Volume 1, Issue 1, April 2017
A Tri-monthly Publication of Centre for Social Change (CSC)
Analyzing the Media Monitoring Data Related to Foreign Labor Migration
Prakash Bhattarai, PhD
Centre for Social Change (CSC)
110/38 Janasahayogi Marga, P.O. Box: 5714
New Baneshwor, Kathmandu, Nepal
It is estimated that around 6 million Nepali youth are working as foreign labor migrants in more than 100 countries
around the world, but mostly in the Middle East and Malaysia. Migrant workers are hugely contributing to Nepal’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the past one and half decades and also have been instrumental in reducing poverty and improving the standard of living of thousands of poor families throughout Nepal. Despite the positive contributions made by Nepali migrant workers in the time of political and economic instability in the country, they are deprived of living a dignified life during the entire migration cycle. Migrant workers are facing a number of critical problems particularly before departing and in the country of destination. Thus, protecting the rights of Nepali migrant workers throughout the migration cycle is considered Nepal government’s primary responsibility, where other actors such as civil society can play a supplementary role in this regard. Effective implementation of the existing migration policies and effective functioning of migration governance is regarded as a fundamental step towards protecting the rights of migrant workers. Given this context, Centre for Social Change (CSC), a Kathmandu based research and advocacy organization has recently established a civil society monitoring mechanism (known as Migration Watch) for the effectiveness of migration policies and governance in Nepal. A comprehensive analysis of trends and pattern of news coverage related to foreign labor migration in the mainstream print and online Nepali media has been selected as one of the major tools to monitor the progress towards the effectiveness of migration policies and governance in Nepal. It is assumed that the more positive and progressive news related to foreign labor migration are covered in most of the mainstream media, the better migration policies and governance in the country to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers and members of their families
CSC has begun the media monitoring task since January 2017 covering a total of ten news outlets, of which four of them are in Nepali, four in English, and two online portals in the Nepali language. The Four Nepali national daily include Gorkhapatra, Kantipur, Nagarik Dainik, and Annapurna Post. The four English daily includes The Rising Nepal, The Kathmandu Post, Republica and The Himalayan Times. And two online portals selected for monitoring purpose include Onlinekhabar and Setopati. This media monitoring process has excluded newspapers and online media that are solely covering news related to foreign labor migration. Due to time and resource constrained, other daily newspapers and online media have also been excluded from this monitoring process. Thus, the findings of media monitoring are limited to the ten new outlets covered. Moreover, this report covers the finding of media monitoring from January-March 2017.
3. Key Findings
Following remain the key findings from the monitoring;
3.1. News Covered by Language and their Categories
One core areas of exploration were to look at the foreign labor migration news coverage by language. Between January-March 2017, the foreign labor migration issue has received a good coverage in the newspapers and online portals that CSC has monitored. Altogether, 364 news, articles, and editorials have been published in 10 selected news portals, of which 77 percent (i.e. 281) news were covered in Nepali and 23 percent (i.e. 83) news were covered in English.
Among the news, article, and editorial published in Nepali, 193 of them were in print media and 88 of them were in the electronic media. Likewise, among the total media coverage, 96 percent of them were news, 3 percent (9 in number) were articles, and only less than 1 percent (4 in number) were editorials. This indicates that significantly fewer numbers of articles and editorials have been published on issues around foreign labor migration, and there is a huge dominance of news related to this topic.
3.2. News Covered in Different Types of Media
It is identified that online news portals have covered 88 different news (24 percent) and print media has covered 276 news (76 percent) related to foreign labor migration. Data indicates that
print media outperform the online portals when it comes to the coverage of foreign labor migration related news. However, lower number of news coverage in online portals can also be due to only 20 percent of their representation among the total media outlets.
While distinguishing the news coverage between the government and privately owned newspapers, the government owned newspapers namely Gorkhapatra and The Rising Nepal have published only 39 news related to foreign labor migration within January-March 2017, whereas the privately owned newspapers and online portals proved to be way ahead here with the coverage of 325 news.
Moreover, with 81 published news, Kantipur national daily proved to be the newspaper covering the highest number of news on foreign labor migration. On the other hand, The Rising Nepal, only publishing 8 news has been the newspaper with the least number of news on this issue in three months period.
