Friday, April 18, 2008

The journalism bar

Does one actually need formal education to be a journalist, or is the ability to construct the odd sentence adequate? An essay grandiosely titled "A lesson for South Asia", written by a Kuldip Nayar appeared on a newspaper website on 18 Apr 2008. The writer is described as a "leading journalist based in Delhi".


> ELECTION results in Nepal should come
> as a surprise to India.

Why? Because the Nepalese electorate did not inform the Indians in advance about whom they intended to vote for? Did they inform the Bangladeshis? Or the Austrians? In any case, resentment against the monarchy has been evident for a couple of years now.

> People were changing and New Delhi
> was stuck in its wishful thinking
> of saving the kingship and its old
> ally the Nepal Congress.

What were people changing? Or does the journalist refer to ethnic migration?

> People have returned the Communist
> Party of Nepal (Maoists) in the
> election. Who are we to comment
> on their choice?

Apart from the fact that the article appears to be a commentary on the Nepalese elections, surely every free society reserves to itself the right to debate, to pose questions, to introspect? One might even consider these intellectual exercises form part of the remit of an ideal journalist. But such an animal may or may not exist.

> ...., however unpalatable, the
> outcome of free and fair elections
> is final.

Can elections not be called again? Can elected governments not be overthrown? Or do these phenomena occur only on far-away worlds, quite alien to ours?

In any case, the journalist appears to have had a change of mind. Not too long ago, he ranted on first about how Narendra Modi, a sitting Chief Minister, could not possibly be voted back into power, in the Indian province of Gujarat, and later, after the voters had (inexplicably! shamefully! treacherously! and so on, I'm sure) voted him back, went on about how sad it all was, and the "ills of democracy".

One cannot have too much contempt for this hollow moral posturing.

> ...I do not understand
> former President Carter’s appeal to
> America to accept the change in Nepal.

The journalist appears to be ignorant of the US's strong aversion to communism, especially because every single communist state so far has restricted basic freedoms, of travel, expression and public demonstration, values which are fundamental to the US, and much of the West.

> It does not matter if one country
> does not like the government in another.

It does matter very much -- this is the stuff wars are made of. The journalist appears not to be aware of Herodotus, or even high-school history. Wonder how the Iraq war passed the journalist by?

> The promise to switch over to a
> republican setup gave them hope
> of change. They have supported
> the change, pinning their faith
> on the betterment of the people.

"To switch" is "to change". So a "promise" of a change is alleged to have given them "hope" of a change. They then supported the hoped-for change, placing their faith on their own betterment? I do not pretend to understand the journalist here.

> It was, however, amusing to see
> election posters showing a photo
> of Stalin along with pictures of
> Karl Marx, Lenin and Engels.

I'm sure we are all glad that the journalist was amused, though the celebration of a murderous dictator ought to be a matter of concern for all those who cherish freedom and tolerance.

> Stalin killed hundreds of thousands
> who dared to differ or speak out.

The numbers were slightly higher, weren't they? And it wasn't just those who had a difference of opinion. To quote the BBC, "His (Stalin's) regime of terror caused the death and suffering of tens of millions". (snipped from

The journalist is either ignorant of the history of the erstwhile USSR, or is attempting to defend Stalin and his rule.

> Nepal is, however, an example
> which can teach the South Asian
> region a lesson if it is willing
> to learn.

Which lesson is that? To replace monarchies with republican forms of government? Democracy? All this has been done in South Asia, quite some years back too. Indeed, much of South Asia is India, which is often called "the world's largest democracy".

Or is it communism? With armed gangs roaming the land, ready to violently eliminate any opposition?

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