Media functioning as party mouth pieces train timidity and docility rather than inspiring initiatives and innovations. Political messages in Nepal are put to severe tests and strains because of the overwhelming domination of party-run media. So deep is the presence and penetration of the party press across the country that to stress the issue would only be to underscore something the public is well aware of. There is a sense of “us versus them” mentality in the political landscape when it comes to relations among the various political parties. Political sloganeering, fiery tit-for-tat speeches and party pamphlets serve by turning the party cadre into militants often taking recourse to violence. Party mouthpieces only aggravate the situation by factionalizing the issues facing the partisan media than just condemning their act.
Party mouthpieces have their own woes because of lack of public trust. They have only a few thousand copies in circulation in the case of the print media, usually distributed to party members. But they are no means in-house publications. Their lack of credibility is indicated by the fact that even members of the concerned parties give the mouthpieces short shrift by way of attention and respect. They devote more time to what other media are carrying and saying. Politicization of the media and political prejudice has their consequences. The professional and political interests of media associations get blurred when they expand their mandate to interpret a situation in the name of organization they represent. Such actions erode public trust in them. (Kharel, 2010:76)
What it boils down to is the credibility is to sovereignty to a state. Relentless efforts to strive for professional standards, including impartiality, will credit the Fourth Estate with the description it seeks to assert for itself. Credibility is the media capital, which is so essential to avoid crisis of audience confidence. Media electing to practice their own brand of journalism serving to an orgy of propaganda become handmaids to political parties. That may partly explain why, for instance, leftist groups in Nepal do not condemn Stalin’s atrocities even two decades after the disintegration of the Soviet Union or Pol Pot’s cruelties and massacre in Cambodia. (Kharel, 2010:80)
Newspapers in Nepal devote little to doing profiles on politicians and interpretive stories on issues, ideologies and individual personalities and political parties (Kharel, 2010:116). Leader’s passion for publicity is overtaken only by their hunger. Every relevant and irrelevant occasion has made politicians talk about politics, lowering the seriousness of the occasion and the content of the speeches because the forum is also a message and unfortunately that also is covered by the media.
The two inseparable parts of today’s democracy, Multiparty politics and press freedom, contribute together to strengthen democratic values and practices. The relationship between the political parties and the media or the press itself is quite complex and interesting.
We all know what a political party is or a press freedom means. Press freedom is the state where not even the political parties could put a barrier or restriction over the press. However, in reality we find that the practice is quite different than what we learn in principles. In Nepal as well, the political parties are seen to be involving in trying to control the media and manipulate the media messages.
There are many journalistic organizations that are well known for their political identity like Nepal Press Union, which is supported by Nepali Congress, Press Chautari Nepal backed by CPN-UML and Revolutionary Journalists Association (Krantikari Patrakar Sangh) backed by UCPN Maoists. Although these organizations does not claim to be the sister organizations of the respective political parties, their affiliation can be understood by the programs and activities they perform. These organizations usually conduct press meets when the leaders from the respective party are on visits to certain districts, hence, providing a platform for the leaders to interact with the journalists.
However, there are also some media that are considered as the authentic mouthpieces of the political parties in Nepal. Most commonly, the weekly tabloids are considered as the mouthpieces and although they claim to be objective, they have specific target group with specific political ideologies. Some of the examples of such papers are Chhalphal, Dristi and Budhabar which are close to CPN-UML although the party has its own authentic mouthpiece which is Navayug. Similarly, Tarun and Sanghu are biased towards Nepali Congress. Also the different fraction within the party have different media they control and not only big but the small parties as well have newspapers to spread their agenda. (Indreni, 2015)
Party papers are under iron- fisted centralized control. This riot of press bias has contributed to the gross deficit of public trust in the Nepali media that are largely becoming a political base for groups of different hues and stripes. Bias is an intractable problem that undermines the Fourth Estate’s status as an anchor of public confidence. (Kharel, 2012:290)
Many captains of the Nepali media industry find their ideological closeness and personal proximity to prominent political parties and personalities a binding ground for steering their media to keep pace within and deepen the ties. Nepali weeklies go to the whole way while the others, dailies and larger broadcast channels, exercise restraint. In principle the partisan press feigns enthusiasm for professionalism; in practice, it fosters partisan fiefdom without a trace of guilt but with only a claim of ‘mission’. The black comedy of prejudice corrupts journalism. (Kharel, 2012:290-291)
Politics is the dominant theme of the Nepali news media in general, particularly the daily and weekly papers. But media content analyses are extremely rare in the country. Regular content analysis of the media carrying information and functioning in different patterns and ownerships would be some of the interesting topics for such studies (Kharel, 2010:234). A content analysis of a select group of newspapers published from Kathmandu Valley, with the purpose of finding the presence of political news and views in the same is done by P. Kharel in his book Political Communication, (2010:234-249).
