Nepali Times
Ass for sale


What's happened suddenly to the Nepali media industry? The economy is stagnant, advertising is sluggish, even the middle class is living hand-to-mouth but the media is booming. Three new tv channels and at least four new daily newspapers are going to hit the stands in the next few months.

In this bubble, media salaries have hit the roof. New media houses are scrambling to poach journalists from each other: columnists, reporters, marketing staff, cartoonists, designers, even peons. Salary offers have quadrupled, and reporters can shop for the highest bidders. At the Press Club, they're being hired on the spot. Editors can't trust their bureau chiefs anymore. As long as this means better journalism, no complaints. The only question (hint, wink) is why hasn't anyone tried to poach the Ass?


So UNMIN is all aflutter over Secretary General-in-chief's 22-hour visit. Wondered about that one: people come for 24-hour or 48- hour visits, but Uncle Ban comes for exactly 22 hours. Anyway, despite the briefness of the visit, the Ass hears all work at BICC has ground to a halt and this has nothing to do with this country of gamblers grinding to a halt over Tihar. PKD reportedly assured BKM in NYC last month that he'd get a move-on on integration by the time he arrived. It's been a month, and of course this being Nepal, nothing has happened except a lot of hot air in the Reporter's Club. What this means is that Ban can't announce a clear exit strategy come Jan. Despite all the assurances and promises the pro- and anti-integrationists are sticking to their guns. Ban will probably hear a lot of promises, but will come face-to-face with the reality that Nepali leaders always say one thing and mean another, or that they'll tell you what you want to hear.

So the Sec-Gen may as well use his time here to twist some tails, otherwise there is no saying what will happen when UNMIN's mandate expires this time round because most UN brass have already sent out their resumes for jobs in other world hotspots.


Just when you think nothing is going to shock you anymore, the man caught on one of the Maoist real-life battle DVDs presiding over a point-blank execution of royal army prisoners is now the Minister of Peace. A Maoist
commander is Defence Minister, and is pally with moanarchists. And when Comrade Cloudy, flush with a Rs 100 million cash grant from the Chinese goes down to Shaktikhor, guess who comes to visit? Comrade Bibid himself in flesh and blood. Exactly a year ago YCLs abducted businessman Ramhari Shrestha who used to wine and dine the party bosses at his home (and had pictures to prove it). Obviously Shrestha knew too much and was taken away to be tortured to death at a UNMIN-supervised cantonment in Chitwan. One of the torturers, Comrade Bibid, helped dump Ram Hari into the Narayani from a suspension bridge. The body was later washed up.


Anyway, the Maoists own up and name Bibid as the perpetrator and announce a "massive manhunt" and promise to hand the man to the police when they find him. Looks like the guy never went anywhere and has been in Shaktikhor all along. Last week, Comrade Cloudy's APF security recognised Bibid meeting the minister, but no one wanted to risk being arrested arresting a man on whom there was a warrant.


How come Girjau is suddenly so hale and hearty: last week, over a day he managed to deliver a speech to a mass rally in Biratnagar, visit Kosi camps, attend two press conferences, attend endless tea parties. Where was all that energy when he had to run the country?


It looks like just as the Maoists are getting ready to unite with the Unity Centre and the UML, the mother party itself may split into hardline and moderate factions. Now that even the Maoist mouth organ, Janadesh, is calling Prachanda 'Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal' isn't it time for our civil society buddhujibis to do the same?


(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)