21.03.2012 - UNESCO Office in Kathmandu

UNESCO-IPDC Prize for Rural Communication to Nepal

The Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists and the Kenyan Arid Lands Information Network are the co-winners of the 2012 edition of the UNESCO-IPDC Prize for Rural Communication, which recognizes meritorious and innovative efforts to improve communication for rural communities in developing countries. The award ceremony is taking place on 22 March at 5 p.m at UNESCO Headquarters during the 28th session of the IPDC Council.

The two laureates will share the US$ 20,000 Prize, which recognizes meritorious and innovative effort to improve communication for rural communities in developing countries. It is awarded every two years following a recommendation to the UNESCO Director-General by the IPDC Bureau, which acts as jury for the Prize.


Raghu Mainali, the coordinator of Community Radio Support Centre of Nepal’s Forum of Environmental Journalist, who has left for Paris to receive the award on Tuesday, in an interview, tells about their work and the impact of Nepal’s community radios.


Can you resume in one sentence the aim of the organization?

To create a vibrant and sustainable community media sector in Nepal."


Can you give me a concrete example?

Community radios have played a significant role in promoting civil rights and human rights in Nepal. The community radios have played role in making the backward and marginalized people informed. Informed citizen can take informed decisions, which helps democracy.


Free education for the disabled can be taken as an example here. The Supreme Court of Nepal ruled four years ago that state should provide free education to the disabled. The ruling was not abided by in different parts of the country. And even some disabled people did not know about free education. Dang in the mid-western region of Nepal was one of the districts in which the disabled were deprived of free education despite of the court ruling. Radio Swargadwari raised this issue frequently. Consequently, free education was managed to the disabled in the district.


Besides, they have raised voices against the structural and cultural violence meted out to women. Radio Palung gave its whole 12-hour broadcast time to advocate for women rights from March 8-15, 2007. Kathmandu-based Radio Sagarmatha launched clean air campaign round the year in 1999. Consequently, the government was compelled to take a decision of phasing out polluting vehicles and three-wheeler diesel-run Bikram Tempos out of the capital.  


How the organization work has contributed to the improvement of rural communities?

NEFEJ has nurtured and has been campaigning for effective rural communications since its inception in 1986. Its early work included publishing rural wall-newspapers on the environment, and producing programs on state run radio for effective environmental communication.


These activities culminated in lobbying for including privatization of radio in the government’s communication policy and for legislation in the early 1990s. Following legislation NEFEJ applied for and lobbied for a license and was eventually licensed as the first community radio in all of South Asia. Radio Sagarmatha was established with the support of UNESCO/IPDC and as the first community radio in Nepal.


After the successful establishment of Radio Sagarmatha NEFEJ established the Community Radio Support Centre (CRSC) which has been actively involved in enabling, promoting and assisting about 125 of these community radios to conceptualize the idea, to obtain licenses and set up their stations. It has also been supporting them in programming and institutional development ever since.


Today community radio broadcasts reach about 85 percent of Nepal’s 27 million people. The community radio movement has now reached 74 of Nepal’s 75 districts and these stations have therefore improved the people’s access to information, and provided them a platform to voice their concerns.


What is the organization´s more relevant contribution to the field of media development?

The organization was instrumental in building up the legal and policy environment for Community and independent broadcasting in Nepal. It has trained over 125 radio stations' journalists, technicians and program producers and managers.


In order to facilitate the community radio movement in Nepal it has also developed a number of reference materials such as community radio performance assessment system, community radio organization development guidebook, community radio strategic planning manual, community radio collective marketing strategy, radio pledge, and community radio principles and prospects targeting the community radio practitioners, promoters and policy makers.


In 2001 the organization served as the founding president of the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters and later in 2005 it led the Save Independent Radio Movement when radios were attacked by the regime that had sent soldiers to stop them from broadcasting news programmes.


How do you see the future of Nepal’s community radio field? What are the challenges and opportunities?


Challenges of the organization are finding ways to make the radio stations sustainable and to assist them community managed and in making their content more oriented to their rural community. These activities would involve campaigning to prevent ‘elite’ capture of the stations and in ensuring real community ownership of the stations.


Another challenge is supporting the creation of a legal and policy environment that is supportive of  community radios which in Nepal are not differentiated in terms of licensing, royalties and fees.


The opportunities in Nepal’s radio movement include involving the radios in the preservation and promotion of the diverse cultures and languages, promotion of social inclusion, and also support the initiatives for expanding literacy by making the people aware about the values of education.

Radio can, until Nepal’s literacy increases, serve as a medium for taking education to illiterate populations. Another opportunity is using radio for making public institutions more accountable, transparent and responsive to their stakeholders and for informing people about the basic services available from the state in health, education, nutrition and the like for creating demand for these services and also for capacitating the people to make informed choices.


How do you see the role of rural community radios in Nepal’s peace building process?


Nepal is undergoing through a difficult political transition and a process for establishing peace. The radio stations have served as a common platform for expressing emotions and for voicing concerns and for promoting a culture of democratic discourse and debate. This discussion is more vital for institutionalizing the new republic and to motivate the people for building social harmony, which is vital for sustaining peace.

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