Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Gai jatra

The cover photo of Himal Khabarpatrika's latest issue had this message: the press too has been infected with the low mentality of politicians. The fortnightly may have pointed out the need for unity through the photo on its cover but this was an irresponsible act that transcended the bounds of freedom. News along with photos must be based on fact and an event that has taken place. Himal's cover photo that involved the dignity of the monarchy is a naked experiment of imaginary photographic and artistic license. Leading personalities in the intellectual circles feel that such a photograph is an abuse of press freedom.

The press must be aware about this conscious bending of the truth by Himal which has overtaken politicians in trying to turn democracy into a monocracy. At one time, the editor of Saptahik Bimarsha, Harihar Birahi, was punished for publishing a cartoon that depicted the chief justice as a monkey.

The country's press code of conduct bars imaginary and artistic portrayal of news that affect the dignity of constitutional organs. The action taken against Birahi for contempt of court has become a precedent. Should those at Himal similiarly be punished for bringing out a photo containing the constitutional monarch? Intellectual circles are not only seeking an answer to this question but are also intrigued by the silence of the Department of Information, the Press Council and the Information Ministry.

Imaginary and doctored photographs are banned in Europe. Even in India, publication of such works has been prohibited because of the possibility of character assassination. In Nepal, special publications are allowed on the occasion of Gai Jatra when journalists have extra license to lampoon. But even on that day, nationalism, monarchy and the court are not dragged into controversy. What Himal has celebrated can be called 'Maha Gaijatra'.

Nispakshya, 18 January

The group photograph published in Himal Khabarpatrika not only tricked readers but also offended the journalistic code of conduct. This was some kind of an illusionary journalism and now everyone, from an ordinary reader to intellectuals and politicians, are saying that such an established publication is trying to show it can go to any extreme by doing something so irresponsible. Both the published photographs, on the cover and page 28, were doctored. Heads of the king, Girija, Deuba, Madhab and Pasupati had been pasted on somebody else's bodies. It is really sad as well as funny to see how this publication has degraded the king and the institution of monarchy by making the king join hands with those disreputable leaders who do not accept the integrity of the king and the royal institution. The purpose of the news may be good, but such fake photographs make a bad impact. Intellectuals say that Himal needs to apologise for dishonourng the monarchy. The palace should also make its objections public against such irresponsible journalism and issue a warning, say intellectuals.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)