Oli cautioning party members to keep distance from media reflects a lack of trust, leaders sayUnhappy with leaks, Oli asks all aides, ministers and party members to keep the media at bay.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s distaste for the media is not new. He has heaped scorn on the media in the past—sometimes for criticising him and at other times “for not reporting the good deeds” of the government. Now, he wants his party members to maintain distance with the media.
At least two senior Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leaders told the Post that Oli, who is also the party chair, is increasingly unhappy about the “leaking of information” about government and party decisions to the media. According to them, Oli recently asked all his aides, ministers and party Secretariat members to keep the media at bay.
Party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha confirmed Oli’s grievances about the way information was being leaked to the media.
“However, he just meant that we should be cautious while sharing information in such critical times,” Shrestha told the Post.
The government has recently been involved in a number of controversies, with two of Oli’s ministers accused of corruption in the procurement of medical equipment to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
After deciding to scrap the deal with the private company to buy the equipment, the government roped in the Nepal Army to do the job.
According to a senior leader who did not wish to be identified, the decision to bring in the Army was taken solely at the behest of the prime minister, rather than the Cabinet.
“After the decision ran into controversy, the prime minister was not amused,” the leader said.
Recently, the government also made a U-turn regarding letting people travel out of Kathmandu Valley. The media was quick to report about it, long before a decision was officially taken. The government was left scrambling, with ministers and prime minister’s aides trying to cover up the decision. Even the Prime Minister’s Office Facebook page where the decision was posted disappeared.
The party leader said that the prime minister is concerned about the negative publicity the government is getting and, hence, has asked party members to be careful while talking to the media.
Oli’s concerns, however, also stem from the internal dynamics in the party, which is sharply divided between two factions.
According to insiders, the Oli camp is largely concerned about whether selective information, including agendas and decisions, are being leaked to the media by the opposing faction.
There is a growing concern in the Oli camp that the faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the other party chair, is trying to unseat the government and leaks information that could tarnish Oli’s image.
Surendra Karki, a standing committee member and former communication minister, however, said there is a lot of ad hocism in the party and the government, as a result of which information is leaking randomly.
“There is no system in place, nor is there enough discussion,” Karki told the Post. “In this situation, unwarranted information often goes out.”
Many believe that by warning his own leaders against sharing information, Oli is targeting both the media and the Dahal faction.
During his address to the nation last week, Oli even described some reports regarding the government’s response to Covid-19 as “propaganda”.
Amid reports of Oli’s concerns over the information leak, Bishnu Rijal, a central committee member, made a sarcastic comment on Wednesday, hinting at existing factionalism in the party.
“As per news reports, Prime Minister and party chair KP Oli rang up some Secretariat members to ‘complain’ that Secretariat discussions were being ‘leaked’ verbatim. And that ‘complaint’, too, got ‘leaked’ verbatim. That’s called transparency,” he wrote on Twitter.
A Standing Committee member who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, said that Oli’s warnings emanate from his own insecurity.
“Instructing party leaders to not reveal information to the media means that he is either insecure or he knows very well that his decisions will invite a backlash,” said the member. “If the prime minister feels insecure from his own Cabinet colleagues, party leaders and aides, it means there is a huge trust deficit in his administration.”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 26, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,589,712 people with 347,903 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 144,950 with 4,172 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.