Nepali Times
Fourth Estate
Maoists, masters of media


The Maoists have once again shown they are masters of media manipulation. Just as it appeared that they were on the verge of going off the publicity radar, they have managed to hog the headlines and monopolise primetime.

Ever since their scuffle with UML in the mid-nineties for the control of a blank wall to paint party slogans near Ratna Park, the Maoists have dominated media coverage. The favourable press that the most violent political group in Nepal's modern history continues to get is a mystery worthy of exploration by media studies scholars.

When they began their violent campaign in the mid-mountains, the Maoists had little access to the mainstream media. The commentariat in Kathmandu bristled with UML-types who would jump at any chance to attack the NC. The idea of Nepali nationalism was still based on kneejerk anti-Indian rhetoric. The Maoist media strategy took advantage of these absurdities of the popular press.

The Narayanhiti Massacre provided the Maoists with an opening to run their disinformation campaign. The press, including the most popular Nepali daily of the time, became their mouthpieces. With the escalation of armed conflict, the Maoists forced the media to do their bidding. Those that dared to hold independent views were threatened, attacked or killed, as the case of Dekendra Thapa of Dailekh illustrates.

When Maoist leaders were forced to take shelter in India, they had to come up with a strategy to deflect attention from their dependence on that country. So they directed their cadres to begin digging trenches on the Nepali side of no-man's land. In a country where the middle class has turned a besieged mentality into a nationalistic virtue, this turned out to be a failsafe strategy to promote the agenda of armed insurgency.

The response of the mainstream parties to the propaganda onslaughts of the Maoists was often incoherent, limp and self-defeating. Commentators close to NC claimed that Maoist guerrillas were merely UML cadres in mufti. UML footsoldiers in the media responded that the guerrillas were maiming and killing only class enemies. Former Panchas in rightwing parties were happy that communist guerrillas had declared them nationalists. In this confusion, all that Chairman Prachanda had to do was spread the rumour that Pushpa Kamal Dahal did not exist, and the media left him free to travel between New Delhi and Lucknow.

The only time the Maoists' disinformation machinery faltered was when they joined the coalition government. It did not get any better when Dahal led the ruling alliance and tried to strengthen his hold over state institutions.

When Dahal had to resign under duress, his propagandists realised the Maoists would now be targeted by the mainstream media. Resistance would have been pointless and even counterproductive. So they decided to play along and be as spectacular a target as possible.

Journalists have since discovered that we can love them or hate them, but we cannot ignore the Maoists. It seems the moment Dahal is removed from the headlines, there is nothing to report on. The wily supremo uses his indispensability to make the media magnify the Maoists' conceited posturing. To pander to the prejudices of hypernationalists in UML and the fronts of former Panchas, all one needs to do is call for the revision of the Nepal-India Treaty of 1950 and vociferously oppose 'expansionist' encroachments at Susta and Maheshpur. In fact, Dahal probably overdid his 'dialogue with masters' rhetoric.

More useful has been the reported rift between Dahal and his alter ego Baburam Bhattarai. No matter whose side the media takes, the Maoists reap the publicity benefit.

The best way to counter Maoist propaganda is to deny them the oxygen of publicity. Even when Dahal's buffoonery is ridiculed in print, he still emerges a winner in front of his core constituency - the masses in the countryside that deeply resent the holier-than-thou attitude of the urban middle class. In the art of deception, the Maoists have proved that they have no equals in Nepal.

1. bcreative
Nice, seems like ebeven you have fallen to their trap, else why talk about them..

2. Arthur
"The best way to counter Maoist propaganda is to deny them the oxygen of publicity. " So this is how a journalist stops writing about politics and analyses the media instead! Face it, you are completely stuck. You tried to ignore the disasterous situation of the people in Nepal when the Maoists had no influence. Now that they are organized in every village you believe they can be countered by pretending they have disappeared. But what is left for you to report on - the latest pronouncement by the umpteenth Minister that consensus is a "must" and the onstitution will be written on time and there are no problems apart from the Maoists. That gets very boring after a while. So what do you come up with? Writing about not writing about the Maoists! Absolutely brilliant? Could any comedian produce a skit with a better parody of the mindset of Nepal's middle class?

