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Nepali media and Japanese disaster

By Shyam Rai, Kathmandu, Nepal

Radio Nepal news editor Shyam Rai writes that the Nepali media covered the disaster in Japan from the very beginning. The first reason for this is that the incident itself was huge and newsworthy.

The second reason is that sometimes even small incidents taking place in Japan (which might not get space in other countries’ media) are reported by Nepali media because Japan is one of Nepal’s major donor countries and contributes greatly to its development.

At first the media focused primarily on casualties and losses caused by the earthquake and tsunami. Some broadsheet newspapers and radio stations carried the incident on the front page and as a top story respectively whereas some included it in their international segments.

All of them focused on casualties and the destruction followed by damages caused to the nuclear reactors in Fukushima.


Local media rely on international networks

Over the following few days, the media still filed news reports with focus on casualties followed by rescue efforts, the fate of Nepalese living there, etc. Almost all the print media published the photos of devastation. Gradually the news focus shifted to the nuclear catastrophe (efforts being carried out to stop the nuclear reactor from explosion and radiation leakage) and the effects of radiation (food and vegetables being contaminated).

Rai writes, “I am sure that their focus synchronized with the focus of international media like BBC, DW, CNN and Kyodo in this particular case because none of the media houses has correspondents based in Japan. Only few of them had contact with Nepalese migrant workers there and quoted them in the news solely about their conditions and safety.”

On the part of the audience, only few people in urban areas are following the event on the Internet. The majority of people relies on local media. 

Nepalis shaken by news of earthquake

Rai says that, “If we talk as to what part of the events unfolding in Japan touches the people in Nepal the most is, no doubt, the damage caused by the earthquake because Nepal is in highly earthquake-prone zone."

"Some experts say if an earthquake of equal magnitude that hit Japan happens to rock this country, there would be overwhelming damage. They say 90 percent of houses would collapse thereby killing thousands of people because houses in Nepal have not met safety measures. They warn that the country has no capacity to cope with such a disaster. They also claim that hospital, army and police buildings would collapse, which means people would surely die in the absence of rescue following the disaster.”


Former DW-AKADEMIE trainee Rai reports that many people in Nepal are generally not well-informed about nuclear catastrophe and tsunamis. “Ours is a land-locked country and as a result we haven’t experienced any effects of a tsunami and we do not have any nuclear reactors for power generation. We have only hydroelectricity.” Due to this, he says, the Nepalese media focused primarily on the earthquake as opposed to Japan's other two related disasters.