Sunday, December 30, 2007

Blogging in Nepal: Setting New Standards in Freedom of Speech and Expression

Blogging roots its origin to weblog. With the rapid advancement in information and Communication Technology (ICT), every individual felt like Communicating through it. To meet those demands, some companies began providing mailboxes to individuals, in most cases, free of cost. Earlier, this phenomenon was used for exchanging mails, which came to be known as e-mail, i.e. electronic mail. However, this couldn't quench people's thirst for more effective and faster communication with large number of people at once, not only with those in the mailing list. As the old saying lays- necessity gives birth to invention, a phenomenon was born i.e. weblog. It is purely a 21st century phenomenon of journalism.

Initially, weblogs were used as personal web diary and designed for the same: to permit a user to upload and save his documents and information into the web. Some companies e.g. blogsome, blogspot etc. provided separate weblogs to the individuals. It was simply like writing in the web, instead of copy. When individuals began sharing their weblog addresses and exchanged information as comments, the potential of weblogs was felt as a vibrant means of sharing information. The shorter form of weblog became blogs. Later, those blogs were used by amateur writers/journalists to express their views, some news around them and opinions. Eventually, lacking government control, legal censorship and regulation, the blogs set new standards in freedom of speech and expression. They opened new avenues for every individual to express freely on any subject. They stood as an alternative means of expression against the mainstream media that has been generally guided by market economy and political influence in recent decades.

Is blogging a form of Journalism?
As blogging continues to be one of the medium of communication, great debate has been ensued on whether blogging is a form of journalism. Mainstream media, realizing the threat from it, has denied recognizing it as the form of journalism. Some have also underlined the need for regulating blogs. They opine that as amateurs are engaged in blogging, the information shared via blogs lack authenticity and may sometimes create confusion and provoke social disorder. They stress that blogs should remain as weblogs i.e. personal web diary.

However, the other side of the coin is equally important. They are providing better and easier platform for the expression of opinions. Large number of individuals, though amateurs, have engaged themselves in collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating various types of news and views. Kshetri (2006) observes 'people have widely been using those blogs to exchange information. Subsequently they have challenged mainstream media on which a limited number of professional journalists tries to cover variety of news and opinions.' Bloggers are performing the task much alike of mainstream journalists- collecting and disseminating information. We can conclude that when blogs also perform the similar job like that of a mainstream journalism, there is no point on excepting it from journalism.

Blogging in Nepal
As blogging emerged as a personal web diary, it is very difficult to trace the first blogger or blog of Nepal. However, the birth of blogs for aforesaid purpose i.e. collecting and disseminating information emerged after the February first Royal move in 2005. Kshetri (2006)observes the birth and rise of blogs as medium of information 'after the government imposed censorship in mainstream media refraining them from flowing true and factual information.' In the given scenario, even some professional journalists covertly opted for blogging to express freely which they could not express through the media they worked for. Aryal (2005) observes 'blogging in Nepal began as a means of both bypass official censorship and to protest against it. United We Blog (UWB) and Mysansar run by professional journalists marked the mega success that encouraged other amateurs to appear in the arena. Those amateurs had little knowledge on IT and hobby in journalism. The number of blogs reached nearly two dozen during the last six months of Royal regime.

Those blogs, particularly, reached extreme popularity during the nineteen days of Jana Aandolan II (April 6 to 24, 2006). Even some of those blogs disseminated more factual and prompter information than the mainstream media. The first person approach, particularly of Umesh Shrestha at Mysansar, on writing made people feel the events of suppressing popular movement in reality. It further furied people against Royal regime. They also created extensive discourse among the visitors of those blogs. This provided forum for democratic discourse, where the forces in for and against the Royal Regime could put forward their views. So why, we can't ignore the contribution of blogs on restoring democracy in Nepal.

Means of expression towards Homeland
Blogging became quite popular among the Nepalese living abroad in various parts of the world. Blogs became the most effective means to express opinions about homeland. After the advent of Royal regime, the whole world was keenly observing the political developments in Nepal. It was obviously a matter of great interest to the Nepalese residing across the globes be it for any purpose i.e. study or profession or Non Resident Nepalese. Hence, Nepalese living in USA, UK, France, Germany, Belgium and Gulf countries launched their mission for democracy in their homeland. Those blogs became equally popular among the Nepalese living home and abroad. Feared and furied with the effect and the mission of those globes, the then Royal regime even blocked the US based blog in Nepal. The treatment to the blog was similar to the Maoists' websites then. However, those blogs not only expressed solidarity for Nepal's democratic movement but also emotionally united Nepalese living across the globe. Blogs like,, etc. have still playing effective role on garnering solidarity for Nepal's democratic change and political stability.

A tool for Democratization
The birth of blogs itself was for democratic cause: for the freedom of speech and expression. This freedom is taken as above all freedoms as John Milton said, "Give me the liberty to know, to utter freely and to express according to the conscience; above all liberties." Blogs have played significant role around the world towards democratization. Ohmynews in South Korea is accredited with transferring South Korea's traditional political environment (Wikipedia, 2007). They are equally credited with Nepal's political change in April 2006. They are still acting as a watchdog against any inclination against popular will through debates. Free from market economy drive, legal censorship and government control, the blogs have proved themselves as tools of democratization. A blogger is ever aware that his personal initiation in personal expenses is never misused for mere political cause; to support undemocratic forces and activities. Still blogs like and are playing active role as a watchdog against any malpractices and political development unfavorable to the people. Hence, blogs have set new standards in freedom of speech and expression. Giving everyone a forum to express and discourse, they are upholding the democratic changes in the country. They have proved powerful tools for democratization. With the prompt and even sometimes more factual information, they have, at some degree, posed threat to mainstream media on collection of dissemination of news. In true sense, blogging is 21st century phenomenon of journalism.

Aryal, M. Citizen Scribes,
Kshetri, I. Challenging Mainstream: Citizen Journalism ahead, Wikipedia, Citizen Journalism,

Published in Shweta Shardul, Volume IV, 2064,Madan Bhandari Memorial College,
Ratopul, Kathmandu,

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