3. sano syau
You couldn't have said it better.

4. Kiran L
CKji has hit the nail on the head with this perceptive analysis of the Maoist mindset. They are control freaks, they don't want to share power with anyone and they can't stand any criticism from within or without. And if anyone dare challenge them, they can have their hands cut off or killed. We see everyday the Maoist propensity for violence. They are Pol Potists, and only commentators like Ck Lal still dare to call it like it is.

5. Maha
This guy is a hypocrite and opportunist. Maoists government period, he supports them. Now he criticise them. This only proves that Maoists are going to drown. Now rats have also left their sinking ship. So also CK Lal has left sinking ship.

6. Nirmal
CK Lal holds on journalistic merit to raise the triangular issues on the same format. The assumption to consider that ciltizens are fidels to them may be reasonable in the mind of a political leader. And to wander aroundto score goal atlast attempt. And indeed, sometimes they succeed. But it is something more annoying than consider us fools. Ie directly fools. First, because if they run a company of fools, they must be the greatest fools. And second, because to neglect a society is the political mediocrity. What defines good folk wisdom: "A foolish gardener, fat potatoes. Must be why Prachanda and company mght be busy eating".

7. bridohi
"Reetto gagri dherai cha chalkin cha." Our comrades have come to a full circle. Full of fiery rhetoric but empty on the deliverance. What kind of revolutionaries pry on the people they are suppossed to emancipate? The line is very murky between maobadis and khaobadis. It is hard to tell apart. Are the comrades representing the people or just the party? That is where their "air" needs to focused.

8. Raja
Maobadis are in every village. Panchays were in every ward. Ysyal everywhere. So were Mandalays. Media makes a difference. Girije was right all the while. Mandale, Male, Masale, Maobaddies etc. are all one and the same. They will meet the same fate.

9. Abhi analysis after all!

10. Abhi analysis after all!

11. (Teeto-meetho) Satya Nepali
Ironies abound as Lal's romance with the bloody Reds comes a winding down: "The favourable press that the most violent political group in Nepal's modern history continues to get is a mystery worthy of exploration by media studies scholars." Indeed! Scholars, start with Lal. He'll be of much help. After all, he got the whole "favorable press" rolling back in the early 2000s. And, "The best way to counter Maoist propaganda is to deny them the oxygen of publicity." Classic. But come now, Lal, isn't this what the RNA generals used to lecture you on? It may please them that you finally learnt the drill, but surely you can't pass this on to the readers as your own? That would be plagiarism! And as an intellectual like yourself should well know, one needs to give credit where it's due.

12. jange
"... oxygen of publicity..." was probably first used by Mrs. Thatcher in reference to the IRA. If intellectuals like Dr. Lal who were given a public platform were forthright about the true nature of the Maoists (murder loot and extortion) we wouldn't be in the mess we are in today. Instead he chose gloss over this reality and provide excuses for the Maoists. A more worthwhile task for Dr. Lal would be to examine the media over the last 12 years and to let us know why and how the media were so easily duped by the Maoists. This would be much more useful than the "commenting on the commenters" role which he has chosen for himself.

13. sunita tiwari
Big, powerful and influential media houses and newspaper like himal media and nagarik news are strictly against the maoist. Only few news newspaper with so so influence like naya patrika seems to support them. But hypocrite (as he claims to be an analysts but supports one side, presently, the indian-uml-congress-army collaboration and in essence supports their propagonda) like him can't stand him. You are a one sided journalist who can write just in favor of elite class and upper middle class people. Otherwise how can you dare ask all media to not to write anything about the biggest party(and for that matter, bigger than the second and third combined), the one most people care to listen and read about. After evert great revolutions, there were and still remain some gangs of people who resist the change. You are one of them. The timing of this article is simply superb and has a clear intention: "Writing about Maoist so as to decrease their influence is the responsibility of journalists. But how can anyone write about them when they go towards enroached borders and challenge the Indian authorities. This will win the the hearts and minds of people." Isn't it Lal?

14. hange
Why do the Maoists get favourable press coverage? Because they threaten, harass, beat, rape, and murder anyone that disagrees with them! Bravo Mr. Dahal- masters, indeed.