3.3. News Covered by Thematic Focus
One important aspect of media monitoring is to assess which foreign labor migration related theme(s) are significantly covered by media and which are not. CSC through its internal assessment has identified thirteen different themes related to foreign labor migration highly pertinent to assess the effectiveness of migration policies and governance in Nepal. These thirteen categories include, a) Government services to migrant workers and members of their families, b) Function and efficiencies of government agencies, c) Migration policies, programs, treaties, and institutions, d) Recruitment agencies, e) Women and foreign labor migration, f) Migration and human trafficking, g) Problems faced by migrant workers, h) Death of migrant workers, i) Reintegration challenges of returnee migrant workers, j) Success stories of current as well as returnee migrant workers, k) Remittance, l) Cost of labor migration, and m) others.
- Among the categories mentioned above, the highest numbers of news (a total of 49 news out of 364) in the period of January-March 2017 have been focused on ‘migration policies, programs, treaties, and institution.’ Some of the news covered under this category include draft preparation for the amendment of Foreign Employment Act (February 4, Gorkhapatra), Nepal government’s initiation to distribute labor permit through online system, and ongoing discussion between Nepal and Malaysian government regarding a treaty for the protection of Nepalese labor migrant workers in Malaysia (February 22, Nagarik Dainik). Other news under this category includes Qatar government’s approval of a draft of the law to provide legal protection to many domestic female workers for the first time (February 10, The Himalayan Times). There was also news which stated that the government of Nepal is going to increase the amount to be paid by migrant workers in welfare fund. Consequently, there were also news coverage regarding Saudi Arab government’s 90 days amnesty for illegal migrant workers and Nepal’s government initiation to support Nepali migrant workers who need help to leave Saudi Arab (March 20 Onlinekhabar; March 21 Kantipur; March 21 República; March 26, Annapurna Post).
- The second highest news coverage (48 news) within these three months period is focused on ‘government services to migrant workers and members of their families.’ Government to provide treatment facilities to migrant workers and their family members and increment of the insurance amount of migrant workers from 1.5 million to 2 million rupees in 15 critical situations were key news coverage in this regard (Gorkhapatra, The Himalayan Times, Annapurna Post). Likewise, Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal’s announcement of an ambitious plan to provide insurance coverage for migrant workers working in India and double of that amount to those who are working in Gulf countries remained another highlighted news coverage under this category (The Kathmandu Post, Gorkhapatra).
- A total of 46 news have been covered under the category of ‘function and efficiencies of government agencies’ in the period of January-March 2017. Government officials from Department of Foreign Employment being involved in women trafficking remained one of the most highlighting news covered in the media in these three months period (Pg. 3, January 2, Annapurna Post; March 28, Onlinekhabar; Pg. 9, March 29, Kantipur Daily). Likewise, news related to the rescue of four Nepalese in Dubai by Metropolitan Crime Investigation Division in coordination with Dubai based Nepalese embassy (January 11, Kantipur Daily/Annapurna Post/Onlinekhabar) and news on Government of Nepal seeking financial transaction’s description with manpower agencies in order to investigate the implementation of its free visa and free ticket policy were some key positive news covered regarding the function and efficiencies of government agencies (Pg. 15, March 17, Kantipur Daily, Follow up news on Pg. 2, March 20; March 16, Onlinekhabar). One of the substantial news covered within this period was regarding government dropping Asha Lama from envoy list but withholding Parajuli for the proposed ambassador positions in the country like UAE and Oman (March 3, Onlinekhabar/ República). Having such a large number of coverage of all types of news under this theme signify that despite the prevalence of persisting problems regarding the function and efficiencies of migration governance, many initiatives and actions being taken by the government also have potential to ensure better migration governance in future.
- A total of 20 news out of 364 recorded between January-March 2017 are related to recruitment agencies. One news covered under this category was related to foreign employment agencies exploring new destination countries in Europe for better employment opportunities (January 15, The Himalayan Times). Foreign Employment Department asking the recruitment agencies to provide details regarding the implementation of free visa and ticket from their side (March 20, Gorkhapatra) was another news coverage under this category. There was a news which highlighted that in Nawalparasi district number of youth being scammed by the recruitment agencies reached two hundred seventy-six in three years of time period (Pg. 17, March 22, Nagarik Dainik). Likewise, there was a news report in Kantipur on March 18 about the arrest of Prem Katwal, former Chairman of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies who also operates Blue International foreign employment company.
