Nepal reporter joins Berkshire beat
By Karen Gardner, North Adams Transcript April 5, 2006
NORTH ADAMS — For the next five months, Ghanashyam Ojha of Nepal will cover a Berkshire County beat as he writes for the North Adams Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle as a Daniel Pearl Fellow.
Ojha, 34, is a participant in this year’s Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships program. A senior reporter for The Kathmandu Post, he reports on politics, human rights and the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. In Berkshire County, he plans to write human-interest stories, similar to those written by Pearl, in the hope of realizing that reporter’s dream of bringing people together through understanding.
Pearl, a reporter for both the Transcript and The Eagle, went on to write for The Wall Street Journal. While working for the Journal, he was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan by Islamic extremists four months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since his death, people around the world have remembered him as a writer who endeavored to connect cultures.
“Being a Daniel Pearl Fellow, I will try to bring the dreams of Danny true when working on these newspapers,” Ojha said. “We should work on universal harmony, which I feel can be achieved through (the) media, which really works. The fellowship that Alfred Friendly has provided to aid journalists around the world will really work a lot because they are from different countries and they have different impressions about the USA, about the Americans.”
Upon his arrival last week in Washington, D.C., Ojha met the other seven Friendly fellows. They come from countries including Cameroon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Kenya and India. Each will work at newspapers in different states throughout the country. In June, all of the fellows will meet at a one-week seminar in the state of Florida, where they will exchange experiences.
“I will learn (and) I will leave my impressions to people here … about my country, about my cultures,” Ojha said. “This way, I think, I’ll be extending cultures. I will take — and at the same time — I will give. It’s an exchange of cultures which I really think will work to bring a kind of brotherhood between my country and the U.S.”
This is Ojha’s first visit to America. Having been brought up in a remote village in Nepal and schooled in a rural part of that country, there were a few surprises upon his arrival.
“The American people are not as is viewed by the entire world, because they are viewed through the prism of the White House and Pentagon,” Ojha said. “They think Americans are warmongers. That kind of impression is there. When the Fellows were there in Washington, D.C., almost all of the Fellows had the same impression.”
However, Ojha said he found Americans to be very different from his previous impressions.
“They’re really very different — very cooperative, very friendly,” he said. “They are much critical of Bush and the Bush policies.”
Ojha also was amazed by this country’s highway system.
“It’s crazy because there are many, many cars and traffic is really a kind of weird thing for me here,” he said. “In our country, there are narrow lanes.”
Despite the number of cars in this country, the air is much cleaner than that of Nepal, which has a pollution problem because of the types of fuels used and a lack of environmental restrictions.
“There’s no pollution here and it’s very interesting to me,” Ojha said.
In addition to writing human-interest features, Ojha will write a column, “Impressions,” about his perspectives of the United States. In addition to appearing in the Transcript and Eagle, the column will run in the Advocate weekly newspaper.
Ojha is living in a East Main Street apartment owned by Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. As a result of additional support provided by the Hardman Family Endowment, he also will be a resident journalist at the college, working with journalism students there.
After his fellowship ends in August, Ojha will return to his position at The Kathmandu Post. He expects his experience here will help him find the types stories that can bring greater understanding among his own people. Nepal has been in turmoil since the murder of its ruler several years ago and a long-running Maoist insurgency has undermined the nation’s stability.
“Journalism is a type of weapon in society,” he said. “It’s a very powerful weapon to bring social harmony. Since my country is reeling through crisis, there is disharmony, there are social conflicts.”
Ojha is one of two journalists to receive a Daniel Pearl Fellowship this year. As a member of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, he once was arrested while taking part in a rally for press freedom and democracy. He has studied English for 17 years, and earned his bachelor of arts degree in English and economics from Mechi Multiple Campus in Bhadrapur in 1994 and his master’s degree in English and media studies at Tribhuwan University in Kathmandu in 2000.
The Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships program is dedicated to the international education of journalists. The late Alfred Friendly was a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and former managing editor of The Washington Post. He conceived the program as a means to impart American journalistic traditions and to respond to worldwide interest in the dissemination of fair and accurate news.
Since 1984, the program has brought 240 journalists from 74 developing countries to this country.