Aankhijhyal is a Nepali word. It means window.
Aankhijhyal is today also a ‘brand name’ in Nepal. It’s Nepal’s most popular TV magazine programme on environment and social development, which recently produced its 500th edition.
The half-hour programme has been produced regularly since May 1994. Now in its 13th year, it is one of developing Asia’s longest running television shows.
The landmark 500th edition was broadcast on 27 February 2007. In this special programme, its producers, the Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (NEFEJ), looked back at the interesting and challenging times they have chronicled and investigated.
And last night in Kathmandu, the Nepali capital, I sat down with a team of friends from NEFEJ to belatedly celebrate the occasion.
A dozen journalists, producers and film-makers joined us. We chatted away well into the night. There was no longer any worries about curfews and army check-points.
“We don’t often get together like this as one big group,” said Rabindra Pandey, head of Audio-Visual at NEFEJ. “Most of the time, we are too busy to socialise. We are chasing deadlines, or stories, or sponsors!”
There is much to cheer, both at micro and macro levels.
Sustaining a half-hour show on television is no mean feat in any part of the world, especially in a low income country like Nepal. Broadcasters here don’t put any money in programmes like Aankhijhyal . In fact, NEFEJ not only produces the show entirely at its own cost, but also pays for airtime on Nepal Television to get it out to the public! That’s the broadcast reality that many of our western colleagues are often unable to understand.
And the general feeling right now in Nepal is upbeat. After Nepal’s own People Power revolution of April 2006, people are hopeful that their ‘second chance in democracy’ can actually work better. While the streets of Nepal are as dusty and chaotic as ever, I can see far more tourists and far fewer soldiers on the roads now than on previous visits in recent years.
NEFEJ is a non-profit collective of journalists committed to communicating sustainable development issues. Foundecd 20 years ago, it has a much better record of democracy than Nepal itself: every year, office-bearers are democractically elected by its over 100 members. There is regular ‘change of guard’ at the top.
NEFEJ is also one of the oldest and strongest parters for us at TVE Asia Pacific.
Aankhijhyal is the organisation’s ‘crown jewel’. It’s the centrepiece of NEFEJ’s Audio Visual Department, and has been widely acclaimed for its investigative approach to sustainable development and social justice issues.
From land reform and agrochemical misuse to the conservation of heritage sites, and from the trafficking of women and children to HIV, Aankhijhyal has been covering a broad range of issues, concerns and controversies in the public interest. While remaining apolitical, the programme has also reflected the human, social and environmental costs of Nepal’s violent insurgency and pro-democracy struggle in recent years.
“Since its inception in 1993, we have come a long way and Aankhijhyal has managed to create awareness among the Nepalis on the issues related to environment and development,” says Rabindra. “Aankhijhyal still remains one of the most popular video magazines on Nepal Television.”
Aankhijhyal’s passing 500 editions is all the more significant because it has been sustained without a break by this non-profit cooperative of journalists. Whether or not external funding was available, NEFEJ has continued producing the programme – often using its own savings from other, better-funded projects.
And it was clear to me last night that they have no intention of resting on their laurels.
“There’s so much happening in Nepal today. We are living in a period of rapid change. We feel one half-hour show a week is not enough to capture the unfolding stories,” said NEFEJ’s current President, Sahaj Man Shrestha, himself a former CEO of a private TV channel in Nepal.
All images courtesy NEFEJ