15. Satyajeet Nepali (1)
Jange, why do you keep referring to Lal as Dr.? Given, the man is well-read (and loud-mouthed to match), but I don't think he has a PhD in anything. Secondly, the media (at least its leaders like Lal) were anything but "duped" by the Maoists. The agra-panthi of Nepali media, civil society and political parties are too clever by a half to be "duped" that easily. They were only duping us, the unsuspecting public. This agra-panthi knew all along that the Maoists were up to no good. But they played along, romanticizing the Maoists, abetting their treachery, defending their violence. You know why? Because they knew the Maoists were the only force that could unseat the monarchy. With the monarchy gone, they figured the large mass of Nepalis would go straight back into the folds of the "middle" parties, making them the top dogs of Nepali society. No Raja towering over them ever again. Without having to sacrifice anything much, this feckless middle would be the champions of our "democracy". The Benjamin Franklins, the Mandelas, the Nehrus and Gandhis of New Nepal! And the Maoists? Oh, they would be easily rejected by the people in the CA elections (the parties had co-opted all their major policies; the people had no more reason to vote for such violent thugs!) And they were already international pariahs. That was their calculation! They just needed to go to bed with the Maoists, disregard all their atrocities, until the monarchy was kicked out. Then they would be the new rajas themselves!

16. Satya Nepali (2)
Mark my words, the so-called "Peace Agreement" of Nepal is nothing but a bastard child of Opportunism and Terrorism delivered by the midwifery of Foreign Intrigue. It's the result of the Opportunists' adulterous, illicit, unholy relationship with Violence and Terror. It was never meant for peace or for a strong new Nepal. Just for personal gain, no matter what the risk and cost to the country. The sheer greed, opportunism, selfish ambition, and short-sightedness that lie at the heart of the much-hyped "peaceful solution" are abominable. No wonder these adulterous parties are in much hurry to get to its "logical conclusion", so they can bury that bastard child before the truth over its illicit history becomes too well-known!

17. Ram
Journalists have since discovered that we can love them or hate them, but we cannot ignore the Maoists. CK ji I think Nepalese never thought they could shake the throne of Lord Narayan and throw him out of Narayanhiti. Our tarai brothers, often regarded as desi or dhoti in their own home land, are louder and clearer. A country, where 92% of power is shared by 32% of so called 'Bahun-chettry' class group, is remodeling itself into a nation with diversity. When Bidhan Shrestha sang "Machimarna Jauna Daju Kalapani ma' then it was band. Now at least, we are fighting for equal rights with our southern boarder giant. Maoist has been clear and vocal in their ideas. We have seen their nationalist and socialist agenda. I completely agree with them but there are those who disagree with them. But, never can a Nepali will able escape this period of history so how can we ignore? though i remember the motto taught me by my teachers, "nothing is impossible.' Which is proven by present history of nepal. 1997, 2007, 2035,2046, 2063 are clear example of Nepalese who wants the taste of freedom and desire for multiparty democracy. When I agree the rationality of moist agenda, i can never see a chance that they could fool every Nepal to capature state power. That is a day dream. But i salute their nationalism, though it might for political gain, and strongly believe that they should get power to transform Nepal.

18. Kiran L
The fact that Ck Lal is getting hit by both sides (left, eg Sunita Tiwari and King Arthur) and the right (eg, Jange, Hange and Satya Nepali) proves to me that he's probably right. I'd rather believe Ck Lal than the two extremeties.

19. Budabaaje
This comment has been removed by the moderator.

20. jange
Mr. Kiran L- Me, on the right?? You jest, I am sure! Whatever gave you that idea? Surely not the fact that I say that the Maoists are murderers, looters and extortionists? Surely they have done all that and continue to do so. Or do you disagree that the Maoists have never murdered, looted and extorted?

21. Suga VDC, Mahottari
Hi Guys, commenting on commentators are easy but commenting on content is a tough job. Before commenting on the Mr. Lal's journalism syndrome, you must learn about the ethics of transitional journalisms. Therefore, I would say that his opinion is totally based on facts rather than value. He has proved empirically about the contemporary scenario of Maoist.

