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Nepal Monitor: The National Online Journal

Preliminary Report on Media Coverage of CA Election

Maoist leader Prachanda gained the largest amount of airtime in broadcast media coverage of CA election.



KATHMANDU (April 14, 2008) — The Media Monitoring Program for Nepal's April-10 Constituent Assembly Election, undertaken by Press Council Nepal at the request of Election Commission shows that the political campaign was extensively covered by local broadcast and print media.

On a daily basis during the run up to the historic Constituent Assembly election, news stories on CA election, top brass party candidates and their campaigns were broadcast on prime airtime, with frequent opportunities given for major party candidates to make a direct speech. The print media gave front page space to election stories.

Eight television channels and fiteen radio stations monitored from MMP's Headquarters in Kathmandu showed news and views involving Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala were broadcast for some 20 hours between March 09, 2008 and April 10, 2008. Koirala received the total coverage in his roles as Prime Minister, Nepali Congress party chief and the party's candidate for CA elections. Koirala was heard speaking directly for 2 hours and 44 minutes. The total time given to Nepali Congress was 93 hours.

Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman Prachanda figured in media content for about 22 hours, the largest amount of airtime given to any candidate in the campaign. Prachanda received the direct speech opportunity for about 5 hours and 38 minutes, which again is the longest total time under the direct speech variable. Maoist got 58 hours in total time coverage in all broadcast media.

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Top 7 Political Leaders in terms of coverage in 23 broadcast media (8 TV channels & 15 Kathmandu-based radio stations

(Leader/Affiliation) (Total Broadcast Time given- TBT) (Total Direct Speech Time-TDST)
(Prachanda-Maoist) (21 hours 46 minutes in TBT) (5 hours 38 minutes in TDST)
(G.P. Koirala-NC) ( 20 hours 10 minutes in TBT) (2 hours 44 minutes in TDST)
(M.K. Nepal-UML) ( 17 hours 14 minutes in TBT) (5 hours 11 minutes in TDST)
(K.P.Sitaula-NC) (5 hours 46 minutes in TBT) (1 hour 23 minutes in TDST)
(Kamal Thapa-RPP) (4 hours 39 minutes in TBT) (2 hours 44 minutes in TDST)
(Prakash Sharan Mahat-NC) (4 hours 20 minutes in TBT) (2 hours 51 minutes in TDST)
(Ram Chandra Poudel-NC) (4 hours 16 minutes in TBT) (0 hours 54 minutes in TDST)

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Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) General Secretary until the April-10 elections, Madhav Kumar Nepal, figured in content broadcast for about 17 hours and 14 minutes during the run up. Nepal directly spoke for 5 hours and 11 minutes. UML got 70 hours.

Pashupati Shumser Rana of Rashtriya Prajatantra Party was given airtime for some 2 hours and 20 minutes. Rana got to speak directly for about 45 minutes. RPP got 6 hours.

Kamal Thapa of RPP Nepal received some 4 hours and 39 minutes of broadcast time. Thapa was heard speaking for about 2 hours and 44 minutes. RPP-Nepal got 7 hours.

Mahanta Thakur of Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party received 1 hour and 12 minutes with an 14-minute direct speech opportunity for him to make his case during the campaign. TMLP got 4 hours.

Upendra Yadav of Madheshi People's Rights Forum, Nepal, got airtime for 46 minutes. Yadav was heard speaking for 13 minutes. MPRF -Nepal got 7 hours.




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Total Direct Speech for Political Parties on monitored Braodcast Media (8 TV channels and 15 Radio Stations in Kathmandu)

NC = 28:54:47 hrs. (25.12% of the total)
CPN(UML) = 27:14:29 (23.67%)
CPN (Maoist) = 27:13:00 (23.64%)
NWPP = 4:58:24 (4.32%)
RPP = 3:45:32 (3.27%)

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MMP assessed the nature and characteristics of media coverage and routinely updated EC on its findings with a daily report and periodic statistics. Systematic study began on March 09, 2008, the day when the Elections Code of Conduct came into effect. The 19-point EC code of conduct for both government and private media stipulated that all media should report on the election in a professional manner.

PCN started MMP since March 01, 2008 at the request of Election Commission (EC) Foundation Open Society Institute, Switzerland (FOSI) and UK Department for International Development-Nepal (DFID-Nepal) supported the endeavor jointly undertaken by EC and PCN.

This was the first time that PCN, which routinely monitors print media, had undertaken to monitor print as well as broadcast media by systematically measuring the space, time and tone of coverage given to political parties, their candidates, independent contestants, and other relevant actors, such as the Election commission and its commissioners, contesting under the FPTP and PR systems of elections.

