Collateral Damage: A Reporter Lost His Job

By Dinesh Wagle on August 5th, 2005 in Wagle Street Journal

Nepal One TV, an Indian channel, has fired a reporter who famously scooped a live fighting between the Army and the Maoists nearly 9 months ago. The reporter complains that the network did dirty bargain with authorities to resume its service banned in Nepal after Feb 1 royal takeover.

Nearly nine months ago, Phanindra Silwal was a hero. On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, he did a job that every Television reporter dreamed of performing. And his employer, New Delhi-based Nepali-language satellite channel Nepal One was in joyous mood. The channel promoted him from a stringer to the full time staff reporter and awarded him with a new contract that paid him on monthly basis. The station was proud of him and did everything to use (now it sees that was a terrible misuse) the ‘scoop’ to promote the interests of the station. Now, after some dramatic developments in the country, the scribe, unpaid for some of the works done before the scoop, is silently out of job. No one is talking about it and Silwal himself is afraid of revealing the details of how and why the station fired him.

UWB has learned that he has been threatened by the Indian TV station to be handed over to the army if he goes public about the removal.

Here is a quick background of the case. This is what UWB wrote about that incident in a blog dated Nov 17th, 2004:

“Nepalese satellite channel surfers went through an extraordinary television experience yesterday (Tuesday, Nov 16) when a New Delhi based Nepali language network aired shocking footage of deadly fighting between Royal Nepalese Army and Maoist guerillas. The video taken by a local journalist depicted armed guerillas, mostly young, in victorious mood after their fierce and four-hour long gun fight with security forces in a busy highway that links Kathmandu, the capital city, with the rest of the county.”

That video was a clear setback for the army or so it appeared. A few weeks ago, General Deepak Gurung, head of the Directorate of Public Relations (DPR), complained that the reporter was working for the Maoists that day. He demanded that the reporter be fired from the TV. “He passed the army’s information to the Maoists and was helping Maoists to commit war crime,” Gurung claimed in a press conference. (The reporter says he passed the information unknowingly.) “We can take the reporter to Hague as a witness of the war crimes done by the Maoists.”

Off and on air affair

As with every Indian news and current affairs channel, Nepal One was suspended from Nepali cable distribution system following the Feb 1 royal takeover. Many Indian channels were back on air on Jun 12 but not Nepal One. It was rumored that security agencies were against giving permission to Nepal One to resume its service because of its ‘biased and inflammatory’ coverage on sensitive issues. It was also rumored recently that the channel was holding talks, doing bargains with the authorities. Nepal One finally got into Nepali cable networks on July 7. [Nepal One started its service in March 2003.]

Now, Phanindra Silwal, the Dhading-based reporter claims that the channel successfully bargained for its service resumption at the cost of his job. “They agreed upon firing me for the service resumption,” Silwal says. “And they haven’t paid me for the last 8 months.”

Is the reporter a Maoist?

No, says one source that has worked with Silwal. “That was a mistake on his part to unknowingly pass the information to the Maoist guerillas. But after that scoop, he has filed some reporting that earned him threats from the Maoist side. He filmed a anti-Maoist rally taken out by the CPN UML cadres after the rebels killed UML’s Dhading district level leader Khin Bahadur Thapa. There they shouted anti-Prachanda slogans condemning the Maoists. That visual was on Nepal One and Silwal was threatened by the Maoists for working on behalf of the Army. In fact he was in crossfire. Army blamed him of being Maoists and vice versa.”

The source also revealed that the station is receiving pressure from the administration to fire some pro-democracy reporters and hire pro-regime journalists instead. “The information and communication minister and secretary at the ministry are working hard on that,” the source said. “And the channel will do anything to keep its business interest intact. The minister give assurances to some journalists associated with the newly formed pro-regime journalists’ group about possible jobs at Nepal One.”

4 Responses to “Collateral Damage: A Reporter Lost His Job”

1. samrat Says:
August 5th, 2005 at 2:58 pm

How can a journalist be present in the same site prior to the army-maoist action? If he is present that means the Maoists ahve told him to be exactly at that particular place and that precise time. This means he was working for the Maoists. That’s why he has been fired. Why not? Now, Nepal ONe is back on the skies basically because it cannot have reporters who work for terrorism. Can the CNN or the BBC hire reporters from the Al Qaeda?
2. chinta Says:
August 6th, 2005 at 7:58 am

surprise, huh?

Well, samrat punk, will you be able to prove that the stringer was Al Qaeda man?

He probably had some hints, but it is not a mistake to have some hints. It doesn’t make the reporter a Maoist either. There should be more proof.
3. Bloggernepal Says:
August 6th, 2005 at 5:47 pm

Phanindra Silwal Don’t worry and don’t Be quite . we are wiyh you. we know at that time u had done great job . you had not break any low of Nepal government and ethic of journalism . you had done your job . If I got that chance I prowed for My job. So plz say and and don’t try to hide the information. we are all with you.
4. Prabhat Says:
August 8th, 2005 at 11:13 am

Reporters in any part of the world enjoy certain privilege of being informed earlier than the general mass. Sources of the news call them or inform them about the possible news or events prior to the action. In this case too, Phanindra was possible informed by the Maoists about the clash.

There is no wrong on Phanindra’s part to be informed by the source. He brought out the war to Nepali public by his courageous act of filming the live firing. Nepal One shouldn’t have kicked him out. The channel has gone for the commercial interest rather than protecting a journalist’s right. This is condemnable. And if the army or authorities had extorted any pressure over the network to fire Phanindra, that too is condemnable.

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Pioneering blog from Nepal...since 2004.