Slur Against Media
The outrageous slur against the media and other political parties by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal during a public gathering at Tundikhel has exposed his personal mentality and that of his party. In an attempt to outshine his own colleagues by drawing more applause from his own henchmen, Dahal forgot to conceal his true self. He did not hesitate a bit to show his hatred for the free media and democratic politics. He descended to the level of warning the press not to write anything against his party—an open and ugly display of totalitarian mentality. Interestingly, the very next day they tried to mend fences because they did not wish to unmask their undemocratic face in front of the international community as yet. Baburam Bhattarai did clarify his leader’s gibe by saying that he did not mean to be rude to the media. But it was not said with conviction, so it failed to convince the media. Maybe Bhattarai would not mind letting his nemesis get some bad repute. Dahal himself has not yet mustered enough courage to admit the mistake.
Obviously, the Maoists will try to downplay their slur at the center, but the message from the former rebel chief will have a far-reaching impact all over the country. Local level cadres take their cue from what their leader speaks at the center. It is likely that they will now unleash a reign of terror against media people all over the country. However, it seems the Maoists already have a central policy to attack the opposition press. Even before Dahal spoke against the media, his cadres had been attacking journalists in Kailali district. Journalists Lucky Chaudhary, Hemanta Paudal have been displaced after facing murder attempts. They had written about a local temple and pond, which a local Maoist leader did not like. The situation has worsened to such an extent that over a dozen editors from the district have announced closure of their newspapers owing to threats and insecurity.
After Dahal issued an open threat from Tundikhel, fear has swept the minds of journalists around the country. If anything bad should happen to a single member of the press, comrade Dahal will be held responsible. During dire times such as now, we can do nothing but urge international rights organizations, press freedom organizations and all forces supportive of the freedom of expression and democracy to immediately pay heed to the worsening situation of media persons in Nepal. The diplomatic community in Nepal that has been strongly advocating support of the Maoists must tell them to stop intimidating the press. If the Nepali press fails to get national and international support, we believe our media will be gagged. We feel sorry to realize that in threatening the media, Dahal has followed the line of the infamous Tulsi Giri—chairman of the erstwhile king’s cabinet.
Editorial, The Kathmandu Post
June 1, 2008.