Nepali Times Asian Paints
ASHUTOSH TIWARI
Strictly Business
Not too late


ASHUTOSH TIWARI


Po Bronson, the author of a recent bestseller What should I do with my life? writes that in good times, people only talk about changing themselves. In bad times, they have no option but to change. Today in Nepal what changes must we expect our political parties, press and human rights organisations to make to continue serving the public interest?

Pundits tell us how Nepali political parties represented the public's concerns on the national stage. They repeat this so often that their claim has a tofu-is-good-for-you-because-it's-good-for-you logic. In reality, Nepalis rarely had the luxury of freely choosing their representatives. They always had to choose from candidates fielded on their behalf by Kathmandu-based politburo-like central committees of various parties.

In such a system, those who won elections saw that to win again in future, all they needed to do was keep party leaders in Kathmandu happy, even if that meant neglecting voters' grievances. Such perverse incentives meant that voters could do little to punish bad representatives by electing new ones, and the same old certifiable crooks kept getting re-elected on account of their loyalty to party leaders and not to the voters. Over time, ordinary people failed to see just how representative multiparty democracy concretely served their interests.

In theory, a free press is indeed a cornerstone of democracy. But in the last 10 years, vast changes have come about in the Nepali media industry to make anyone ask how free it really is. The partisan press, for instance, has long been ideological and shrill, propped up by parties' un-audited money. The higher-end players have grown to be merely corporate entities whose business model calls for proximity to those in power while squeezing employees with bad pay.

Some Kathmandu-centric media leaders saw that donors were willing to throw untold sums of money at proposals peppered with 'conflic&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#̵'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'governance' and 'empowerment', there was an explosion of 'media-and-society' type workshops and seminars. Of course, it is rude to ask just what the verifiable impact all that work had. Still, media leaders sank low when they accepted the government's largesse last October, even when the accompanying 11-point media policy was aimed at making journalists lick the hand that fed them. That's why it is difficult to take the media's present chest thumping seriously.

Few doubt the energy of our human rights organisations. But their tamasha tactics have robbed them of opportunities to build systems to safeguard rights. Almost a decade after civilians started disappearing in Nepal, we still don't have a basic legal architecture to start accounting for them. Likewise, those who have lost loved ones to atrocities committed by both parties have yet to find legal and humanitarian recourse for sustained assistance. With so many rights organisations around, one would think that each would specialise on an aspect of the problem. But all that they appear to agree on is the lowest common denominator: repeated street rallies, trite calls for peace and dramatic arrest scenes played to the gallery of donors. All these have left them with little time for unglamorous and dirty-your-fingernails perseverance to help make our imperfect legal system start taking the rights of victims seriously.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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