We don’t usually see political advertisements in our media in Nepal. No more so. In this season of historic Constituent Assembly elections, we are seeing some political advertisements in TV, newspapers and radios. Today CPN Maoist ran an ad on the back page of Kantipur daily. The ad (in the photo) uses a stanza from late Dharanidhar Koirala that talks about an energetic Nepali youth rising for the cause of republic. The ad, with a photo of a smiling Chairman Prachanda raising his both hands and waiving the crowd (not seen in the photo) says: “We saw others many a times, let’s see the Maoist this time.” (see the ad here on the newspapers page)
This is the first time an election is happening in Nepal in what can be termed as a true media age. We didn’t have this many numbers of FM radio stations around the country. We didn’t have private satellite (or terrestrial) channels. Today the reach of media has deepened like never before.
Then there is this code of conduct issued by the election commission that bars use of posters, wall paintings and banners, the traditional medium of electioneering. Some parties (Maoist and some Terai parties) have flouted the CoC at some places but by and large many parties have stick to the rules.
I heard an ad from the CPN UML on Kantipur Radio. A second before the ad, the Radio warns the listeners that they are going to hear a political ad. “The following is a political advertisement,” says the radio. As soon as the ad is finished, the radio again says that that was a political ad. Such notices are not attached with advertisements.
We have learned that the Maoist paid full charge for the advertisement which is pretty much expensive for Kantipur than any other newspapers. But the joke was: If they don’t win the election, they will take the money back by extorting!
Background: During the pre-1990 struggle-for-democracy period Nepali media was largely divided into two factions: those supporting the autocratic party less Panchayat regime (government-run radio and two dailies) and those that supported the movement for democracy (privately run weekly tabloids). Even after the restoration of democracy in 1990 and the introduction of first independent publishing house, the trend of weekly tabloids taking sides (supporting this political parties or the other) continued while the broadsheet dailies distanced themselves from such politically aligned reporting and coverage. Even now there are some tabloids that are either pro-Party A or pro-Party B while the broadsheet dailies are independent of direct party alignment. Even in such situation broadsheet dailies (especially Kantipur in which Maoist ran their advertisement today) come under attack from Maoist for not supporting them or working for the foreign forces or against the people. Just about a week ago, Prachanda launched a scathing attack against ‘big newspapers’ for intentionally writing against the Maoist party.