New Delhi is ranged against not only Nepal’s biggest political party but also its largest media house.
First published in The Hindu, 2 September 2010
The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu is in the middle of a controversy. It stands accused, yet again, of ‘gross interference’ and ‘attacking press freedom in another country’, and faces censure from a parliamentary committee, politicians across the spectrum, and civil society groups. Last week, sections of the media, including Kantipur television which is a part of the larger Kantipur group, reported that a product of Dabur Nepal was substandard and contained harmful substances. On August 27, the embassy said, “Indian joint ventures have informed the embassy they have been approached by such media houses for advertisement and are being threatened with negative publicity if those requests are not met.” It termed the news reports as ‘baseless adverse publicity against products of such ventures’ and said such allegations in the past had proven to be false.
Organisations representing media owners, which included the Kantipur publisher, immediately condemned the statement, said media is free to choose its content, and cautioned the embassy to ‘respect diplomatic norms and values of press freedom’. The embassy reacted again, saying the statement by media organisations would have been more credible if backed by a condemnation of unethical practices adopted in eliciting advertising revenue from Indian joint ventures. Since then, the Parliament’s international relations and human rights committee has instructed the government to seek a clarification from the Indian envoy for the embassy’s statements and termed it as blatant interference in free press.