Oli seizes May Day address to take the media to task for “promoting instability”While Oli’s aversion to the media is nothing new, commentators say that it is worrying that the prime minister has threatened to use the ruling party to combat dissent.
As criticism continues to mount against KP Sharma Oli, both within the Nepal Communist Party and from the broader public, the prime minister has unleashed a scathing reproach of his own, accusing the media of using the Covid-19 pandemic to promote instability.
In a video message delivered on the occasion of International Labour Day on Friday, Oli accused both traditional media and social media of disseminating news and opinions that “threaten stability and development” by taking undue advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The government, the cadres of the Nepal Communist Party and the general public will not tolerate any attempts to destroy stability by those guided by petty self-interest or any ill intention,” Oli said. “I would like to assure everyone that such attempts will be foiled.”
Oli’s distaste for the media has long been a salient feature of his administration, which has made multiple attempts, both in the form of new legislation and draconian punitive measures, to suppress dissent. On numerous past occasions, Oli has hit out at the media, going so far as to accuse them of not having the “heart” to report the good deeds of the government.
His new accusations come amidst increasing criticism from both traditional and social media against goings-on in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, triggered largely by two controversial ordinances that Oli pushed through. Numerous commentators and political actors had called the ordinances an attack on democratic values and the constitution, forcing their hasty withdrawal. His opponents within the party have used the ordinances as a casus belli to call for his resignation as prime minister.
“The government’s attack on the media is not new,” said Rajendra Maharjan, a political commentator. “But calling on his party cadres to counter the media is something we should worry about.”
Despite a lockdown imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Nepal Communist Party cadres have already taken to the streets to protest against the newly formed Janata Samajbadi Party. Oli’s message could now embolden them to take action against the media, say political commentators, especially at a time when the administration is already cracking down on dissenting voices.
Former government secretary Bhim Upadhyay was arrested on April 22 and charged with cybercrime for allegedly defaming Oli and his ministers on social media. Similarly, journalist Dipak Pathak—who is a board member of Radio Nepal, the government’s own media arm—was arrested on Wednesday for criticising Nepal Communist Party co-chair and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
According to political analysts, Oli appears to be blaming the media for criticism that his own actions have invited.
“He doesn’t want to realise that the ongoing criticism against him is triggered by his activities, not the media,” political commentator Chandra Dev Bhatta told the Post. “He should introspect, rather than blaming others.”
Bhatta is echoing what politicians, even from within Oli’s own party, have said—that it is Oli’s tendencies to take decisions unilaterally that has led to the situation he is right now. Decisions in the party and in government have largely been at the behest of Oli and a close coterie of ministers and advisors.
Hari Roka, another political commentator, said that Oli’s message reeked of arrogance, despite the fact he himself invited the present situation where the party and the people have allied against him.
“The media reports what its see and social media users are free to have their opinions,” Roka told the Post.
If Oli had truly worked for the people, which he didn’t do despite having an exceedingly favourable environment for him, he would have received appreciation without asking for it, said Roka.
“As he has completely failed to deliver, he is now blaming others,” he said.