Media and party politics have become the synonymous in the present world of journalism where there is no checking and boundary of publishing the newspapers in the name of freedom of expression. The main objective of this study is to analyze how the media has been used by the political parties as their mouth pieces. Another is how the partisan media is flourishing day by day in the Nepalese journalism and what sorts of contents they use. Similarly, it also aims on how the news media are manipulated and lack professionalism and originality while running after the parties and their ideologies.
As I was assigned to analyze the situation of media and party politics, I have conducted the method of content analysis to do the study. The three weeklies are selected for content analysis. They are Deshantar, Drishti and Mahima which are popular for the partisan media in Nepalese journalism. Deshantar is published on Sunday, Drishti on Tuesday and Mahima on Thursday.
The study is limited to the month of Mangshir only. The edition of one month that means four editions of Mangshir, 2071 have been gone through for this study. Only the contents of the front page of these three dailies of one month are analyzed. Main news and other political related news are taken for the study. The study is done on the basis of how the respected political party is using the media for their own interest and in a manipulative way.
Tabulation representation of political news coverage with headlines on the front page of weeklies on one month:
Tabulation representation of Deshantar Weekly with headlines: (Table 1)
|Date||Totalnews||Total main news||Total party news||Remarks|
|Mangshir 7||7||१. सार्कमय बन्यो नेपाल||२. पुर्वान्चलहरुको पार्टीमा भाँडभैलो३. कांग्रेस-एमालेको प्रस्तावमा मधेशवादी दल सकारात्मक
४. हात्ती छिर्यो पुच्छर अड्क्यो
|Negative tone for Maoist, Positive vibe for Nepali Congress and CPN-UML…|
|Mangshir 14||7||१. सहमति कि प्रक्रिया? निर्णायक मोडमा दलहरु||१. माओवादीको अवसान रोकिएन फुटको शृंखला जारी२. प्रधानमन्त्री कोइरालाको कुटनीतिक परिपक्वता
३. २४ घण्टा पनि नटिकेको उत्साह
४. भेट्न नपाउनेहरुको रुवावासी
|Satyr to the Maoist Party, Glorified the act of the Prime Minister as he belongs to Nepali Congress, a bit negative to CPN-UML …|
|Mangshir 21||8||१. सभाध्यक्ष नेम्वाङको अग्निपरीक्षा सुरु||१. ओलीलाई प्रधानमन्त्री बन्न हतार२. सुनिलविरुद्द पशुपतिलाई गुनासो
३. कांग्रेस केन्द्रीय समिति बैठक मंगलबार
४. पार्टीमा फेरि बबाल गर्दै बाबुराम
५. अस्तित्व रक्षाको भिख माग्दै विप्लव
६. कांग्रेस भात्रृसंस्था महाधिवेशन अन्योलमा
|Negative tone to CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist and Biplav Maoist, news related with Nepali Congress has been prioritized if it does not have so much priority, words are used|
|Mangshir 28||8||१. प्रचण्डको कुनियतले सहमति कठिन||१. १० करोड जम्मा गर्ने यस्तो काइदा२. एमालेमा महासचिव भूमिकाविहिन
३. कांग्रेसले माघ ८ मै संविधान जारी गर्न अग्रसरता लिने
४. गच्छदार र यादवको दुरी फेरि बढ्यो
५. विप्लवमाथि कसको लगानी
|News related with Maoist are of negative vibes|
Tabulation representation of Drishti Weekly with headlines: (Table 2)
|Date||Total news||Total main news||Total Party news||Remarks|
|Mangshir 2||8||१. बंकरबाट फर्किएपछि म्याद सार्ने प्रचण्डको प्रस्ताव||१. एमाओवादीलाई एम्बुसमा संविधान२. सहमतिमा आउन ओलीको आग्रह
३. धमिलो पानीमा माछा मर्ने दाउ
|Very much satirical words used for Maoist used to give the negative tone.|
|Mangshir 9||8||१. दुर्घटना निम्त्याउदै २२ दल||१. जनतालाई धोका दिंदै प्रचण्ड-बाबुराम२. संविधान नआउनेमा मात्र माओवादी जिम्मेवार
३. गभर्नरले निमोठे एमालेको घाँटी
४. वैद्य माओवादी फुट्यो
|Blaming only Maoist for blocking the way to draft the constitution on Magh 8…|
|Mangshir 16||१. सहमतिको लागि राष्ट्रिय प्रस्ताव||१. जलस्रोतमा एमालेकै बदनाम२. कालोसूचीमा एमाले सभासद्
३. समयमै संविधान जारी गर्न जुट्दै एमाले
|As if only CPN-UML is showing the initiation to draft constitution on Magh 8…|
