These are not very good times for the relationship between the Nepali media industry and the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. They are at loggerheads, most recently, over a statement issued by the embassy on 27th blaming “certain print and television media” reporting “against products manufactured by Indian Joint Ventures in Nepal.” Past allegations of this nature, said the embassy, have been found to be false after thorough investigation by Nepal Government agencies.
The most damning part of the press statement is in the second paragraph. “The Indian JVs have informed the embassy that they have been approached by such media houses for release of advertisements and are being threatened with negative publicity if those requests are not met.”
Then the embassy provided us some background info on Indo-Nepal relationship telling us how much importance the JVs have in that.
“These Indian Joint Ventures make a substantial contribution to the Nepalese economy, employment, revenue to the Government and exports from Nepal. They maintain the highest standards of quality, which is proved by the fact that exports of their products are accepted across the globe. These companies are the pride of Nepal and a symbol of close relations between India and Nepal.” Then the embassy adds: “The baseless adverse publicity against the products of such joint ventures will not only hit the Nepalese economy and exports but will also deter new foreign direct investments into Nepal.”
Last, but not least, the embassy says: “We hope that concerned authorities will take suitable action against such unethical practices.”
Anything wrong with the statement? Nothing, had that been issued by a commercial company with business interests in Nepal. But the fact that it was issued by the official representative of the Republic of India in the Democratic Federal Republic of Nepal is troubling. The Indian embassy, under the able leadership of Rakesh Sood, in Nepal is not the East Nepal Company. Therefore it shouldn’t behave in a way that reminds us the East India Company. [Nepalis didn’t experience that, by the way, as they were never colonized by the British.] The embassy should have told the complaining JVs something like this: “This seems purely a commercial issue. You guys, being multinational companies, should know how to sort this out.”
But the embassy didn’t say that. It acted like the publicity wing of Dabur Nepal, the Indian company in Nepal, whose product- Real juice- got bad publicity because worm was reportedly found in its tetra pack.
The funniest thing is the company in question, Dabur Nepal, didn’t send letters or rebuttals to the media outlets that reported about its product.
The embassy’s views are highly exaggerated when it says the Indian JVs “are the pride of Nepal.” NO, they are NOT. Are Toyota, Coca Cola and Blackberry the pride of India? But yes Dabur, Nepal Unilever and Asian Paints in Nepal symbolize business relations (not close ties though) between our two nations. Dabur or Unilever are not in Nepal because they wanted to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. Profit is THE priority and that is paramount. We Nepalis do understand that and we are perfectly fine with that…as long as the companies abide by the rules, sell quality products and refrain from neglecting and compromising on quality. If Dabur goes, another company will soon come to sell us juice and hazmolas before we get thirsty and face problems with digestion. They are not distributing their products for free by bringing them from India. We also know that Nepal-India relationship is not based on such shaky foundations that rely on tetra-packs juices. We also know that if a company sells something substandard they are often reported in the free presses of the world. Nepal is no North Korea and no Myanmar (Burma) whose dictator General gets red carpet welcome in India. We have a free press, vibrant and very much functional, far more responsible than the Indian press DESPITE the fact that we are only two decades old. We are vibrant, responsible and functional especially when we are compared to some Indian papers that have more than 15 decades of history and experience. [The report of worm found in Real juice was first published by Naya Patrika, a daily tabloid. It was also carried by Sagarmatha TV, a news channel. Kantipur TV, not newspapers from Kantipur Publications, broadcasted a report on that on it’s late night news show, not regular and prime time news bulletins.]
It’s not unusual, though, for governments to lobby for the companies of their home country in foreign lands. That’s normal. Embassies are there to promote their country’s interests, including business interests, in the host nation. BUT that responsibility is not fulfilled by issuing statements with veiled threats. The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi didn’t issue such threatening statements against Indian media that wrote recently that Blackberry should abide by the Indian laws. Nor did the Chinese embassy in New Delhi threaten the Indian media for reporting about substandard Chinese toys in India. Diplomacy is not done by issuing statements. But Indian embassy in Kathmandu opted for a different path, the path of intimidation and highhandedness.
Thus the objection to the Indian embassy statement by a group of Nepali media on Sunday (29th Aug):
“Nepali media are free to choose their content and have fully utilised this right. We caution the embassy to respect diplomatic norms and values of press freedom,” said the media group in a statement. The signatories of the statement were: Nepal Media Society (print), Television Broadcasters, Broadcasting Association of Nepal (commercial radio) and Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Nepal (the umbrella organisation for community radio broadcasters). They cautioned the Indian Embassy not to “overstep its boundary.” The statement also reminded the embassy that the Nepali media operate under the laws of sovereign Nepal. The statement accused the embassy of libel. “To make sweeping comments on the Nepali media on the basis of news published about food products with corroboration from the investigation of Nepali government agencies is objectionable,” the statement said.
“On behalf of all the media outlets in Nepal, we deplore this objectionable interference of the embassy.” The joint statement has also cautioned the embassy from repeating similar “mistakes” and asked the embassy to issue an apology. The media organisations have also called on the government to issue a rebuttal immediately.
