Nepali Times Asian Paints
Fourth Estate
Instigative journalism


The post-1990 boom in the Nepali media pushed many established practices of the past into the shadows. Professional attitudes and commercial considerations made 'mission journalism' unfashionable. But the idea of the journalist as a stakeholder rather than merely a recorder survives in a different form.

Instigative journalism sounds like a neologism, but dates back to the circulation wars between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst in the latter part of the 19th century. The New York Press coined the term 'yellow kid journalism' in early 1897 to describe the combative coverage of rival papers. The expression was shortened to 'yellow journalism' later.

However, instigative journalism perhaps best describes the techniques adopted by Hearst to provoke the population into action. As the story goes, Hearst sent author Stephen Crane and artist Frederick Remington to Cuba to report on Spanish atrocities. To Remington's request that he be called back as there was no war in Cuba, his boss cabled back: "Please remain. You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war."

The year 2066 BS began with a sensational peace of instigative journalism. In a front-page report, Kantipur Daily alleged that the Nepal Army was contemplating a 'soft' coup to pre-empt the dismissal of its chief by the Maoist-led coalition government. The NA public relations outfit took the story seriously enough to issue a denial the same day. It termed the report "imaginary and illusionary".

Himal Khabarpatrika responded with a provocative caption on its cover to accompany a cleverly manipulated image of Pushpa Kamal Dahal in military regalia. Other print media ran equally confrontational opinion pieces. The subsequent polarisation of public opinion, it could be said, led to the dismissal of the army chief, his restoration under presidential orders, the resignation of the prime minister and the formation of an anti-Maoist coalition. Politics has been going around in circles ever since, with President Ram Baran Yadav at the centre.

The Kathmandu establishment loves President Yadav's penchant for Hindu rituals and his barely disguised anti-Maoist politics. But as the day of reckoning (May 28, 2010) nears and the possibility of completing the constitution in time recedes, everyone is feeling apprehensive as far as the president is concerned.

Premier Nepal recently urged the head of state to exercise restraint. The media have adopted a hostile tone. Constitutionalists close to UML have stopped defending presidential consultations. Even Himal Khabarpatrika ran an editorial sometime ago requesting President Yadav to calm down.

Ever since his vocal opposition to the Madhes Uprising, President Yadav hasn't been very popular in the Tarai. Now Pahadis too seem to have lost some of their initial enthusiasm for him. But one journalist has stood by the president throughout, defending all his actions and inactions with commitment and zeal. In the writings of Birganj-based reporter and columnist Chandrakishor, a whiff of the mission journalism of yore can still be found. He is often guarded in offering his views, but even his circumspection has the old-world charm of when it was unbecoming of a journalist to praise a politician openly. Chandrakishor is my choice for 'Journalist of 2066 BS' in 'The Year of Print'.

Instigative journalism undoubtedly rules the roost in Nepali media. For the old-timers of the profession however, the mere survival of mission journalism in some form is reason enough to celebrate.

1. Concerned Citizen

President Yadav is the only person in the contemporary Nepali politics who has consistently acted for national interest. He has been disciplined in his remarks, actions and I am confident that he will make a wise decision for democracy after May 28th. His reinstating of army chief may have been done in a shaky legal ground but it is clear his intentions were always to put Nepal first. If he had not acted at that time Nepal would have been a far more dangerous and radical place now. Maoists, Congress, UML and Madhesis all put their own party interests before the national interest. I am very pessimistic that these leaders of ours have a mindset to suddenly change and start thinking of the country and the people before their party and cadres.

2. KiranL
The vilest instigative journalist in Nepal has consistetly been Dr Lal himself. Now, he'll probably reply that he's not a journalist but a columnist. This man has for more than a decade tried to ram his dogma through our throats and we're sick of him. Completely agree with Concerned Citizen, Lal has always loved to hate the president, even thoiugh he's the man who saved this country from completely Maoist takeover. Is it because the president is a Yadav?

3. aysdl
what problem Lal got with Hindu rituals in a land of around 90% Hindus? it'd be problematic if the president didn't attend.

4. Raja
This is an interesting angle. Most effective instigative journalist of Nepal is Rishi Dhamal. 

5. jange
Dr. Lal has conveniently left out the most successful instigative journalism ever in Nepal- the 10 years of murder, loot and extortion by the Maoists in the guise of revolution.

Methinks Dr. Lal is gloating at how successfully he has duped so many people for so long.

6. Nirmal

Well, CK Lal is pushing hard to bring about the quality write-up in journalism, that sounds perfect! I've no question on what made you do it(with that much polarisation and consequent deterioration of the society, democratic neutrality of the media gives much to desire)! Improveness is something you always expect as an intelligent creature. There is an African saying: an ignorant lives happier than who keeps an eye on the topicality. The media has played a huge role and should try as much as possible to adapt its dynamic according to the time and space.

I think the journalists, when they write, be committed nor the publisher nor family, nor with the country, but only with the text they have on their table. Therefore the exemplarity and honor must be sought in the language, the highest moral aspirations, the only homeland.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)