- Only 13 news (out of 364) related to women migrant workers were covered in Nepali mainstream media between January-March 2017. There was a news which states that there is no proper record and information related to 4, 59,542 passports distributed to Nepalese women. A data obtained through Maiti Nepal highlighted in the news that yearly 8 thousand Nepali women leave home country for foreign employment opportunities. Likewise, many news under this category includes trafficking of Nepali women in the name of foreign labor migration. For example, there was news which highlighted India as a transit point for women trafficking in Gulf countries (Pg. 9, February 19, Kantipur Daily). Another news under this category includes news about a girl from Bhaktapur district who was sold by broker four times in Oman. When she was in captivity by the house owner, she survived drinking water from the toilet and somehow managed to return to Nepal (Pg. 4, January 1, Kantipur Daily). Another news was related to Nepali women from Rasuwa district who was trafficked in Turkmenistan for doing job against her interests, seeking help with the Nepal government to rescue her from there (Pg. 2, February 17, Kantipur Daily). There was also news about increasing trend of committing suicide by Nepali women migrant workers abroad. Moreover, there was also a news of Jumla district where women are involved in both on-house and off-house activities due to high influx of male migration for foreign employment (Pg. 3, February 8, República).
- There are 7 news (including one article) exclusively focused on human trafficking. One news covered under this category include perceived involvement of DoFE staffs in human trafficking in the name of foreign employment (Page 3, January 2, Annapurna Post; Page 9, March 29, Kantipur Daily). Likewise, most of the news covered under this category include trafficking of Nepali women in Gulf countries using various illegal channels of migration and also the news related to the abuse of Nepalese women in Malaysia ( Page 6, February 2, Kathmandu Post).
- A total of 43 news are covered under the category of problems faced by migrant workers. Most of the news in this category are from Saudi Arabia where Nepali migrant workers are imprisoned and/or staying illegally and facing numerous problems (Gorkhapatra, Nagarik Dainik). There is also news related to discrimination, exploitation, and abuse in various destination countries where Nepali migrant workers are working. Migrant workers’ families having difficulties to receive compensation from the companies, recruitments agencies, and the government of particular countries (Pg. 2, February 21, The Kathmandu Post) are additional news covered under this category. Health problems faced by Nepali migrant workers related to kidney and heart are also the highlight of the news in the first three months of 2017.
- A total of 15 news have been reported under success stories of returnee and current migrant workers, and most of these stories were related to better income received by returnee migrant workers through seasonal vegetable and poultry farming.
- There are 12 news and one article under the category of remittance. Most of the news covered on this topic is related to the proper investment of remittance in the field of energy and also about the decline in the remittance in comparison of previous years. A news report is related to an agreement between Mega bank and Remit to Nepal. With this agreement, the remittance sent through Remit to Nepal can be received from any branch of Mega Bank (Pg. 2, March 2, Annapurna Post). One article related to remittance was about the analysis of positive and negative side of the remittance in the context of Nepal (Page 7, March 29, Kantipur Daily).
- There are 35 news on the cost of labor migration, of which 21 news were on social cost, 11 news on economic cost and 3 news on political cost of labor migration. News related to social cost covers issues such as family fragmentation, increased divorced rates, suspicion and lack of trust between partners, cross-country marriage including increased number of foreign daughter-in-law and daughters getting married to a foreigner, increase in social unrest and emerge in new social problems. When it comes to the economic cost of foreign labor migration, most of the news covered under this are related to decreasing in remittances and use of remittance in unproductive sectors. Likewise, shortage of human resources in most of the rural part of Nepal and decrease in the agricultural farming as well as production, increased involvement of foreign labors in construction activities, and slow developmental activities in the community are additional news related to economic cost of labor migration. Moreover, there is also news which highlighted lesser number of applicants for youth entrepreneurship program offered by the government (Pg. 13, March 12, Annapurna Post). In the case of political cost, there is a news about Nepali migrant workers abroad not being able to vote during the ongoing and future elections (Pg. 1, February 4, República).
- A total of 68 news are recorded under the category of others. Some highlighted news under this category include, debates around the proposed Nepali ambassadors for Gulf Countries and the need of skill development training for potential migrant workers.
- Interestingly, there is no news coverage under the category of reintegration challenges of returnee migrant workers.
4. Prioritized News by Nepali Mainstream Media
In the period of January-March 2017, some of the news had high coverage and prioritized by almost every newspaper. Some popular topics covered in the month of January, February, and March 2017 are as follows;
- Malaysian government’s policy not to charge the levy from Nepali migrant workers
- Malaysia’s decision to provide labor permit to illegal migrant workers for a year and then its decision to distribute an e-card to them.
- Foreign Affairs Minister’s visit to Qatar and Prime Minister’s visit to UAE and their promise to have discussion with their counterparts for addressing issues of Nepalese labor migrants working in respective countries.
- Nepalese woman arrested in Lebanon for her perceived role as spy for Israel.
- Introduction of online labor permit mechanism by government and its newly introduced online consular service. This includes state service through which request for search and rescue of missing persons abroad, repatriating bodies of Nepali nationals killed abroad, expediting the process to claim compensation, and giving the power of attorney to other persons can be made.