|Mangshir 23||8||१. मघ८ मा एमाले-कांग्रेसको अग्निपरीक्षा||१. सक्कली र नक्कलीको पहिचान संविधानसभामा हुनेछ: ओली२. वैद्यलाई भाग चाहियो
३. एमालेनै बने गभर्नरको शिकार
४. आईजीपीलाई महराको धम्कि
५. उद्योगमा सरुवा आतंक
|The statements of K.P.Oli is glorified so much…|
Tabulation representation of Mahima Weekly with headlines: (Table 3)
|Date||Total news||Total main news||Total Party news||Remarks|
|Mangshir 4||8||१. पार्टी फुटाउने बहाना खोज्दै विप्लव||१. काठमाडौँका तीन नेता निलम्बनमा२. हरायो माओवादी बैठक
३. अकर्मन्यतामा विप्लव
४. आफ्नैले स्वीकारेनन् सत्ताररुढको प्रस्ताव
५. सक्छौ भने संविधानसभा परित्याग गर
|Biplav has been criticized in negative way a lot…|
|Mangshir 11||6||१. क्रान्तिकारी पाइला हचुवाको भरमा चालिदैन: वैद्य||१. झुटको प्रचार नगर्न शाहीको अपिल२. संविधानसभा छोड्न प्रचण्डलाई दबाब
३. जयपुरी एमाओवादी चिर्ने दाउमा
४. मोदी भेटेपछि नारायणकाजी बुरुक्क
५. माओवादीमा फुट वा विद्रोह
|More related with Baidhya Party…|
|Mangshir 18||6||१. संविधान निर्माणभन्दा सरकार निर्माणको खेल||१. एमालेमा ओली क्याम्पमै असन्तुष्टि२. मंग्शिर २१ मा ७५ जिल्लामा ज्ञापनपत्र बुझाइने
३. बाबुरामद्वारा केन्द्रीय समिति विघटन माग
४. देशभर कम्जोर देखिए विप्लव
५. पार्टी विभाजन र एमाओवादी दायित्व
|Much news is related with the Maoist…|
|No Paper got published on this day||–||–||–||–|
Content Analysis based on the above tables:
Deshantar is a weekly paper. While analyzing the news covered by it on one month regularly, it seems that it is very much bend towards Nepali Congress. On Mangshir 7, the main news is about SAARC in which the role of Nepali Congress is glorified at the time of SAARC. Three news related with the political party are published on this date out of total 7 news published on the front page. Among them, one is about UCPN-Maoist and others are one of Nepali Congress and another is of CPN-UML. Here, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML news have positive vibe whereas the news of UCPN-Maoist is presented in a negative way. Similarly, the edition of Mangshir 14 has published one main news which is about the parties at decision making point in agreement or process and three party related news which almost contain the news about Maoist, Madheshi Party and Rashtriya Prajatantra Party and Nepali Congress out of seven total number of news in the front page. The news is mainly focused on the positive role of Nepali Congress and is somehow not supportive in case of other parties. Similarly, the edition of Mangshir 21 has total number of news is eight. Out of eight, there is main news which is about the role of the Subash Chandra Nembang, the chairman of the 2nd Constitution Assembly. The news is covered through the angle of giving compliments to the chairman for upcoming steps. There are six party related news in which one is about CPN-UML, one is about Rashtriya Prajatantra Party, Two are about Nepali Congress and two are about Maoist. Among this news, news related with the Nepali Congress is covered in positive way whereas news of other parties is framed in negative angle. Likewise, the last edition of that month, i.e., of Mangshir28 has covered total number of eight news in the front page. Among this there is main news which is presented in a satirical form to Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the leader of UCPN-Maoist and Subash Chandra Nembang, the chairman of 2nd Constitution Assembly. It is like the news is trying to give the suggestions and advices to them to have their role in CA as if they are not having their role. Talking about the other party related news; they are also somehow biased politically. Among five party related news, the news Of Nepali Congress is focused on its attempt to draft the constitution within Magh8 at any cost whereas it satyrs other parties on its coverage like to Maoist, Madheshi parties.
