The Statesman, a major Indian daily, reported on Sunday that a young Ladakhi man has started an English language newspaper in Ladakh. It is the only newspaper in the region. Tashi Morup, a native of Leh and an experienced journalist, has written and published 35 weekly issues of The Magpie since he started it earlier this year.
The story indicates that Tashi, born into a well to do family, went to college in the state of Chandigarh and studied in a masters program in journalism at Punjab University. He then worked for the Press Trust of India and The Pioneer in New Delhi. But he longed for his native city. “I never enjoyed staying outside Leh and would always miss my land,” he told the reporter from The Statesman. When he returned to Leh, he found that Ladakhis were not getting good local information, since the existing media had many problems and deficiencies.
Even though Tashi is doing almost everything—writing, editing, layout—he does have a friend who helps in his spare time with gathering news. His partner handles marketing and distribution of the paper. The print run has increased from 500 to 800, of which the army takes 150 copies. The size of the paper has also grown from four to six pages each week.
Tashi is especially aware of the difficulties of publishing local news, considering the special sensitivities required in Ladakh, where any error in reporting could be serious. “Ours is an extremely sensitive society comprising of Buddhists in Leh and Shia Muslims in Kargil. So, you have to be extra cautious in reporting the issues. You have to do a lot of research before you write a story,” he tells The Statesman.
He has plans to start a version of the paper in the local language, Bodhi, for people who don’t read English. But one of the problems is that he, himself, is not fluent in that language, so he will need to employ assistance.
He says that he chose the magpie as the name for his paper because of the symbolic value of the bird as a messenger. Its black and white color apparently suggests a newspaper, and the bird is identified with the concept of freedom.
Tashi indicated in an article he wrote about his new paper in June that it had already become sustainable—it had reached the break-even point, though he admitted he did not get a salary. He also described some hassles involved with putting out a newspaper in Ladakh—uncertain electricity supply, problems with telephone and Internet connections, difficulties with printers, and so on.
The local news reports from The Magpie are fortunately reprinted in the ReachLadakh.com website. This new source of news appears to be effectively updating information available from the international media. A story on November 6, for instance, describes the attempts of shopkeepers in Kargil to obtain compensation for property that was destroyed during the riots in Ladakh last February, which were touched off by the desecration of a Quran. The appeals by the victims, according to the paper, have been unsuccessful so far.