Most of the news coverage for the month of January reflected positive actions taken by the government and other stakeholders in the area of foreign labor migration.
- February received most of the news on controversial news, such as the appointment of proposed ambassadors for Oman, UAE and Qatar. There were several news (including follow up news) on the issue.
- Ten Nepalese seeking support from government regarding compensation for their 7 years long detention in the jail of Saudi Arabia for the falsely accused crime of murder
- Body arrival from Saudi Arabia after 5 years of death was significantly highlighted in most of the newspapers
- Arrest of Ajmat Ali Shah who had been scamming people to Gulf countries for labor migration
- Korea’s decision to increase quota for Nepalese labor recruitment for the year of 2018.
- On the bright side, there were also numbers of news on success stories of returnee migrants.
- March shows a variety of news coverage, such as there were high numbers of news on Saudi Arabia’s amnesty to illegal migrants.
- There were several news on Government seeking transaction of manpower agencies to investigate the implementation of its free visa, free ticket policy.
- Malaysia starting to distribute free E-card to illegal migrants
- Increased numbers of trafficking and violence against women in destination country due to using illegal channel of migration was simultaneously covered in different newspapers in the particular month.
5. Media Specialty in Covering News
This assessment has also identified media specialties in covering news related to foreign labor migration. For example, Gorkhapatra, the government owned newspaper, have published majority of news related to government services to migrant workers and their families and also success stories of returnee migrant workers. In contrast, Kantipur daily has published least number of news on this issue. Kantipur, however, has proactively covered news on issues around function and efficiencies of government agencies, migration policies, programs, treaties and institutions, recruitment agencies, women migrant workers, human trafficking, death of migrant workers and remittance. The Himalayan Times has covered more news related to recruitment agencies. In the case of women specific news, Republica has covered significant number of news alongside Kantipur. Likewise, The Himalayan Times and Nagarik Dainik are found to be newspapers reporting highest number of news on problems faced by migrant workers. Likewise, Annapurna Post and Onlinekhabar have reported majority of news on the cost of labor migration. Lastly, Onlinekhabar has reported most news under the category of others.1
This assessment based on three months of media monitoring also demonstrate different patterns followed by mainstream media when it comes to the reporting and coverage of foreign labor migration issue. For example, newspaper like Gorkhapatra, government owned paper, shows high coverage on news related to government services. Gorkhapatra’s specific page on agriculture can be the reason for providing more space to success stories of returnee migrant workers, as majority of the recorded success stories are related to farming. In the case of Kantipur’s active reporting on different foreign labor migration issues can be the availability of expertise in news reporting on foreign labor migration issue as well as its established credibility and high readership. In case of Onlinekhabar, though it has reported significantly high number of news, it seems to be concentrated more on miscellaneous news rather than bigger issues such as migration policies and governance. Miscellaneous news here means those which are related to foreign labor migration of Nepal yet carrying lesser impacting concerns; for example, different follow up news on scheduled Korean language examination.
Likewise, despite a good coverage of news related to foreign labor migration, there is lack of focus on women and labor migration specific news. Although there are growing numbers of female labor migrants and also increasing cases of women trafficking and violence against them due to the use of illegal migration channel, there is lack of news coverage reflecting on these issues. Similarly, significantly less numbers of articles and editorials reflects that still less attention is given for such an important issue. Furthermore, no news on reintegration challenges faced by returnee migrants’ highlights the lack of media attention on this important issue.
News which didn’t fall under any of the above-mentioned categories or had focused other elements besides those in above mentioned-categories are recorded in this particular section.
Three months’ monitoring of news related to foreign labor migration in mainstream print media and online portals demonstrate different realities as well as concerns on the subject matter. Firstly, high coverage of foreign labor migration related news is a positive sign, as it shows significant media attention towards an important issue which has a high potential to impact on country’s socio-economic development as well as wellbeing of its citizens. In some cases such as controversial proposed names of ambassadors and government official’s perceived involvement in human trafficking, media’s regular follow up and investigation has led to a good roar prompting state authorities to take necessary actions for addressing those issues. In former case, one of the names of proposed ambassadors was withdrawn and in latter case government started investigation against suspected officials by forming committee for the purpose. Furthermore, news coverage regarding positive developments for strengthening migration governance especially from state bodies signifies government’s increasing concern and focus on this issue. However, there are still a number of challenges regarding migrant workers’ safety and reintegration of returnee migrant workers. Social and economic cost of labor migration is found another crucial issue which should be further addressed with proper course of action.