It would be one of the saddest parts if the bulletin such as the Jagaran and TBR get shut down as these are the only existed newspaper in the Bhutanese refugee community having good circulations”, reads a statement issued by the TWMN, adding there is urgent need to make the printing of the papers alive so as to continue disseminating information to Bhutanese refugee community in Nepal. TWMN also expressed gratitude to the donors that extended support in the earlier days.

Currently, there are only three newspapers including Nawlo Awaj, a Nepali-language bulletin that caries activities of Birat-led Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxists-Leninists-Maoists) running for and by Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. Jagaran Fortnightly and TBR are only newspaper carrying impartial and balanced news stories.

Besides running a news portal http://www.bhutannewsservice.com/, Bhutanese journalists in exile also produce and broadcast Saranarthi Sarokar, a 30-minute long weekly radio program from two of the FM stations in Nepal.

Editor's Note:
The circulation of both newspapers
Bhutan Jagaran: Within camps (schools, camp committee members, health staffs, offices of donor agencies), some parts of India such as Siliguri.
The Bhutan Reporter: Within the refugee camps, (Biratnaga, Dharan, Birthamod) and the cities of Nepal where refugee students study, diplomatic missions and refugee aid agencies in Kathmandu, aid-agencies at Damak and Birtamod, towns near the camps.
Estimated readership of each copy
Bhutan Jagaran: 30,000 (this doesn't corresponds to no of copies. A copy is circulated among many, a number of times for example, if a copy is dropped in teachers' room in a school, 80 percent of teachers read that copy). The number is high for this as it is in Nepali vernacular Language.
The Bhutan Reporter: 15,000
Number of refugees
There are seven camps (one in Morang District and six in Jhapa District of eastern Nepal), There are 107,000 registered Bhutanese refugees in UNHCR camps and 30,000 in various states of India and cities in Nepal.
Democraphic of the refugees
Students upto grade 12: Around 35,000 (where around 33,000 study within camp schools Managed by Caritas Nepal an NGO, sponsored by UNHCR.
0- 5 yrs - 7,8565-17 yrs - 29,97518-59 yrs - 62,973Elderly - 6,999
Alternative news sources for refugees
A few read Nepali dailies such as The Kathmandu Post and local Nepali dailes such as Purbanchan DainikPrivate FM radios Kantipur FM, Pathibhara FM, Saptarangi FMOccassional information leaflets published by UNHCR/IOM/LWFTV, but extremely rarely

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