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Conundrum about an Abducted Journalist

Conundrum about an Abducted Journalist


Life Threats to Nepali Media People
Mohan Nepali, Kathmandu

It has already been a month since the abduction of Birendra Shah, a journalist in Nepal’s Bara district. Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, a Maoist district activist, has been reported and documented as the chief abductor. The whereabouts of the journalist is still unknown.

Dozens of Nepal’s media news stories and commentaries appear to have heavily exercised to create a public opinion that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), commonly referred to as CPN-Maoist, is opposed to press freedom. The Maoist leadership’s refutation appears too thin amidst the heavy bombardment of accusations against them from all the pro-establishment mainstream media of the country.

Inhumanely forced to go through severe mental torture, abducted journalist’s wife Wednesday met Maoist Supremo Prachanda in Kathmandu with a hope to get his help in knowing where, how, and why her husband has been kept. Prachanda told her that his party would do all it could to make the journalist’s status clear soon. However, he stressed that his party was not responsible for the abduction since it was not his party’s policy to do so. He at least accepted the truth that criminals, no matter which party they are affiliated to, must be punished by the law of the nation. The leader looked puzzled about it. He was counter-questioning how a personal crime related to personal enmity at a village could be forcefully defined by national media as the party policy.

Although journalist Birendra Shah’s current situation has entirely been a conundrum, no investigative journalism has been practiced over it. Most of the media efforts regarding his abduction have been concentrated on the superficial who of the scandal. The initial information about who abducted the journalist can be useful in proceeding to gather further details. But the mainstream Nepali media spent their invaluable four weeks just on repeating like a parrot the stale news that Maoist party cadres abducted the journalist. After it was known that Maoist local cadres were involved in the abduction of the journalist, they had to search for the who within the who. Instead of glamorizing the vendetta-minded partisan political scolds regarding the abduction, they could spend their time on creating an immediate pressure on both the government and the Maoist leadership.

Nepal’s media power could not be utilized effectively to pressurize the government to be serious in searching for the abducted journalist and his captors. Human rights teams and media pressure groups traveled to the district to meet some eyewitnesses, local government authorities and political party cadres. They could not proceed further. This shows some existing problems of ritualism among pressure groups. Mass media’s own follow-up news on Shah’s abduction contained nothing new except political vituperations delivered by partisan leaders. This shows how difficult search-minded journalism is.

Due to life threats from fundamentalist and communalist death squads, it is likely that one was unable to launch any kind of in-depth investigation into the abduction case. But the Nepal government mysteriously remained a mere on-looker. This shows contradictions between the human rights paper commitments and the real-life practices of the Nepal government.

Dozens of working class people have been abducted by Terai’s criminal gangs. Murders under a ‘liberation’ tag have killed innocent compatriots in the Terai region. But the government has not been sensitive to people’s security and right to life. Nepal’s sleeping government (suspected by people of having nexus with arms and drugs smuggling gangs) has provided a vacuum for varieties of criminal groups and ruthless killers in the Terai region to operate openly. Amidst such a chaos there, separatism and communalism have also been imported to seemingly promote arms business.

In this situation, merely blowing political horns cannot be a way responsible journalists should adopt. They have ignored the fact that Nepal’s ideologically and morally bankrupt political leaderships, whom the external forces glamorize for their own interests, have caused today’s state paralysis and helplessness.

The longer the most corrupt and waste-headed leaderships rule the country, the more murders and abductions are likely to be there. Journalists should use their intellectual strength and advanced conscience to enable people to replace the worthless national revenue squanderers without required leadership traits. As long as existing irresponsible feudals and pro-feudalism lobbyists painted as ‘democrats’ are allowed to work for their individual interests only, people’s pains caused by their relatives’ murders and abductions will not attract their attention. So long as their rule continues as in previous centuries, there will be more threats to people’s and journalists’ life. As long as the mass media become the dominant voice of the powerful and the rich in the name of people, innumerable injustices and tortures will not be heard properly. Therefore, journalists should be interrogated by their conscience first.

Finally, it should be stated that we pronounced the name of Birendra Shah thousands of times on national media, yet we could not find him because we did little to search for him. We spoke more than we thought and acted. This is something from which we can learn a bit for future purposes.

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