Two weeks ago news came of a death of a journalist in Jhapa. The cause of death was not immediately known but the Jhapa Chapter of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists quickly concluded that Yadav Poudel's murder was linked to a story on prostitution he had covered.
In Kathmandu and across the country there were angry protests. Journalists, media houses and facebookers condemned the killing as a cruel blow to press freedom and demanded stern action against the perpetrator(s). The prime minister, not to be left behind, pledged immediate action and said that the murder of a journalist was an attack on democracy and human rights.
Preliminary police investigation, however, ruled out Poudel's profession as the cause of his death. Apparently inebriated, Poudel had embraced the wife of the hotel owner and Yubaraj Giri, the would-be publisher of his paper who was also drunk, had pushed Poudel from the hotel rooftop in the ensuing scuffle. Intriguingly, Poudel's story on the prostitution racket run by Som Dhakal and his wife Manju happened in the same hotel from where he fell to his death, raising suspicion about the owners' involvement.
Many journalists suffer attacks because of what they write. This week, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked Nepal number six among countries where killers of journalists are not prosecuted. But every other scuffle in a bar, tea-house or local watering hole that involves a journalist is not necessarily a blow to press freedom.
Poudel may have been killed for the story he wrote, but if the murdered in question was not a journalist would the Nepali media have so easily jumped to conclusions? Maybe reporters themselves would have gone through the standard journalistic practice of cross checking evidence before dishing out a verdict. But journalists in Nepal consider themselves to be above the purview of professional scrutiny. They suffer from a false sense of moral superiority and are so self-obsessed, they make no effort to hide it. What else explains the ridiculously high number of headlines in dailies that read: 'Theft in Journalist's House' or 'Journalist's Bike Stolen' or 'Journalist Bereaved'?
The power and privileges that come with being a journalist have led most to think that they are an exclusive class of citizens who can get away with anything. Just look at the op-eds in any major daily, there is a real disconnect between the pundits and readers. Writers sway from one point of view to another from month to month and don't think readers deserve an explanation. Someone should read to them what they wrote last year.
They openly lobby in favour of certain political leaders while viciously lambasting others, they incite fear and spread cynicism. They shamelessly front as the public relations officers of politicians. Circumstances change over time and so can one's beliefs, but when writers exhibit an utter lack of core values, it becomes hypocrisy and double standards.
We know there is a problem when supposedly sane writers suggest we should not make a fuss over rule of law because those laws were made by status-quoists and don't deserve to be followed. We know there is a problem when in all these years not a single writer can muster the courage to question the use of violence as a political tool.
Most journalists lament that writing is not enough and they want to make the world a better place. Indeed, the world could do with some improvement, but here's the deal: writing with honesty and integrity is enough. We may not have to pass an exam and obtain a professional journalists' license, we may not have to go to the people every few years and seek their endorsement like politicians, but the least we can do is to be honest to ourselves and to our readers.
Perhaps writers can never be completely objective because all writing is inherently manipulative. But they can surely be honest enough to tell readers up front where their loyalties lie. At least they can spare us the shock of discovering that our favourite columnist is a card-carrying member.
1. Party Peedit
Brutally honest piece. This journalist will go far, if she is not forced to compromise her integrity half-way down the career lane or, alternatively, hounded by the Nepal Federation of Journalist office. Heavy burden on NT/Himal Media to see that does not happen. Please keep such fresh pieces coming, if nothing else to make NT a magazine one can look forward to every Friday.
20 APRIL 2012 | 10:58 AM NST
2. nepali cheli
Rubeena Mahato, you are one of my favorite Nepali columnists. Your analysis is so powerful and you are shattering the glass ceiling at the 'male-only club of journalism' one article at a time. I hope all the 'holier than thou' reporters and journalists in Nepal read this.
20 APRIL 2012 | 11:37 AM NST
Brilliant piece. Liked it very much. I have some additional observations of my own too:
1. Has anyone tried writing to Nepal's journalists? Or tweeting? Please let me know if you received a reply too. I think it is easier to get responses from a scientist or professor of Nobel-prize stature, but Nepal's journalists (well, not all of them - but enough to generalize) are so smug with themselves that they think responding will make them look "ordinary." I am not talking about responses to the nonsense that many readers write, but about questions and clarifications regarding what they wrote.
