Prabhu Saha: Kantipur comes to rescue again


From today, I will write brief and frequent blog posts about various topics. Media analysis is a subject in which I would like to spend some energy. It is with the hope that:

  • readers get the choice of an alternative viewpoint and more critical thoughts
  • big media usually is more about vested commercial and political interests than about open ideas and critical discussion- this needs to be exposed more often
  • in Nepal, we can see that some media houses are helping the government and the rulers in becoming more irresponsible- this also needs to be exposed
  • the mainstream media can improve and correct their mistakes from the feedback of online publication media

Two years ago, when MK Nepal became the PM of Nepal following Prachanda’s resignation, Prachanda started a fiery campaign against the government. During a mass gathering in Baneshwor, Prachanda declared that the Indian establishment is the master of Nepalese affairs and he will only hold dialogues with the master and not the Nepalese government. He laid out a series of accusations on India. Prachanda had to receive a lot of flak for his Baneshwor speech.

This was not an isolated event however. As the following months would show, the Maoist party was to lead a well-planned aggressive campaign against the neighboring country.

But in a few days, the cover story of Kantipur had a very friendly-looking sketch of the leader with an accompanying story that described how soft-hearted and impulsive he was. It was as if the story was also a part of the design to gather public sympathy for Prachanda. After arguably one of the most disgraceful speeches any public personality has ever made in Nepal, the paper that calls itself the safe-guarder of our democratic system tried to save the speaker’s face by publishing personal anecdotes and emotional accounts. The article not only seemed to be defending the Baneshwor speech but also many other controversial statements made by the Fierce One in the past.

Prachanda: emotional and soft-hearted human

Prachanda: emotional and soft-hearted human

These days, Maoist minister Prabhu Saha is in the limelight. SP Ramesh Kharel, the police offer said to be one of Nepal’s finest and most competent, launched an investigation about the murder of a local leader in Parsa. He presented his papers to the government attorney so that the implicated ones could be taken to court. During the investigation, the statements given by the witnesses indicate that the murder was instructed by Prabhu Saha. Saha is a Central Committee member of Nepal’s ruling party (UCPNM), leads a parliamentary committee (on Judicial system), an ex-minister and an incumbent minister (of Land Reforms).

The government has recently decided to withdraw Saha’s case. This was done under the orders of the Office of the Attorney General (Mukti Pradhan) which reports directly to the Prime Minister. Pressure has been mounting on both minister Saha, PM Bhattarai and their party to fire Saha from his post and help the judicial process.

The reason Prabhu Saha has been able to escape the legal prosecution is that he is a close aide of the present PM Baburam Bhattarai (BRB). Some examples:

  • in the past government, he was one out of three ministers to be appointed from the BRB “quota”
  • he is said to have collected a majority of votes for BRB in the Palungtar plenum of his party
  • he is said to have collected the signatures of MPs for BRB during an intra-party conflict
  • he is said to have been elevated to the position of Central Committee because of his closeness to BRB, despite not being senior enough

Guess who comes to rescue? No prizes for guessing.

Kantipur: Personality of the week- Prabhu Saha

Kantipur: Personality of the week- Prabhu Saha

In this moment of trouble, it is the Kantipur daily again. Let’s look at some arguments:

  • A committee chaired by the Prime Minister passed a proposal about Sarad Singh Bhandari’s resignation
    The meeting of Maoist Parliamentary Board that decided to ask for Bhandari’s resignation was presided by PM Bhattarai. Kantipur’s cover story is advertising it as PM Bhattarai’s indirect signal to Minister Bhandari to resign. This is despite the PM going on record in BBC defending minister Bhandari.

    Prachanda has had to preside over his party meetings that decided against his will. We saw the past Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal also had to preside over his party meetings that decided against his will.

    Clearly, this story is either sponsored or pure guesswork. It is only meant to save face of the PM and prove that he is still the only good man left in the country. The positive thing about this story is that it mentions “possibility of the involvement of top Maoist leadership” in the murder to be a reason why they are defending Prabhu Saha.

  • Prabhu Saha is an impressive leader and an emotional “human”
    The other main story in today’s Kantipur is silent about how Saha has been implicated in a serious criminal case. Instead, it tries to garner sympathy for the minister on grounds that he is “emotional,” hardworking, thoughtful and a youth leader who has quickly rose to the top because of his energy and contribution.

    Saving face

    Saving face

  • Prabhu Saha is the victim of a conspiracy
    All the articles cited above and one more make up 3 main articles in total in today’s Kantipur (written by Kantipur staff) that deal in one way or the other about Prabhu Saha. All of them make it a central part of their stories that the allegation against Saha has been termed as a conspiracy by many party insiders. Moreover, these stories seem to be trying to establish this premise itself.

    There seems to be no attempt by the writers to question them about how a case duly filed by a government agency is anything more than a judicial case and should be taken in such spirit only? If it is a conspiracy, why not have the confidence to face the judicial process? Nobody has said that Minister Saha is a murderer- it is only a legal case where he is innocent until proven guilty (but it is a standard practice to resign in such scenarios).


Endnote:

  • This editorial and also this one say that Mukti Pradhan, immediately after being appointed attorney general said that his intention was to dismiss all cases of gross human rights violations against Maoist cadre, and to pardon those convicted of such crimes.
  • Defense Minister Sarat Singh Bhandari recently made a remark about the possibility of Nepal’s southern districts seceding. [Video link]

2 thoughts on “Prabhu Saha: Kantipur comes to rescue again

  1. This is what we call an in-depth and analytic work. Thanks a lot for posting this. I hope reporters and writers in mainstream media could be as thorough and sharp in their analysis. Kantipur projects itself as the most democratic paper in the country but its role has been disgusting to say the least. Just now heard that Saha has been sacked but just for the sake of record too, things like these should be documented so that the intentions of big media like Kantipur are exposed. It is amazing how subtle and indirect the manipulation is, almost impossible to notice in few readings.

    There is a serious lack of media analysis in Nepal. Critical thinking as a tradition is still not established. The so called columns and analysis of writers are biased and politically motivated at their worst and superficial and misleading at best. There are many people who take the news at face value. This should at least deter them.

  2. Pingback: Adhocism and the culture of press-release journalism – I « Ushaft's Blog

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