Nepali Times
Fourth Estate
Following the paper trail


In The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel P Huntington characterises India as the 'core-state' of Hindu civilisation. The Indian government, however, behaves more like a besieged nation.

The Indian embassy's role in the Machine Readable Passport deal exposed the risks to trade. In a similar controversy in the 1980s, King Birendra had to acquiesce to New Delhi's pressure to rescind a road-building contract awarded to a Chinese company and give the Kohalpur Mahakali Highway to an Indian company.

This didn't buy Birendra any goodwill. India imposed an undeclared economic blockade anyway in 1989 on the pretext of the expiry of the trade and transit treaty. Disruption in access to the international market for 18 months crippled the Nepali economy. Overseas investors have been wary ever since about the industrial prospects of this India-locked country.

Sometime ago, someone somewhere decided - the sources of such judgments are invariably indeterminate - that the editorial policy of Kantipur Publications was detrimental to Indian interests. In June, Kantipur Publications found ad bookings from Nepal-based multinationals were pulled out.

In media financing models, ad revenue is the fuel that keeps the engine of enterprise humming. To obstruct it in a planned manner is a veiled attack on its very existence. Kantipur Publications is still facing up to the attack on its economic viability with fortitude.

Other hostilities have been more direct. In a step an unnamed South Block official inadvertently admitted was 'cheap tactics', the Indian authorities in June delayed the customs clearance of newsprint meant for Kantipur Publications for nearly a month at Kolkata port. The Indian embassy in Kathmandu said it was a 'routine administrative measure', but the clarification contained veiled warnings.

Following an uproar in the Nepali and Indian media over curbs on press freedom, there was a 'summit meeting' of sorts between the owner-managers of Kantipur Publications and the Indian ambassador. Nobody knows for sure what really transpired at the meeting: the tone of press communiquÚs issued afterwards by contending parties differed widely. Rumours about continuing coldness in the relationship began to float the moment only 11 out of 39 containers held at Kolkata port were released initially.

Sources in Lainchaur insist that the cessation of Indian hostilities against Kantipur Publications is contingent upon a continuous performance appraisal. The media in Kathmandu seems to have imbibed the lessons of the fracas: treading on Indian toes is fraught with untold risks.

A measure directed against the market leader has succeeded in frightening the entire media.

A similar attempt in the past, when the supposed misdemeanours of a cartoonist in a metro daily was greeted with an ad moratorium, ended with corporate groveling. The then home minister stood guarantee for the 'good behaviour' of the media owner. There is no news about promises made and warnings issued this time.

The silence of Kantipur Publications has been deafening since the release of the containers from Kolkata. The change in the editorial tone of Kantipur since the Lainchaur Summit is not yet pronounced. However, Kantipur Publications owes its readers and well-wishers an explanation. When the three estates of the state are so enfeebled, it's impossible for the fourth estate to withstand political and diplomatic pressure. But when the media has to step back from telling the whole truth, it needs to share its compulsions with its readers and offer them an explanation.

An ignoble dimension of the Kantipur saga was the relative neglect of the whole affair by the rest of the Nepali media. Journalists failed to examine the controversy and turn it into an issue of self-censorship and the freedom of the press.

State and non-state groups are relatively easily identifiable enemies of the free media. Commerical and diplomatic pressures are much more hidden, and often impossible to withstand. When the two combine, truth is the only defense.

Hard choices, PRASHANT JHA
Tail between our legs, PUBLISHER'S NOTE
Nay to the government, INDU NEPAL
Systemic failure, ASHUTOSH TIWARI
Complicity journalism, CK LAL

1. - nepali forum
Well said Mr. Lal.

Its interesting to note however, that despite an economy of such large (and growing) magnitude, widening fame and power even in the eyes of the "first" world, India continues to use such petty tactics upon Nepal. This should not be so high on their agenda, looking at what they have in their hands at any given moment, today. Perhaps a clump of extremely old fashioned Indian minds have a tight grip over Nepal affairs not realizing that their efforts could be spent more wisely in some of their own internal issues, rather than this country. Perhaps those old minds are just saving their government jobs and thus their power.

2. Dev Batsya
When there are so many other pressing problems in the country, the fact
that Kantipur chose to make its relatively minor problem (ie delay in clearance of their newsprint) as the front and  centerpiece of their news, goes to show the feeling of importance Kantipur must have of itself.
 The story seemed more about the publication vs India, than anything else.
The publication obviously felt this matter was too important for the country, (compared to the tens-of others not too urgent matters facing the country like constitution drafting, electing a prime-minister etc) to not make it the main story.

3. sashi
Dev Batsya: What may seem trivial to you is hugely important for Nepal. Yes, Nepalis are responsible to take care of their house, but India is equally responsible to create a messy situation in this tiny country.  India created a trade blockade, changed the government at will, sheltered rebels, sustained monarchy,  pushed out monarchy (some of it was his own doing), let a rebel with an army rule the country, are stopping them from coming to power..  The list of Indian kartoot is very long..  Just now, India is puppet mastering the PM election circus...  So, how could India be irrelevant for us?

4. Rajashree Mishra
Dev Batsya,
Do you work at the Indian embassy here in Kathmandu or with RAW? Just got curious after reading your comment above.

5. KiranL
Which means you must work for ISI, #4. it's such a cliche to call someone an agent of this or that agency just because he or she supports one side or the other in the Great Game.