2. The op-ed writers. Oh dear. The salaried writers, many of who I don't even know what they are known for, many who held some position in the past and some who hold some academic degrees. Is it necessary to give them space every week? Don't they ever run out of things to write? We have too few pieces by subject experts like the academicians, researchers or scientists, but too many by people whose only job is to write. And what happens? Should these op-ed writers also share the blame for the collective state of the society? Each week, they spit this or that verbal phlegm on some section of the society or some politicians or some period of history and so on, but how can one forget that the writers themselves have been in very influential positions for a significant part of our nation's recent history? They were in positions capable of shaping up much of our society's mindset, and in fact by repeating the same things over and over for decades, they have succeeded in doing so. Could you do us a favor of a little bit of introspection, please?
3. There is something called a conflict of interest and full disclosure. If a writer has some formal or informal affiliations, the readers ought to know about them. For example, a shareholder in a company reviewing a range of products that his company specializes in, will probably be inclined to write favorably of his company's products. It is the duty of the writer and also the publisher to make sure that the readers are not misled, by providing full disclosure or trying to avoid conflicts of interest. In contrast, op-ed writers in Nepal's daily newspapers are personal media-managers to many political honchos. They are furthering certain agendas and doing so in the name of logic and reasoning, while in the background, the driving forces could well have been personal gains or a much bigger design. People who know of the writer's affiliation might well trash their writings, but what happens of the many readers who take what is published with utter seriousness? We have seen that a lot of our people are gullible enough to be swayed by propaganda and ready to fight and die for them. Can the writers escape by blaming others for the problems in our societies? And proudly continue to write every week?
4. On core values and beliefs: What to expect when Fulbright scholars who enjoyed the best of the best in the democratic and free world themselves are inclined in preaching to Nepali people that their betterment depends on a system whose set of values are neither democratic, not development-oriented. I think the American and other western governments should be more careful to make sure they do not export promoters of hate and backwardness to our country. The plague of intellectual decay could be very harmful to us.
20 APRIL 2012 | 12:31 PM NST
Excellent honest piece of writing. Your analysis is powerful and a blow to Nepali journalism circle.
20 APRIL 2012 | 4:21 PM NST
5. who cares
by the way, when journalists write something, do they write their mind or they consult with experts, someone will big brain?
one media, in particular, kept on repeating that agent baburam is a democrat, honest, capable .... but today he has shown his true color by disrespecting democracy, people by dumping second people's movement. ....
the biggest people's involvement, we may never see again, even agent puspa never dared to go that far........ there are more and more proof that this agent bhatterai is far more dishonest, phony than agent puspa ever was and is.... ... this agent bhatterai is all about propaganda may be cause of this, only talk and no action, agent bhatterai is not that popular among those who know him i.e. his fellow party men...
beware of agent bhatterai, he is a snake in a body of a rat.
20 APRIL 2012 | 9:10 PM NST
6. Caroline K C
Good job, Rubeena ! You are my hero, way to go. You wrote that, "They openly lobby in favour of certain political leaders while viciously lambasting others, they incite fear and spread cynicism." i.e. because they are cowards, they are liars and they depend on their political thug masters for a few bones. Rubeena, you must write the Truth. All coward politicians will tremble in your presence. The pen is much mightier than a few goonda Netas. The whole world will support you. Rubbena, be fearless for you have nothing to fear. Mr. Kunda Dixit, you are lucky to have someone like Rubeena, N T is a better paper because of her. We are watching you and we hope you will give this Star all the tools she needs to make Nepali women, ( read women, NOT men ), proud. Rubbena, many lives will be impacted by your writings, keep up the good work. A million thank you to you.
21 APRIL 2012 | 7:26 AM NST
7. Shanta Gurung
Excellent piece of work ! The time for a woman journalist to shine has finally arrived. N T should give you a big bonus and a reward ! I am your fan and I hope to read a lot more great reporting from you. More power to the women, its time to lead and stop following losers. Thanks !
21 APRIL 2012 | 10:38 AM NST
8. Ghimire prashanta
The most confusing part is to find out who is a Journal-east and who is the Journal-west.
21 APRIL 2012 | 11:36 AM NST
I love your column...you write right to the point...