Drishti Weekly’s contents of front page are also related more with CPN-UML’s news which has been covered in a positive way in comparison to other party’s coverage. It seems very negative to the UCPN-Maoist. Almost out of total eight news on the front page in its every edition of the month Mangshir, all the news is related with the political parties. Besides that there is other party politics related news as well. On Mangshir2, it has covered the main news on the proposal of Prachanda to add the date for drafting the constitution after returning from the bunker. This news is framed from the angle of what are the strategies of Prachanda and his party behind this. It is presented in very negative tone from the opposition angle of the respective party. Other news is also related with the Maoist which was also about the role of Maoist in the draft of CA. It is covering in the sense that CA has been blocked because of the UCPN-Maoist. And other one is about the CPN-UML. This news has been covered in the tone that it glorifies the act of K.P.Oli. It says that Oli is requesting the UCPN-Maoist to come into agreement. It is also satyring the CPN-Maoist in other news. Similarly, the edition of Manghir 9 is also carrying news about the difficulties on the way of drafting constitution on time because of the UCPN-Maoist and other 22 parties. That is covered as main news and there are other two party related news among eight total news published on that day in the front page. One news is about the UCPN-Maoist which is framed with an angle that Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai, the leaders of UCPN-Maoist are betraying or cheating the people by creating obstacle on the way to constitution. It is presented as only CPN-UML leaders especially Oli is more dedicated for drafting the constitution and UCPN-Maoist is blocking the way. Similarly, the news related with CPN-UML is covered as main news on the edition of Mangshir 16. It is also about the attempts of the respected party for Agreement with the opposition in coordination with Nepali Congress. And other news is about the attempts of CPN-UML to draft the constitution on time. The news coverage is from the angle of CPN-UML and its positive steps for drafting the constitution. Likewise, there are eight total news coverage on the edition of Mangshir 23 in the front page where five news are related with party politics including the main news. The news is mainly related with the CPN-UML. K.P.Oli is focused in most of the news. Only his bites are given almost in all news. Beyond those others bites are not found in the news.
On Mangshir 4, Mahima weekly has published total eight news in the front page. Among this seven news are related with political party including main news. Almost all news is related with the Maoist. The news angles are framed from the related party. Similarly, there are six total news covered on Mangshir 11th‘s edition on the front page. And all the news is related with the party politics. The main news is about Biplav. The news is somehow angled as the compliments to him and his party. Other news related with Biplav is also published on the same day on the same page. That is framed as he is seen week all over the country. He is presented in a sympathetic way. Besides this, other news is about CPN-UML and another is about UCPN-Maoist. That news is also carrying negative vibes. Likewise, the main news of Mangshir 18th‘s edition is about the second Constitution assembly but is angled in different way. It is framed as the parties are more involved in the game of government making rather than constitution making. The leading parties are criticized and somehow blamed. Out of six total number of news, almost all six are related with the political news including the main news. Other news is related with the Maoist party. The edition of the following week of the same month does not get published.