6. Dev Batsya
 The point here is the sense of proportion you attach to any piece of news.
I believe Kantipur could have reported this without making it the centerpiece of the day's news of the whole country. I thought that was very odd.
India's actions is deplorable, but the fact that they can get away with it tells you more about the sorry state of thing in the country today. Everyone in power and without power is trying to curry favor with it, and only if it does not work out they start crying "wolf". 
To be fair and honest, as Lal points out, Kantipur does owe its readers an explanation of what happened. In order to maintain journalistic integrity it should inform its readers, if it is really being asked to do the bidding of the Indian embassy. How else can the public know the real truth?
#4  If you cannot make a valid argument, at least do not make silly comments. 

7. sashi
Dear Dev:  I don;t disagree with your points in #6.  But still, the big bad wolf should not be excused  just because you forgot to close the chicken cage.    

8. Dev Batsya

#7. Agree with you, Sashi.

The issue here is much larger than any one newspaper.

It is the question of the rights of the citizens of one country to be able to govern themselves and preserve their sovereignty without direct interference from other more powerful neighbors. Kantipur could have presented the issue this way, but they did not.

So, the readers are left with the impression that if only Kantipur is treated better by India, it may be a good thing for the country; and should be the end of the matter. Actually, that may necessarily not be in the peoples├»┬┐┬Ż best interest; for Kantipur├»┬┐┬Żs interests, being a business corporation, may not exactly align with that of the larger interests of the nation.

That would be true for any other business corporation, not just Kantipur.

Sadly, in Nepal it has become acceptable and almost a prerequisite for politicians, and also for many members of the media and intelligentsia, to seek approval and support from foreign sources including India, UNO, NGOs ,EU etc  and do their bidding even if it goes against the larger interest of the nation and the people. Except for a few article including the above article by Lal, do you see anybody else protesting such activities? It is only when their personal interest gets adversely affected,then you see the loud protests by the affected party.

┬áOtherwise they could not care less, as long as they themselves are benefiting or at least not adversely affected by such practices. The issue with Kantipur may have been just one such example. Now that the establishment at Kantipur may have come to an ├»┬┐┬Żunderstanding├»┬┐┬Ż with the Indians, it seems they could not care less about what the public thinks.

As Lal pointed out in the article, their silence has been deafening, making  it harder for the public to know the truth.

How long do you think the influence of others including India could last, were it not also for our self-centered complicity in perpetuating it?

9. Nirmal
I agree with what Sashi and Dev said.
The Kantipur has suffered what thousands of nepali are used to who have to cross India for whatever reason(and their stories are not know to us). So, Kantipur paper trail is just a big version of how really Indian bureaucracy treats helpless nepali fellows.
I was stranded in Delhi airport by airlines staffs(not immigration) because for them my visa was not authentic(poor people could not have a student visa of the west according to neoindian culture), how horribly I was treated and the saddest thing is that these newspapers like Kantipur was not ready to listen to my version. Whenever I've a transit flight vie Delhi I have to see barbaries that my compatriots have to go through(finally, I know how I should behave before all this without any unethical deal and my karmaland also gives me protection in these cases). I wish I do not have to pass through these corrupt and immoral places where humans(like we nepali)are treated worst.
Ha ha ha last time an Indian bureaucrate in IG airport was after my dress up and insisted me to speak in seems that these Indians have forgotten to be men and decided to become "rich".

So, the day our common men are not subjected to these tortures, future of newspapers like Kantipur will be safe, If not they will have to follow on with their favors and contra-favors.......

10. prakas

Valid points! Hats off to Dev! I dont want to hate India because of our age old historical connection, my Indian friends, bollywood movies and music. But these petty tactics of India on Nepal drives me crazy, and i feel like going against them, by shouting against their cricket team,  supporting the movement in Kashmir!

11. SN 1

When the King took up a tough stance against Nepal's media in 2005, our media-men (and women) gave their life and limb for the cause of "press freedom". They fought back so hard that eventually the monarchy itself was abolished. Journalists, one hears, danced around in the Narayanhiti Palace living rooms, prancing over the royal sofas, the day the King vacated it. So great was their joy and sense of victory!

Now we have a Tyrant that works far more stealthily than the Nepali kings ever did. 19 days of loud protests were sufficient to bring down the last Nepali king. How many days and what kind of protests will it take to tame the new Tyrant?

12. SN 2

Moreover, our brave journalists, who played such an active and valiant role in ushering the Republic of Nepal, seem now to have lost their voices (save for this whimper from Lal). Where are their 'charka naras' and scathing pens? Where are the raised fists, the rallies and mass movements? Might we witness a day when the new Tyrant too has to vacate Lainchaur Palace and bow down before the Nepali people?

Or is our brave journos' valiance limited to bringing down Nepali leaders only? Do their voices only come out against Nepali kings? ..or politicians?

One can't help being reminded of an old Nepali saying... are our journalists just "ghar ko bagh, ban ko syaal?" So much gusto and fervor against an internal threat, but silent like mice against an external one?

The general silence of Nepal├»┬┐┬Żs media over the actions of this new Tyrant seems to indicate so!

13. SN 3

Of course, readers, I├»┬┐┬Żm sure, will be tempted to comment that India is no "new Tyrant". But let├»┬┐┬Żs admit it. Big Brother has never been as powerful over Nepal as it has become since the removal of monarchy.

Unbeknownst to many of us, it seems, JA-II was but merely a part of a larger process that took the Crown, Nepal's shree-pench, from Narayanhiti, across the street to Lainchaur and laid it silently down in Big Brother Sood's feet.

14. Mike
Going through all the comments, not only on this particular article, but for most of the others as well, I sincerely hope that someone in South Block and Lainchour and taking the pulse of Nepali people... whatever their grand design, it is not working and it is drifting the two people further apart... it is truly shameful tht a country that is becoming an important force on world stage has such narrow policy outlook and negative attitude... it is time the media take a stand on this and expose the tactics of India.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)