21 APRIL 2012 | 8:18 PM NST
10. Anjali Shrestha
Rubeena Mahato - you have a lot of guts ! You should protect yourself ! The Maoist are known killers of their opposition, especially the journalist. How many journalists blood stains the hands of Dahal or Bhattarai. These filthy cowards. What are the NC,or UML or the Maoist doing today. Nothing ! They are trying but failing to clean up their own mess. These people are the main problems of Nepal today, they are not the solutions. With your power of the pen, you can bring justice Rubeena. We will root for you and support the world over. You are a true Neapli hero. Simply a great piece of work. Congrats to you.
22 APRIL 2012 | 5:50 AM NST
Where is the 'like' button? No. Make that "very much like" button!
22 APRIL 2012 | 11:53 AM NST
Spot on!! Where's the Share button??
22 APRIL 2012 | 4:52 PM NST
22 APRIL 2012 | 6:30 PM NST
14. Salil P
Ethical journalism is the call of the day. Yellow Journalism should be shunned. In a land where ethics amongst journalists is a rarity, things like these continue to prosper abetted. The writer deserves kudos for an honest piece.
22 APRIL 2012 | 9:44 PM NST
really good article. lets hope journalists stop merely rewording press releases and reporting news verbatim and start doing more investigations and asking tough questions of those with power (including themselves).
23 APRIL 2012 | 11:06 AM NST
16. satrughan sinha
accolades to the writer! everything she writes is true. However she misses a point. The reason why the journalists grovel before politicians and serve as their mouthpiece is simple: journalism alone, in nepal,cannot sustain the life of a journalist and his/her family (of course, barring a few privileged wannabe journalists who write as a hobby or for a puny reason of seeking admiration for their "knowhow" which they believe is out of the grasp of everyone else!) Trust me there are some who only know how to gloat and bloat.
23 APRIL 2012 | 12:24 AM NST
17. Bikas Pandey
There needs to be a Foundation of some sorts, to support journalist like Rubeena and her kind ! As long as they can remain independent financially, then they can take on the challange. Satrughan has hit the nail on the head. The pseudo journalist should not even count and the others that are dependent on the likes of Dahal or Nepal obviously are restricted from telling it like it is. If journalist can be fearless for their lives or have no worries of finance and are just allowed to do their job, the criminal elements can be driven out the politics. Now, that would be healthy and good for Nepal ! May be this sounds like a dream but then dreams have a way of becoming a reality as well.
24 APRIL 2012 | 8:50 AM NST
18. Satyajeet Nepali
"...but the least we can do is to be honest to ourselves and to our readers."
Well-written, well-said. Keep the faith. Hope you really live up to these values and make them more widespread in the journalism world of Nepal (which so far has been highly disappointing to say the least, as I point out in my comments to the editorial).
Very refreshing and encouraging to see that young journalists like yourselves are honest enough to recognize the hollowness and sham of it all, and bold enough to express the truth. I now hope you can and will do something about it.
Tell you what, have the courage to strike out and start your own media establishment in the service of your values... before you get co-opted and corrupted by the (tainted) establishment you now serve!
24 APRIL 2012 | 1:07 PM NST
Rubeena you deserve a facebook fan page!! keep up the fair writing.
24 APRIL 2012 | 12:32 AM NST
"We know there is a problem when supposedly sane writers suggest we should not make a fuss over rule of law because those laws were made by status-quoists and don't deserve to be followed."
That was in an op-ed in one of the prominent newspapers,and look at the headline from the same newspaper from yesterday.
Janamukti Party Leaders Warn to Hang Anti-Federalists.(Apr 24th Kantipur)
The newspaper editors by not criticizing such remarks, and instead giving it prominent space are encouraging the beliefamong certain people that it is ok to hang people who don't agree with the views supported by the editors. This is just a way to silence the population by fear and intimidation. The same tactics is employed by the Maoists by labeling individuals as enemies of the people.
In the ethnic states controlled by people with such views,it is very unlikely that the rule of law will be respected. People with different views will simply be hung or eliminated like in North Korea or Afghanistan under the Taliban.
25 APRIL 2012 | 7:35 AM NST
Criticising others is our specialty and we are surprisingly good at it. That is what Rubeena Mahato has done here and that is what I am shamelessly doing too.
