Balkrishna Basnet: Giving journalism its due

Anushka Nepal

Anushka Nepal

Balkrishna Basnet: Giving journalism its due

Balkrishna Basnet has been a part of Nepali news media for the past 28 years. He began his career as a journalist in 1995, and he is now the chairman of the Press Council Nepal. The 45-year-old, who has been holding the position for the past two years, is the youngest chairman in the history of the council. With years of experience in dealing with Nepali news media, Basnet has plans to make the necessary changes in Nepal’s media industry. But a part of him still reminisces about the time he was a reporter.

Born in Dolakha, Basnet was 17 when he began working for ‘Chalfal Saptahik’, one of the weekly newspapers back in the 90s. “I consider this to be the first stage of my career,” he says. At the time, weekly newspapers/magazines were all the rage. But daily papers were rare.

Working for the magazine, he says, he learned a lot about reporting. “It wasn’t enough, but I knew I was headed somewhere,” he says. He worked there for around eight years before establishing his publication, Dolakha Today Monthly, and also becoming the editor of Sagarmatha Times Monthly.

“The second stage of my career began in 2000 when I joined Kantipur as an intern,” says Basnet, adding he soon became a full-time reporter for the newspaper. He worked there for 19 years. Despite knowing the dos and don’ts of being a reporter and landing the job, Basnet says he felt he still didn’t know enough about journalism. He held a Bachelor’s degree in law but didn’t have any training in journalism, which is why he decided to take a one-year training at Nepal Press Institute (NPI).

Working in Kantipur, he says, was the best time of his career. Not only did he make a name for himself, but got a chance to learn and improve with every article he wrote. It wasn’t just his love for journalism but also the work environment that pushed him to do his best. “Newsrooms used to be quite different back then,” he says. Basnet recalls instances where he worked all night and got his byline on the morning newspaper. “Everyone would be working at odd hours. It was motivating,” he says. But what he enjoyed the most was how each story was pursued.

“We used to constantly follow up on a story until it reached a certain conclusion,” he says. In his case, most of it used to be court reporting. “Reporters never let any of their stories die, and that made an impact,” he says. Sometimes everyone would be working on the same topic but pursuing different angles to highlight every aspect of a certain issue. “I remember days when every article published would be related to the same topic but each piece covered different aspects of it,” he says.

Basnet did court reporting for around eight years in Kantipur. He also worked on several investigative pieces like the Robinson scandal (the case of an international drug lord Gordon William Robinson who was arrested in Kathmandu), the Jha scandal, and the case of Saphala Devi, who had been waiting for 40 years demanding justice from the Supreme Court.

“Nepal’s journalism played a huge role in pressurizing authorities on doing their job well,” he says. However, he laments that Nepali journalism lacks the same enthusiasm and quality of reporting. It’s not all bad, he’s quick to clarify, but he believes Nepali news media needs some important amendments.

Most media houses, he says, don’t have enough resources, which clearly has taken a toll on the quality of reporting. Then, he mentions that the increasing number of online news media (including YouTube channels) has also decreased the credibility of news. “Most journalists are also unaware of media literacy,” he says. He plans on working on these issues as the chairman of the press council.

“One is to take action on journalists who fail to abide by the journalistic code of conduct,” he says and that has already begun. Anyone found guilty has to pay for and attend the class given by the officials at the council to remove their name from the council’s blacklist. “The first person to attend the class was Rishi Dhamala,” he says. He also started a program that gives training to reporters and has been working on managing and monitoring YouTube channels and online news portals.

“Change takes time,” says Basnet. Although several works are in progress, he says it will take a few years for us to witness some substantial changes in Nepal’s media industry. Nevertheless, he believes that as long as there are honest and hardworking journalists, Nepali news media can bounce back. “It’s a field with tremendous scope that will never become irrelevant,” he says.


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