Then the Indian Embassy issued anther statement on the same day (29th):
The spokesperson of Indian embassy said the embassy was surprised by “the reaction by some media associations to genuine concerns expressed by it at attempts to elicit advertising revenue from Indian joint ventures by a few media organisations”. “At no point did the embassy refer to the media in Nepal in general. The reaction by these media associations would have been credible if backed by a condemnation of such unethical practices and an offer to discuss how to address the issue with concerned companies,” said the spokesperson in response to media queries according to Himalayan Times, the English-language Indian newspaper published from Kathmandu.
Then, on Monday (30th) some newspapers, including Kantipur, responded with editorials and interviews from various citizens of Nepal who condemned the undiplomatic act of the Indian embassy.
[While reading this one shouldn’t forget the recent tensions between the Indian embassy and Kantipur Publications that saw the former holding newsprint imported by the later at Kolkata port.]
One of India’s ‘greatest newspapers’, The Lies of India (sometimes known as the Times of India) reacted to the incident on its website yesterday reminding us the ‘great’ Joseph Goebbels. This is exactly the reason why I said earlier Nepali media are far more responsible and mature than some Indian newspapers that are shame to journalism. Let’s not talk about ethics to these morons who sell news space to corporate. Their ‘reports’ are full of mistakes, they don’t know how to spell names of people from Nepal they are mentioning in their reports and don’t know when the incident they are writing about took place.
“Six years ago, a section of Nepal’s media showed its dark side when it falsely attributed anti-Nepal statements to Bollywood star Hritik Roshan, triggering anti-India riots in the Himalayan kingdom,” the Lies of India (known occasionally as Times of India) wrote yesterday. The moron who wrote this completely forgot that the Hritik Roshan incident happened ten years ago, not six. Though the false statement wrongly attributed to Roshan was carried first by a fringe newspaper coming out from Chitwan, to say that the riots were triggered by the media is same as saying that Indira Gandhi was killed by coverage of Emergency by the Indian Express. [Sorry Express for naming you in the same paragraph with the Lies of India.]
The LOI further writes about Kantipur: “Smarting under falling circulation and dwindling revenue…” Now, this moron is acting as Audit Bureau of Circulation for Nepalis newspapers. But revenue COULD be decreasing because the Indian embassy has threatened the Indian JVs in Nepal not to give advertisements to Kantipur group. Dabur officials are already complaining privately that their product Real is losing market share to Rio by Nepal’s Chaudhary Group because they are not being allowed to advertise on Kantipur. The officials at the Pepsi were heard cursing His Excellency Rakesh Sood, the able ambassador of India in Nepal, for not allowing them to do business freely in Nepal and holding them ransom to fulfil His Excellency’s personal ego.
The LOI further says: “The campaign is an echo of similar hate campaigns in the past. In 2003-4, when a new media organisation announced the launch of a Nepali daily, the group led a similar smear campaign.”
The thick-head moron has no idea that the daily s/she is talking about is the Himalayan Times, an Indian newspaper run by Indians in Kathmandu, that wrote Buddha was born in India. I think even LOI would feel hesitant to print such lie regarding Buddha’s birthplace and the THT was condemned for such untruthful reports and backdoor entry of Indian investment in Nepali newspaper industry.
It would be childish to expect fair coverage from LOI so I am not asking why the LOI didn’t think it was necessary to put other side (Kantipur)’s view on a news report.
Finally, here’s a report in yesterday’s Hindustan Times about what our great democratic neighbour is planning. While reading this you will have to keep this fact in mind that NO Nepali newspaper is allowed to be circulated in Indian cities like Delhi and Mumbai where as almost every Indian media outlet from Delhi have physical or virtual presence in Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal. Despite such uneven relationship (in terms of media presence) India still thinks commercially run Nepali radios are threat to its security. What can you do to those who see things through distorted looking glass of their own paranoia?
[Indian] Govt to counter Nepali, Pak TV & radio
By Nandini R Iyer
New Delhi: The government will shortly set up FM radio services at the India-Nepal border in Bihar to counter the popularity Nepali channels enjoy in the region.
This comes soon after it moved to buttress the strength of Indian radio and television signals along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir.
The government last week cleared a proposal to set up FM radio relay centres in Bihar’s border districts of Bettiah, Motihari and Madhubani.
Nepali FM radio is very popular in the villages of these districts. “People are not able to tune in to Indian radio stations, but they are able to connect to Nepalese radio stations easily,” explained an official.
Security agencies have twice warned the government that Nepali FM stations could be misused by Maoists — or even Pak militants — for anti-India propaganda.
The information and broadcasting ministry recently approved expenditure of R100 crore to strengthen Indian transmission signals at the J&K border. “We need to be sure our signals are strong enough, and that they are stronger than anything beamed from the other side,” said a ministry official.
Apart from improving transmission and transformer capacity at the border, the ministry has also asked Doordarshan and AIR officials to plan and mount programmes on a regular basis to counter any foreign misinformation campaign, a senior intelligence official said.