Improved journalism education to meet demand from Nepali youth
The adaptation of UNESCO’s Model Curricula for Journalism Education to Nepal is a new project that will be implemented in Kathmandu later this year. By helping to increase the capacity of journalism education, the initiative aims to strengthen the role of the media in Nepal’s democratic transformation.
The project will operate under the framework of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). It will be administered through the Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Tribhuvan University, one of the largest public universities in Kathmandu.
Terhi Ylikoski, UNESCO’s Associate Expert, whose post in the Kathmandu Office is funded by the Finnish government, is overseeing the project. “This pilot project has real potential to make a huge impact on local journalism education,” says Ylikoski. “If the experience goes well, we will subsequently introduce the curriculum outside Kathmandu Valley, where journalism standards and practices remain low.”
She notes: “In the two weeks run-up period before the deadline of the new constitution in May, 80 press freedom violations were observed throughout the country.” Despite this, the number of Nepali youth drawn to pursue journalism is on the rise, she adds. “It’s surprising, but more and more young people want to work in media these days. For this reason, journalism educators are eager to start improving the curriculum and building the capacity of teachers.”
Nepal will also benefit from another IPDC project to establish a monitoring mechanism to oversee the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Nepali community radios. Given the low rate of literacy in the country, estimated at only 56.6 per cent in 2011 according to the Nepal Living Standards Survey, radio is the No. 1 source of information for Nepalese. Additionally, due to Nepal’s mountainous terrain and lack of infrastructure, radio is the medium, which is able to reach the most people: 86 per cent of the population compared to just seven per cent who are able to connect to the Internet.
“Community radios are thriving in Nepal,” says Ylikoski. “The first one in the country, Radio Sagarmatha, was established with the help of UNESCO in 1997. Today there are some 200 community radio stations operating in Nepal, with five of them being managed entirely by women. Nepal boasts one of the most vibrant community radio fields in Asia, if not globally.”
The Code of Conduct for radio broadcasters covers a wide range of issues from how to engage listeners to how to promote social harmony and foster community empowerment. Members affiliated with the national association called ACORAB are expected to abide by this code in order to ensure the application of international best practices and standards. “Community radio stations have cropped up exponentially over the past 15 years, so it is important for UNESCO to guarantee that there is a common standard of professionalism and ethics across the board,” says Ylikoski.
IPDC is the only multilateral forum in the UN system designed to mobilize the international community to discuss and promote media development in developing countries. The Programme not only provides support for media projects, but also seeks an accord to secure a healthy environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media.