After having the content study on the political news coverage on the front page by the weeklies; Deshantar, Drishti and Mahima, it can be said that all those weeklies are the mouthpieces of certain political parties directly or indirectly. In other words, it can be said that they have been used as propaganda by the respective parties to disseminate their own opinions rather than news as whole. After analyzing the news coverage both main news and other political news, it seems that Deshantar weekly is more bend towards the Nepali Congress, Drishti weekly towards the CPN-UML and Mahima weekly is attached with Maoist. With respect to the parties, the weeklies have angled and framed the news in their own way. They have not followed the professional way of news media while covering the news. The news of other parties are highly criticized and presented in negative way whereas the news related with their own party are highly highlighted and prioritized. Their news almost carries positive vibe. The coverage is highly manipulated destroying the facts, truth, accuracy and information from the both sides. The information is one sided and monotonous. Bites are very few and almost all the bytes used are of the same party’s representatives like almost all the bytes used in the Drishti for that month are of K.P.Oli, the leader of CPN-UML. There are no bytes of others besides him. Some news is also about unnecessary issues. Almost all news is glorifying K.P.Oli in Drishti and UCPN-Maoist is highly criticized by it. Most of the news is related with parties or politics. Main news is almost about the news which emphasizes the positive vibes of the respected party. Mahima weekly is more inclined towards the CPN-Maoist. As K.P.Oli in Drishti, it is more emphasizing and glorifying the views and opinions of Baidhya, the leader of CPN-Maoist and highly criticizing Biplav in almost all edition of this month. Similarly, Deshantar weekly is focusing the issues of Nepali Congress rather than others. There is no regularity in its publication like Mahima is not published at the last week of that month. Headlines also tell about the news how much they are biased and manipulated.
These weeklies can be considered as mouth pieces of the parties because the words that are used, the angles from which the story is framed, placing, lengthening all are responsible for this. Political news is not covered in the national level but only from the party’s point of view. Professionalism and originality is highly lacking. They are provoking partisan media as a whole.
Media especially the weeklies have become the mouth pieces of the particular political party. They are disseminating only the positive news related with the respected party. Such mouth pieces and news media related with the party politics are encouraging and guiding the media to do the journalism based on manipulation and illusion which is not a professional journalism.
The customary line of action for partisan pens would be to a shop for anything to lash opponents with and to summon any semblance of argument to defend group members, driven by misguided energy and loyalty while dispensing with professional honesty. Society, with its interminable varieties of people and settings, ought to be reflected in all its diverse aspects in the media, without which pluralism does not echo and democracy cannot find its moorings.
The party politics in media hampers the two basic components of media ethics that are, objectivity and balance. The politically aligned media could never give unbiased and objective news. Both the sectors are hampered whenever journalists do politics or politicians do journalism as political biasness results in decreased accuracy, balance, creativity and objectivity of the news and reports. The political biasness or alignment is seen more on weekly tabloids than in national dailies.
Journalists, as any other human, are allowed to have their own political ideologies and beliefs; however, they are not allowed to do politics and journalism at the same time. Although involvement of party politics in journalism or vice versa might have some good parts, it is never acceptable as it endangers objectivity, neutrality and credibility of the journalists which are considered as the most basic principles a journalist should have.
Indreni, 2015. Party Politics in Nepali Media. Retrieved on 20th January, 2015 from http://bossnepal.com/party-politics-nepali-media/
Edition of weeklies; Deshantar, Drishti and Mahima of the month of Mangshir, 2071
Kharel, P. 2012. Media for Participatory Democracy. Kathmandu: Supravaha Prakashan P. Ltd.
Kharel, P. 2010.Political Communication. Katmandu: Sangam Institute.