Nepali Times
This Is It
Truths, half-truths and damn lies


As the country lurches from one scandal-of-the-week to the next, there is a sense that this is a government that only reacts to the media. There is always a controversy brewing up in national politics, and reporters feel safe in the knowledge that they don't have to go after the news, the news will come to them.

The politicians have figured this out, and know just how to spin a story so their pronouncements at the Reporters' Club get prominent placement in tomorrow morning's paper or the evening news bulletin. Not happy with that, top politicians are now all regularly writing lengthy opinion pieces in the op-eds: mostly faulting others, but never themselves.

Last month, Dalit lawmakers across party lines obstructed the House over the murder of Manbire Sunar in a remote village of remote Kalikot district. They demanded the government to punish the killers, a Dalit group closed down Dang to demand the dead man be declared a martyr and his family awarded the mandatory Rs 1 million compensation.

The Prime Minister, perhaps the most hapless in history, has been giving in to everyone's demand to save his coalition. He was quick to agree to this one too. Editorials and articles were written shaming the government and 'elite' groups for discrimination. Sunar's case fit nicely with the discourse of continued marginalisation of those at the bottom of the caste ladder. It had all the makings of a good story: a member of a historically ostracized community was 'lynched' in one of the most neglected parts of the country at a time when a new constitution was being drafted to stop precisely this kind of thing from happening. Some went even further to blame the state for deliberately hushing up Sunar's murder because it took place in a Bahun-Chettri dominated area.

All very normal, except that the truth was slightly more complicated than that. A human rights investigation showed Sunar and his murderers were both Maoists, they were good pals, often ate and drank together, caste was no bar in their past. On the day of the murder, both were drunk and got into a fight.

But none of this fit the accepted narrative, so the media, activists, parliament and government all fell hook, line and sinker. But the biggest failing was of the media, the role of which is always to exert skepticism, play the devil's advocate and an adversarial role especially in stories that just sound too pat. 'Everyone loves a good famine' is the title of a media book by Indian journalist P Sainath. One can say the same thing, it seems, about murder.

A credible INSEC investigation concluded that Sunar wasn't killed for touching the fireplace, and although derogatory casteist remarks were made during the drunken brawl, it was not the main reason for the murder. The case, tragic as it is, goes on to show again how easily an entire nation can be fooled by a few unexamined facts.

The mainstream media failed in its duty of cross-checking facts, and this is not an isolated case. A lazy media parrots the loudest voice, the hottest quarrel, the most controversial headline-grabbing incident. Over time such untruths hurt the media's own credibility, the culture of healthy skepticism and undermine democracy.

When facts are bent to suit one's argument, real issues are left to languish while public debate is distracted by issues that are not just misinformed, but plain wrong. The media then becomes a part of the problem, instead of offering solutions and showing the way forward.

1. Indra Dhoj Kshetri
However, even the INSEC investigation didn't rule out the caste factor in heightening the tension. It seems that the brawl went nasty after the Shahi brothers called him as DUM. Don't the writer think how derogatory such words would mean to the person who has since the ages undergoing the discrimination and now when the party says crusading against such discrimination, his so-called comrades are humiliating him? In fact, later INSEC report was highlighted by the media to defame the Dalit movement. As both parties were their cadres, even the Maoist party didn't come clean in this issue.
 It is clear for all that INSEC report would have been otherwise if the person killed were not a Maoist cadre or if he were a UML activist. And it is sad that whoever is killed is just portrayed as a drunkard and no crime is being acted upon him.
Kathmandu, Nepal

2. N Giri
As a reader, I read two pieces on media. 1. The news that Manbir Sunar was beaten to death for touching the fireplace 2. The INSEC investigation states that he was not beaten to death for that cause. Isn't it's media's duty to publish a correction on earlier story and say sorry? (Because it was reported by their reporter). Does media's responsibility ends after reporting what the reporter 'see or hear'? Nepali media are as irresponsible as anything else in our country.

3. Sagar Panthi
It is very unfortunate that even the mainstream media are are untrustworthy to this height. Who are we to believe then? Rubeena Ji said it all.
I think it is better to report a true uninteresting news than a hundred interesting false news.

4. Rajaram Singh
It is not only the government and the politicians that appease the activists and the so called civil society people but the media as well.  The media prop up "the brokers "among them, and the leaders  then prop up the same brokers  as if they represent the community.  It is the importance media give them which convinces the ordinary people to fall in line behind them. The poor  people gets punished for what these leaders have been saying and doing.
Isn't it high time that the media shun these so called analysts and civil society brokers  who are attached with parties and INGOS , carrying with their agenda to more independent ones.All that glitter are not gold.

5. jange

A group of criminals went around doing murder, loot and extortion claiming that they were building a new (better??) Nepal and the NT along with lots of others beleived it and still continues to believe it.

