Letter to Republica Editor, in response to ‘the news on Rakesh Mishra of DFID’

Raksharam Harijan, Author

Dear Editor,

Few years ago, you joined Republica Daily, replacing Kosmos Bishwokarma. Readers were told that you are a graduate of Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA. I believe that you are definitely aware of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. According to the First Amendment,  United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble or to petition for a governmental redress of grievances. These are basic tenets of the free world. We may be on the other side of the world but we are party to several international laws and treaties that bind us to respect and protect human rights, stop from prohibiting freedom of expression and so on.

On 30th November, Republica published the news report about Rakesh Mishra, working in Department of International Development (DFID). The story claims that he has written the anti-election post on his Facebook status.

Before publishing the news report, Mr. Editor, you might have verified whether the status you are talking about belongs to the same person that works in DFID. A cursory search finds more than two dozens of ‘Rakesh Mishra in Facebook’. There is no profile picture of him.  Even in a case of his profile picture, one cannot be sure that it really belongs to the person’s name it is registered to unless the Facebook account is verified. To my knowledge, his Facebook posts are accessible to limited close circle of his friends and family members, and you are none of them to him. But, surprisingly, if you are not a friend to him, how did you make sure that it was him? Or did you hack his Facebook account to get details regarding his Facebook status and other information? Also, Facebook is not Twitter where one’s tweets are public; Facebook is more of a personal thing, like having conversation inside home.

Mr. Editor, do you intend to say that now Republica editor and their reporters are tasked with spying at one’s personal space? I don’t think that this is what you were taught at Harvard Kennedy School of Government about one’s privacy.

Second, did you ask his permission and due consent to check his status and report on it? Did you talk to the person accused in the news report and ask for his comment before publishing? Needless to say that it is ethical in journalism that anyone accused in the news report should be given an opportunity to keep his views.

But you didn’t do so in this case. Such a news-making is called ‘yellow journalism’. This is a worst case for a mainstream newspaper like Republica. It is not difficult to see that you wanted to have the personal vendetta against a person you personally do not seem to like and misusing your authority.

Third, after reading the Facebook status that you have put in the news report, I feel pity for your IQ. While your news report mentions that Mr. Mishra calls leaders as Bastard, didn’t it strike you that the context would be where Franklin D. Roosevelt once famously said about Somoza Debayle, President of Nicaragua, in reply to Roosevelt’s Secretary of State’s claim that “Samzoa is bastard”? He said, “Yes, but he’s our bastard.” What an irony, Mr. Editor, as a Harvard graduate!

Fourth, let’s come to the headline of the news story:  

DFID apologizes after its senior staff launched campaigns against polls

As the headline claimed that Rakesh Mishra has launched campaigns against polls, is there any authentic evidence to prove the campaign or announcement other than his Facebook post? If not, how could you claim that? Although the headline appeared in the printed version has been changed later, the intention or motive for the publication is vivid.

On top of that, do you know what a governance expert does? What are his roles and responsibilities? The understanding of his Facebook post to write his personal opinion shows that you don’t.

The governance expert’s personal opinion about bureaucrats, politicians or system that the country is governed by doesn’t, in any way, affect the professional work. Mind you that Senior Staff of DFID are neither publicly elected nor are politically appointed. Hence, public scrutiny of the post holder’s political stance is not relevant at all. Of course, if one wants to settle political vendetta then everything becomes fair. Isn’t this your justification, Mr. Editor?

Fifth, Mr. Editor, you must be quite aware of the disclaimer of individuals working in different organizations that the views expressed in social media posts do not reflect the views of the employers. But the manner in which the news was presented about Rakesh Mishra, an employee at DFID, shows that the personal/individual opinion about elections is of the employer DFID. This is, in fact, not.

Finally, Mr. Editor, this is not the stand-alone incident of defaming a person. Such a trend is quite visible. First Mohna Ansari, a Commissioner and member of National Human Right Commission (NHRC) came under fire for being part of a documentary financed by the SDC. Followed by a series of the opinion pieces in weekly and daily reprimanding donor agency by same people, who are said to be performing even house puja with Donor’s financial support at one time and now attack on Rakesh Mishra because of his alleged views on Facebook. This is an attempt to gag International Community (IC) to surrender to whims of Permanent Establishment of Nepal (PEON). It isn’t hidden how foreign aid has been misused in Nepal for decades and a handful of people in Kathmandu have exploited it while rest of the population are still living in stark poverty. IC succumbing to the bully working through mainstream media will have a different reaction in different part of the country. In today’s’ connected world, bullying can’t be, won’t be tolerated by anyone even if one belongs to the marginalised.

This is not the stand-alone incident of defaming a person. Such a trend is quite visible. In today’s’ connected world, bullying can’t be, won’t be tolerated by anyone even if one belongs to the marginalised.

AUTHOR, the recipient of the first Darnal International Award for Social Justice, is a legal advocate and a human rights activist.