Refugee Issue And Media Campaign

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With incidents of violence escalating inside the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, exiled journalists living there have repeatedly reported facing ‘trouble’ due to threats from the local authorities.

Safety
The Bhutanese media sector operating in exile in Nepal has long faced pressure, internal intimidation and an unfavorable working environment in exercising their right to provide information. With the rise in disputes inside the refugee camps, journalists, who are working voluntarily, have started fearing for their safety and security while reporting stories in the camps.

The Bhutanese refugees inside the camps are in one way or the other deprived of their right to information. This is most unfortunate as every individual’s right to information is safeguarded under his fundamental rights. In addition, journalists working on their behalf for promoting the individual’s right to information are being intimidated. More than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepali ethnic origin now live in camps in eastern Nepal.

Intimidation
The arrest of Bhola Siwakoti, general secretary of Bhutan Press Union, by the Nepalese Police on October 9 without furnishing any reasons, is an instance of how the local administration treats exiled Bhutanese journalists.

Besides, the Armed Police Force (APF) personnel based near the Bhutanese refugee camp at Beldangi-I have asked Arjun Pradhan, correspondent of Bhutan News Service (BNS), the only news agency run by refugee journalists, to sign a register kept at the base camp each day. Is this not harassment of independent journalists? This was done simply to harass Pradhan after he reported that an innocent refugee youth of Beldangi-I camp was killed in police firing on December 9. Journalists in the camps are in no mood to ‘compromise’ with the unnecessary and illogical harassment by the local authority.

With the passage of time, there has been much confusion among the refugees in the camps. No authority – individual or organisation – can put an end to this state of confusion without providing accurate information to the people. It must be considered that the systematic method of disseminating accurate, reliable and justifiable information can never be done without the support of the media groups.

There is always a need for Bhutanese organisations in exile, aid agencies, the local administration and individuals to extend all kind of support to the journalists and their organisations in exile for creating an atmosphere in the camps where the people can be well informed of what is going on. Only then can the long-standing Bhutanese imbroglio end with an amicable solution.

With the division among the Bhutanese refugees, journalists in exile are receiving threats from many quarters, including the refugees themselves. This does not seem ‘fair’ when there is a provision to safeguard the fundamental rights of individuals that include the right to information.

The press bodies formed in exile for the cause of establishing complete media freedom, freedom of speech and expression in Bhutan are ready to sacrifice many things for the sake of promoting the people’s right to information.

Media organisations working in exile – Bhutan Press Union (BPU), Third World Media Network – Bhutan Chapter, Association of Press Freedom Activists – Bhutan had brought out a joint declaration on October 20. All of them have agreed to work under the banner of the BNS. This implies that independent journalists in exile are thereafter associated with the BNS.

Harassment inflicted on any independent Bhutanese journalist working in exile would be an ‘attack’ on the BNS. This would adversely affect the smooth functioning of the news agency that at the moment has been one of the major sources of information for the global community and the authorities concerned as it runs all types of media including print and electronic.

Thus, the authorities concerned, including international press bodies, should urgently try to create a conducive atmosphere for Bhutan’s journalists in exile so that they can work in an independent way. They should be able to believe that they are working in a safe and dignified environment.

Media campaign

Undoubtedly, media campaigns can be an effective means to highlight the refugees’ plight. The role of the independent media during Jana-Andolan II in Nepal serves as a good example. Therefore, Bhutan’s independent journalists working in exile and their media organisations should not be allowed to be intimidated by anyone or any quarter.

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A father, husband, public speaker, and a freelancer, Mr. Mishra returns to this news portal as the Executive Editor after he had served in the same capacity for nearly three years in the recent past. Born in Dagana, Bhutan and raised in the refugee camp in Nepal, Mishra’s entry into journalism began as early as 2002, and he has been volunteering in the area since then.
Mr. Mishra worked as a special correspondent for The Bhutan Reporter (TBR) Monthly for a few years in the early-mid 2000s. Later, he became Editor at the same newspaper, and also served as the Chief Editor of TBR for two years. He is one of the founder members of Bhutan News Service (BNS), where he started serving as Editor (2006-2009), and later Chief Editor (2009-2011).
Mr. Mishra also served as one of the main hosts of the radio program, Saranarthi Sarokar (translates to ‘Refugee Concern’ in English) in one of the local FM stations in Kathmandu, Nepal from 2007 through 2009. As a host of the program, he interviewed dozens of high-profile Nepalese and Bhutanese politicians, academicians, social and community leaders, including foreign diplomats then based in Kathmandu and Jhapa, Nepal.
Aside from his reporting work while in Kathmandu, Mr. Mishra also got involved in other philanthropic work, and helped needy refugees. Mr. Mishra led two donation campaigns through the lobby in Kathmandu among fellow Bhutanese refugees and supported fire victims in the refugee camp in the eastern part of the country. Mr. Mishra also directly assisted dozens of sick patients with various illnesses from the refugee camps in Jhapa to get their appropriate treatment in Kathmandu-based hospitals at a discounted rate and/or free of cost.
Mr. Mishra has appeared in various national, regional and international publications including the Wall Street Journal, Aljazeera America, Explore Parts Unknown, Global Post, Himal Southasian, among dozens of other media outlets with articles aimed at advocating the Bhutanese refugee issue. The New York Times, BBC, Guardian Weekly, among many others have featured Mishra’s work. Mr. Mishra has also written articles extensively reflecting the state of ‘freedom of speech & expression in Bhutan.’
Mr. Mishra is also the author of a handbook called Becoming a Journalist in Exile.
Mr. Mishra is the recipient of two awards—one by the Bhutan Press Union (2006), and the other by the Organization of Bhutanese Communities in America (2011) for his contributions in the related field. Founder President of the Bhutan Chapter of the Third World Media Network (2006-2012), Mishra has also represented Bhutan in various regional and national-level trainings and seminars on media freedom while during his stay in Nepal.
Mr. Mishra holds his first Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Purbanchal University in Nepal, and the second Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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