22. Budabaaje
Interesting comments. What was that? The peace process is "nothing but a bastard child of Opportunism and Terrorism delivered by the midwifery of Foreign Intrigue" eh? Have to admit, Nepali, that's quite a striking dialogue! Should be in someone's fiery bhasan, or painted across a Kathmandu wall, or be the quote of the week somewhere. But it's just a comment in this online forum that most Nepalis don't even have access too (tsk, tsk). Keep it coming though. At least it spices things up in here! Jange, to keep you happy, why not offer Lal an honorary doctorate? Dr. Useful Idiot. How's that? Kiran L, your reasoning is gajab. But following it, you should be supporting the Maoists. They get hit not only from two sides, but from all sides: all parties, India, Army, and now media too! Since everyone's hitting them, they must be right!

23. jange
Dr. Lal already has a doctorate. I don't think he needs or wants another one. After all the talk there is really only one question that all Nepalis have to answer for themselves. Are/were the Maoists justified in using violence to further their political agenda? If yes, then you should boldly go ahead and continue with the violence until you achieve your ends. If no, then you should do all you can to stop the violence and punish the perpetrators of violence. It is the wishy washy position of NT and Dr. Lal (and all the political parties too) where they are happy with the violence when they think it is in line with achieving their agenda but unhappy with the violence when it is detrimental to their political agenda that has caused the mess that we are in now. Lot of comments on this thread. Would be interesting to have a response from Dr. Lal. We might even learn about his doctorate.

24. Satya Nepali (3)
Spot on, jange! Precisely the point I'm trying to make! Violence is violence no matter when it is committed. But for ppl like Lal, NT and others in the 'agra-panthi' of Nepal's politics, media and civil society, violence was justified, no glorifiable, until a few years ago when the king was still around, and now that it's gone, the Maoists have to be deprived of "oxygen" and what not. As long as the Maoists helped their interests, they were the Robin Hoods of the poor. It didn't matter how much they trashed PN Shah and his legacy, it didn't matter how they flirted with the "combustible mixture" of ethnic politics. All these were accepted and even promoted. But now we have NT as the advocate of PN Shah and his brand of "true nationalism" (this week's editorial), and warning against communal politics and disintegration (past articles and editorials). This is what I mean by double-standards, hypocrisy, and opportunism! The same things that were promoted once have now become evil

25. Satya Nepali (4)
..which is why, Krishna L., you misunderstand me by branding me as an extremist. I would happily be in the "middle" than in any extreme. But the people who have the stranglehold on the leadership of this middle is an absolutely self-serving, unprincipled, corrupt and opportunistic lot, who, in the name of "democracy" and "peace" have utterly destroyed our country while amassing both fame and fortune for themselves. That is my problem: the 'agra-panthi' of this middle, not the middle itself. For Nepal to really develop, the middle has to have the courage to shake off this stranglehold and dump this leadership. We need to be able to unmask and see these impostors, like Lal, for who they really are! Therefore, Mr. Lal, when you declare that "In the art of deception, the Maoists have proved that they have no equals in Nepal", I at least can see that they do. You! In fact, the Maoists would never have been able to deceive the Nepali ppl if not for you! (meaning of course your whole lot from the Girijas and Sitaulas in politics to yourselves in media to the Pandeys and Paharis in civil society). To carry your 'art' metaphor, the Maoists may be the mad Van Goghs, but you people have proved yourselves the da Vincis of deception!

26. Norbu ghaley
Maoist understands how they can become master of any thing by killing and threatening so they applied same cruelty on the media houses and media people, Their tactics on threatening and creating fear on media professionals are nothing new, they learned all these from their cunning forefathers to spread their words of propaganda. However, in the realistic matters, this cruel tactics will not work any longer, this is now 21st century, tactics of 19th century is now outdated! Maoist understands that their rule will not work on the educated masses, so from the beginning of their revolution they have been busy destroying schools and then harassing and murdering many school teachers, this clearly shows how much they are scared of the learned masses. By taking all these facts, Media of Nepal should be united to tame this Aalakchin Maobati!

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)