This is insignificant in comparison.

6. Narayan Thapaliya
This is the reason why i do have no belief in newspaper... i have had a personal experience with it.They just wanted to publish a news....don;t really care abt the truth. Damn

7. jange

Why all the fuss?

Newspapers are not obliged to publish the truth. It is a business. And as such it publishes what it thinks will sell its product and try and maximise its revenue, most of it coming from advertisers.

If you believed what the media told you then that is your problem. As the saying goes- "Check your ears before running after the crow."

8. Nabin Raj
I have heard rumors about INSEC in the past about its close ties with political parties. So its report can't be called credible either. Have you verified INSEC report by talking to the locals? If not, your story is also damn lie.

9. Mr. Reader
Kudos!! good one......we have rights to correct information!! and you just provided us one keep up the good work.....what the heck is largest selling vernacular reporting  us ??

10. SN

"The case, tragic as it is, goes on to show again how easily an entire nation can be fooled by a few unexamined facts."

=> Absolutely true also of the media's role in hoisting and foisting the 'naya sambhidhan' and 'naya Nepal' agenda on the entire nation!

"The mainstream media failed in its duty of cross-checking facts, and this is not an isolated case."

=> Bullseye! It has been going on for years, most egregiously during the 2005-06 period.

And yes, over time the 'untruths' become so ingrained that facts are twisted to fit the (untrue) story. This incident is but a natural outcome of the 'half-truths' and 'damn lies' that the media force-fed the public in yesteryears. Ms. Mahato, if you want to solve this problem, go to the root of the Lies!

Of course this is not an 'isolated case'. Ms. Mahato, blind and biased journalists like yourself are only waking up now. 10 years ago what lies did the media spread about the Royal massacre? Has it ever gone back to apologize for wrongly accusing the innocent for the murders???! Truth is clear now and yet no one speaks. Wah, wah naya Nepal! Hoisted and foisted upon us by a raucous and rancorous media!

11. B
Reminds me of CK Lal's column on this. He concluded that this particular killing did not become the reason of bandhas, window-smashing and railing-breaking because the killing took place in a Khas-dominated region. And like always, we have to read such racist articles and quietly accept, because after-all- this is the "new Nepal."

A week later, the same daily ran a piece by Abhay Shrestha, a "new Nepal" propagandist otherwise. He mentioned of numerous cases of atrocities against the Dalits, a fair share of them happening in Terai. Not surprisingly, contrary to the propaganda, these cases from the Terai were almost invisible in the public sphere.

Around the same time, the poorest of the poor in Terai were dying because of lack of winter clothes to fight the cold. The "elites" and "old bourgeois" people from the Hills were among the first to help the people in need.

Based on these incidents, one'd expect someone to write a more racist backfire to CK Lal. Thankfully noone did- and that is why our society is still safe from a militant racial conflict. But this is not sustainable because it is based on a silent acceptance of the attacks and propaganda. At some point, this will reach a tipping point and the fire might engulf us all.

The media and citizenry have immense responsibility today- to be more judicious, to foster cooperation, understanding and solve differences. If half truths and damn lies continue, we have a sad future.

12. Upendra Bahadur Thapa
The word begins with impunity. Maoist killer of innocent lives and looter of Nepal by the name of Prachanda needs to hanged in Tundikhel. His partners in crime deserve the same fate. Look at the lawlessness in Nepal. Where is the value of a human life. But who is going to bell the cat. Its a shame that Nepal cannot lay claim to one honest man or one brave man that can wipe these communist thugs from the face of Nepal. If you want to change Nepal, then hang the current leaders. Sheik Mujibur Rehman was shot and killed by the people of Bangladesh. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in Pakistan. Recently, Gaddafi was killed in Libya. Mubarak of Eygpt may also go to the gallows. The past President of Isreal and the past P M of Isreal have been indicted and now will rot in jail. How proud must the Isrealis feel. This is how Democracy works. Its only the people of Nepal who can build Nepal. Its not the corrupted leaders of UML or Nepali Congres or Maoist or Madhesi parties. They are all hand in glove. They will bleed us Nepalis to death. So, its time to tackle the problem head on. No more impunity. If that means a war against the current establishment so be it. Desparate times requires desparate measures.         

13. Paul Krugman
The only good Maobadi gunda is a dead Maobadi gunda. If more of this type of thing could happen we could clean up the country and start again.

14. Saroj Gurung
The world of media in Nepal is like a labyrinth of webs. It might lead you to the fact or to the false. The job of media is to write the truth and in Nepal, where there are lots of people who likes to have controversial chit chat rather than searching for the right fact is always misleading. Even the medias are drawn to it given that they have no option rather than listening to it. 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)