By PR Pradhan
The Editors’ Society of Nepal observed late senior journalist Gobinda Biyogi’s death anniversary on 18 January by distributing Govinda Biyogi Journalism Award and Gobinda Biyogi Special Journalism Award and honouring three senior journalists for their outstanding contribution in the field of journalism. Award recipients for this year were Gunraj Luintel and Prakash Giri. Those, who were honoured by the Society were Hiranyalal Shrestha, Madhav Kumar Rimal and late Jaya Prasad Dahal.
The programme was organised at the Gobinda Biyogi Journalism Research Center’s building which is under construction in Surya Chour, Shivapuri Height in Nuwakot district, just around 11 kms from Tokha.
Gobinda Biyogi is a well established name in the history of Nepali journalism. Biyogi brought out different newspapers, yet, Matribhumi was very popular journal during the Panchayat days. He was not limited within the role of an editor, but he is being remembered for his struggle in achieving press freedom. Many of us may not know that Biyogi Dai alone had struggled to include the clause of press freedom in the 1990 constitution. During the time of drafting of the new constitution Biyogi Dai was the president of the then Nepal Journalist Association, the umbrella organization of the Nepali journalists, which was later upgraded to the presently known organization as Federation of Nepalese Journalists. After the demise of the Panchayat system, an interim government formed headed by NC leader Krishna Prasad Bhattarai. Multiparty democracy was introduced and the new constitution was in the writing process by a committee. Biyogi Dai personally lobbied to include the provision of total press freedom by ending the government authority to suspend or cancel newspapers’ registration on their own decision. Biyogi Dai was found always poking the authorities who were writing the new constitution. Finally, Biyogi Dai became successful to include the clause of press freedom in the constitution. Today, journalists laude press freedom in Nepal but the main person behind guaranteeing press freedom was Biyogi Dai, perhaps, about which, many of the Nepali journalists are unaware.
Besides, Biyogi Dai was instrumental on establishing the umbrella organization of the journalists, which was limited within a small circle of journalists for years. During his tenure as the president of the Nepal Journalist Association, Biyogi Dai struggled hard to develop the Association as the association of all the journalists by opening its branches in many of the districts.
I had a long association with Gobinda Dai since we started a move to establish the umbrella organization of all the journalists. We used to discuss on issues related to press freedom, safeguarding tabloid newspapers’ future and such things like developing professionalism, among others. Once, Gobinda Dai was the member in the Press Council. He invited me for a meeting. During the meeting, we discussed on classification of newspapers on the basis of circulation and contents. Finally, the Press Council adopted the concept of classification, even though, some office executives of the Council was against classification of the newspapers.
We had struggled for press freedom to ensure continuation of our newspapers, however, we didn’t think towards the negative side of it. When the constitution empowered newspapers guaranteeing against restriction or ban on them, wrong people having the background of illegal business entered in the profession with their illegal money. Today, the very type of people are dominating the profession and exploit professional journalists. Some investors have even denied paying minimum salary announced by the government by demonstrating their supremacy, and some investors are doing illegal business by using their publication house as bargaining tools. In fact, press freedom is being misused by the wrong people.
Gobinda Dai was of the view of keeping the journalists’ umbrella organization, Nepal Journalists’ Association, aloof from the political affiliation and solely represented by the professional journalists. He, thus, had developed an indirect election procedure – election of national council members and later the national council members to elect the central committee. This idea was developed to safeguard representation of professionals working with the small-scale newspapers in the media organization. Within two decades, the idea has been scrapped by introducing direct election procedure. Now, the present Federation of Nepalese Journalists has gone out of the reach of those professional journalists as it has emerged as a sister organization of the political parties, which is a very sad thing for the real journalists.
Gobinda Dai took initiative to establish an organization of editors – Editors’ Society of Nepal. This is the first ever organization of the editors in Nepal. In 1995, the Society was established. I feel proud to be the founding member of the Society, although, I was also the executive member of the Nepal Journalists’ Association. As we had seen platform for journalists in foreign countries, where, people from different walks of life visit to meet journalists and also journalists gather there in a daily basis, I thought this was a good idea. In Nepal, such a center had not been developed. Therefore, we tried to develop the Society as a venue to meet journalists and also political leaders, diplomats and others. Accordingly, we had established a library on journalism. Under Gobinda Dai’s leadership, we were able to achieve success on our mission. Today also, the Society is actively involved in the development of the journalism sector. The Society, with the support of Gobinda Dai’s family, specially his elder son Kiran Bhaidya and his well-wishers, has started a big task of establishing the Gobinda Biyogi Journalism Research Center. The Center is aimed at providing all kinds of facilities for those research scholars – locals as well as foreigners. In fact, this is the job of the government, nevertheless, until now, without support of the government, the Society has been able to complete construction of the structure of the building. Still, we need a big fund to complete the building. We believe, now, it is the government’s job to support the Society as it is not a private building but the nation’s asset. The Society is highly encouraged from the leaders who were gathered at the award distribution ceremony last Saturday and their commitment and assurance to support the Society’s humble works!