She wants to collect applauds by taking moral high ground whilst completely ignoring the fact that some one has lost his life be it a journalist. For someone who has lost his life she callously says " apparently inebriated ". Are you also waiting for a fulbright schloraship before you show compassion to the fallen ones.
I am not a journalist and I did not know Yadav Poudel either. I do not know what his crime was but certainly he did not deserve to die in the manner he did. I know he is not the only one who has been brutally murdered.
At least we should try not to make name out of others tragedy. There are many other ways to do it.
25 APRIL 2012 | 3:28 AM NST
22. Dorji Tsering Sherpa
Ms.Rubeena Mahato deserve standing ovation for taking the bold step to show the mirror to the faces of the journalists. keep up the good work.
26 APRIL 2012 | 9:03 AM NST
23. bibek P
Thanks to Rubeena for having the courage to write this. It amazes me about the level of crap Nepali people can tolerate in their daily diet. Information is a part of diet today and if you scan the newspapers, there is more shit than food.
Look at what Aditya Adhikari wrote (mentioned by #20). Also look at what the high-caste elites of Terai CK Lal and Prashant Jha regularly write and still get away with, criticizing some people with names like "bahun gatekeepers." See what regular op-eds in Kantipur and Kathmandu Post are made up of. Read their editorials and news stories clearly siding with one faction of the Maoist party and their agendas.
Come on fellas, isn't it the time to take sides? When defenders of our democracy and rights are being attacked so vigorously, can we be just standing in the sidelines? That is what the Maoists did to a lot of people in the villages during the war. They were silenced, maimed, and decapitated and we did not say a word. Today, they are doing the same in Kathmandu. They are labeling people with different hate words and provocative statements. They are constantly pushing their agenda of terror.
When will we take sides and protect the people who will protect our rights? Is it enough just to say "great job Rubeena" or does it require some duty on our part also?
Here goes a famous poem by Martin Niemoeller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
26 APRIL 2012 | 1:38 PM NST
24. Santosh gurung
Rubeena Mahato, you have well kept the true spirit of a professional journalism. I observe you as being a neutral writer, and somehow respectful of others as well. The integriety part is the most which you have an agenda to talk, I liked it. Many fuss journalist are after a cup of RAKSI, a BEER, snack, a Dinner, a lunch or some bucks for any manipulation of the story and let the target victim of the story die in terror or crusify and vice versa. If some one reading it now just question yourself? Do they or not, For instance many journalist write just for accusing obession, they look for rival parties or persons to find the source of the news,views, they collect the pages of accusation, allegations and start blackmailing to be just a fantastic reporter with out border. I laugh at them and it is phony they are just there for making or earning their living through pluralism and double roles in society. Mostly the news and stories come up on the media are really deceptions, manipulations, edits and that's the lie made for make belief, they are constructions and cover alls. JUST JUNK, Media writers mostly cheat, deceive making readers confuse and belief their story as such a astounding discovery or research, inventions. They love scandals and try to make it a invention. At the other side they have powers to do so and they misue that.
You are speaking your heart as I understood and you are writing your honesty. I go with and have respect for carrer journalist and writers like you, may you be?. No fear factors, have to take risk for some positive change. WE all know and every writer or reporter knows how disgusting, stupid, deceiving, crook of crap he or she is for to report and abuse others. That's why I agree and call for news, views, or reporting corruption investigation desk should be a new twist chapter in CIAA framework.
26 APRIL 2012 | 7:18 PM NST
25. Mamata Sharma
Rubeena - you did a great service to the pride of Nepalis the world over by this piece ! You must keep the focus on the dirty politicans and their misdeeds. Every day these crooks, both male and females, that are in power postion are robbing and stealing the poor Nepalis blind. A female minister in today's news made headline for asking a 50 million bribe. That is really sick, disgusting and low. So, Rubeena you have a big job, you will need help, but you can do it. We will help as well. How can we donate funds to your welfare ! You need a website with pay pal accont so you can stay independent. Also, your Editors should back you to the hilt. I am inspired by you.
27 APRIL 2012 | 5:08 AM NST
26. WHO LOVES READING NT
Well. I read the article and all the comments. Good article, I agreed. BUT MAJORITY OF THE COMMENTS ARE FROM PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN OVERSEAS AND ACTUALLY NOT IN NEPAL.
