The lead article in yesterday’s (June 2, 2011) Kathmandu Post begins with, “The UCPN (Maoist) on Wednesday unilaterally decided to end the two-layer security being provided to its leaders – a key demand of the main opposition, Nepali Congress (NC) – amid opposition from the party’s hardliners.” It goes on to explain that the security detail’s unregistered vehicles, which were once illegally seized during the Maoist insurgency, will be given up to the main government, that security will now be provided by the country’s established security forces, and concludes by providing details of political negotiations and Maoist meetings.
Another leading article from the same paper, “NC negotiators under CWC scrutiny,” reveals how NC party leaders’ performance in recent constitutional writing negotiations is under review by a NC party committee. Some insiders believe its leaders were too stubborn, while others think they compromised too much. Another, “Yadav in a tight corner in Sunsari,” is about a group of 12 hard-line lawmakers splintering from their once popular Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Nepal (MJF-N) party. The MJF-N is not as powerful in the Constituent Assembly as it once was, and worries are rising that its leader, Upendra Yadav, is being deserted.
Outside of these political brouhahas, few other stories get ink. One, “Babai valley, once an ‘ideal’ habitat, now a haven for poachers,” states that this valley remains a poaching ground for rhinoceroses and tigers, despite conservation efforts. And in another, “Swelling Saptakoshi still a threat,” the out of control Saptakoshi river is said to be eroding its shores and threatens nearby villages and settlements. Quoting Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar district, he’s all over the problem and has instructed people to work harder. Great advice.
Yesterday’s newspaper is not unique, and most Nepali news outlets follow a similar pattern of allegiance to the political hierarchy and pay little attention to on the ground and behind the scene stories. Understanding ordinary Nepalese struggles, concerns, and views is difficult to find in the Nepali press, as is a contextual framework from which to analyze the news and compare contrasting views. What is the social significance of certain political statements and events? How have certain policies affected ordinary Nepalese, and have they been a waste of capital? What of the failing constitution writing process on Nepali society, and how have minorities in a fledgling democracy without a constitution been affected by the ongoing political impasse? What of Nepal’s environmental problem and its social effects? These questions, and others, are rarely posed in Nepali media, let alone answered.
An Al Jazeera commentator was recently quoted in GQ magazine as saying, “If other networks are interested in the politician… Al Jazeera will always be interested in the politician’s driver.” The article goes on to say how Al Jazeera equally irks Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Western leaders. It seeks to find out how lives are lived and affected by national and international events, and intends to provide a voice to most sides. Al Jazeera is not perfect, and has been criticized for editorial bias in the past. The point being is that its journalism’s focus is bottom-up, not top-down.
The role of media is not to present a reality removed from average citizens’ lives and interests. It is to peer behind the social and political curtain and to reveal a social fabric at times uncomfortable with itself, to understand the machinations at work that are shaping society, and to try and understand and explain where society is going, and has been.
For these reasons, advocacy organizations and media centers like the Jagaran Media Center are so vital in weak media markets. They provide a voice for the voiceless, representing marginalized peoples who are under- or unrepresented in political and social hierarchies, businesses, and media. They aim to expose stories of ordinary lives and communities affected by ancient superstitious practices, and the hypocrisies at work within government. Where democracy is but a budding idea and practice, on the ground organizations serve to get unreported stories out, helping the transition, however long, towards a more functioning representative democracy.
In an interview following Arundhati Roy’s Come September speech, she concluded by stating her views on how best to live a life: “To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget…” For now, power and authority is respected far too much in Nepal, and those excluded from the hierarchy exhibiting strength of character are most often ignored. Affecting change is difficult here, but some dedicated strong few are on the ground, refusing to look away, and not allowing injustices of the past and present to go unreported. With time…
Posted By Corey Black
Posted Jun 3rd, 2011