I HAVE A FEW COUPLE OF QUESTIONS TO RUBEENA.
1. WHAT IS THE PROOF THAT WHAT EVER YOU ARE SAYING IS CORRECT AND YOU YOURSELF WRITE HONESTLY. MIND IT I HAVE BEEN READING YOUR ARTICLES FOR LONG.
2. WHAT ARE THE REACTIONS FROM THE FELLOW JOURNALISTS (particularly, those who write for dailies and for op-ed) TO THIS PIECE?
3. I HAVE NO IDEA, IF RUBBENA IS A JOURNALIST OR JUST WRITE FOR NT, BUT THE LAST QUESTION IS: HAVE YOU EVER TRY TO ACCESS THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES THAT NEPALI JOURNALISTS HAVE WHILE THEY WRITE.
Its obvious that no one is perfect but being so harsh on those who actually try to bring news to us.
I would say, its not journalists to be blamed for such writing but THE CULTURE WE DEVELOP IN OUR OWN SYSTEM BY CORRUPTING EVERYTHING AND TRYING TO PLAY A FOUL BLAME GAME.
I HOPE RUBEENA HAS ANSWER TO THIS. PLS DO.
thanks, Malik Somesh
27 APRIL 2012 | 3:42 PM NST
27. Samjhana Poudyal
Excellent one of the best analysis i have read after a long time. However, it is streatching the point a bit too much to state that : ''We know there is a problem when in all these years not a single writer can muster the courage to question the use of violence as a political tool.''
There are Nepali journalists that have questioned the use of violence as a political tool many times over. Some of the writings have been made in Nepali Times as well.
27 APRIL 2012 | 5:56 PM NST
The writer should practice what she preaches. She should first "cross check the evidence" before she makes the assumption that the dead was "apparently inebriated".
27 APRIL 2012 | 8:58 PM NST
29. mohan baidhya
#28: The Nepal police report states that the dead was drunk at the time of his death (news link). I think it is ok to trust the state's police report. What checking of evidence do you want from the writer?
29 APRIL 2012 | 5:06 PM NST
30. manish #26: i find it strange how instead of going after arguments, you go after who people are and where they are from. it is no more a secret in nepali media fraternity that in the cloak of independent analyst, many editors and writers operate as media managers of political actors. examples of this have been presented by some commenters above. they don't feel necessary to explain to the readers many questions hidden inside their motives, agenda and arguments. expecting them to respond to criticism or suggestion is plain stupid. it is right and necessary to expose them to their readers. it cannot be called blaming. thanks to rubeena for her service to the readers.
you sound like you are related to the article or the writer in some way. or maybe you are just jealous. this is a subjective piece; it may be right or it may be wrong. but i've found that rubeena has consistently maintained high standards of honesty and integrity in her writing. if you think you have examples to counter this (because you have been reading from long)- what prevented you from listing them?
29 APRIL 2012 | 5:39 PM NST
The writer's choice of the word "apparently" when describing the condition of the dead before the death is ironic because it undermines the very point she is trying to make about the lack of ethical journalism in Nepal's mediascape.
The use of the word places the writer's objectivity into question. Besides truthfulness and accuracy, objectivity is the third key element of ethical journalism.
Granted that not all columnists are journalists held to a code of ethics. Granted, too, that regular columnists and occasional contributing writers are allowed to inject a level of subjectivity (i.e., opinion) into the writing. However, Ms. Mahato comes off as sanctimonious in this column. She uses words that portray subjectivity, not objectivity.
If, in fact, the dead was inebriated before the death, why, then, is the need to use the word "apparently"? Plus, she doesn't directly quote the police as describing the condition of the deceased. (And I haven't even made any comment about the poorly constructed third paragraph.)
Note to #29: The news article you provided the link for doesn't say the deceased was "drunk". It merely says the deceased had been drinking. There's an important difference.
29 APRIL 2012 | 11:44 PM NST
32. Ramesh Kharel
Rubeena bahini, i love reading your opinion. Honesty and accountability towards readers and nation must be basic ingredients in order to become journalist and other professionals whosoever discharge duty in the pretext of govt authorities or freelancers. stay blessed.