MMP found that the coverage across the board remained restrained. Most media outlets gave priority to CA election, candidates and their campaigns.

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TOP FIVE parties in terms of TIME GIVEN in TV Channels from March 09, 2008 to April 10, 2008

NTV: NC (28.97 %), Maoist (18.08%), UML (15.86%), NWPP (2.97%), People's Front Nepal (2.69)
KTV: NC (28.29 %), UML (27.46), Maoist (25.41%), RJP (4.31%), RPP Nepal (3.37%)
Avenues TV: NC (32.30 %), UML (21.07%), Maoist (18.18%), RJP (6.50%), RPP Nepal (3.88%)
Sagarmatha TV: NC (27.11%), UML (26.64%), Maoist (21.93%), People's Front Nepal (3.92 %), NWPP (3.40%)
Image Channel: NC (32.82 %), UML (25.63), Maoist (24.05%), NWPP (2.56%), Nepal Parivar Dal (2.14)
Nepal 1: NC, UML, Maoist, Madhesi People's Right Forum (About 5.69 %), Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party ( 5.6% )

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Isolated instances of violation found by the MMP were mostly related to clauses in the Code of Conduct related to "bias/prejudice/balance/inclusion/suppression" categories. Mostly the weeklies, government media programs and some private FM and TV stations practiced heavy doses of slanted opinion journalism. They generally tended to give a favorable coverage to a particular party or candidate at the expense of rival party or candidate.

Pro-party newspapers often published stories based on speculation and ideological assertion. An example would be the declaration, “64 seats to NC, between 50 and 85 to UML, less than 25 to CPN (M).” Two different papers would write about the same subject with two extremes of interpretation: “Maoists' situation in Kathmandu Pathetic” vs. "Maobadimaya banyo
rajdhani (The capital has turned all-Maoist).”

Overall, the government media programs gave space to major parties. But their opinion journalism and comments tended to be favorable to Maoists. Maoist candidates were frequently mentioned positively and Maoist sources dominated the coverage.

Private radio and TV programs were not without bias. Some stations in the region outside Kathmandu conducted opinion poll, prohibited by EC during election time. "NC is frontrunner" type of coverage appeared now and then.

At least one radio program used first person reporting and said "our party" to some party. A radio station in Dang, for example, totally excluded news on other parties.

Another problematic area was the use of language with mere rhetoric, full of confusing statements, communal framing/inflammatory wording and cultural insensitivity and indecency.

Some media outlets tried to inform the public in terms of Pahade-Madhesi construct, or segregated Moslems or Yadavs in their stories of elections.

Remarks like "Yestai bhaye pratirodh suru hunchha (retaliation if it [another party’s provocation] continues), and “Kutpit matra hoina, bangara jharnu parchha” (we should break the jaws too, not only thrash him) made rounds in the media.

Defamatory remarks on individual candidates with sinister allusions, without naming them, and language laden with preconceived theories, such as conspiracies, foreign hands, big media, sabotage etc. circulated as well.

The media played their role in electoral support as per the spirit of the Elections Code of Conduct for the Mass Media. Stories related to voters' education, and minorities, for example, appeared in different media outlets. The media gave free airtime to parties under the PR system and generally abided by the requirement to keep quiet on campaigning during the "silence period."

There were infrequent cases where news and views were not helpful to the election process. Circulating messages such as "chunable sukhad parinam nadine (the elections won't yield a happy outcome)," ajhai chunab sarne (Elections to be put off again)," and "chunabma bhagline lai safaya garine" wouldn't certainly help the elections.

On the whole, the MMP received feedback from civil society members as well as journalists that there were deterrent effects on media outlets and their programs because they were being closely looked at to see instances of code violations.

MMP started work in early March in a rush at the request of Election Commission (EC). Foundation Open Society Institute, Switzerland (FOSI) and UK Department for International Development-Nepal (DFID-Nepal) supported the endeavor jointly undertaken by EC and PCN.

This was the first time that PCN, which routinely monitors print media, had undertaken to monitor print as well as broadcast media by systematically measuring the space, time and tone of coverage given to political parties, their candidates, independent contestants, and other relevant actors, such as the Election commission and its commissioners, contesting under the FPTP and PR systems of elections.

For over one month, between March 09, 2008 and April 10, 2008, MMP monitored the media by statistically analyzing the coverage. Periodic outcome was sent to the EC in the form of a quantitative report, MMP Stats. A textual analysis, regularly forwarded to EC as MMP Report and MMP Alert, focused on any specific violation of the Elections Code of Conduct, such as inflammatory coverage or hate speech.

Monitoring hours covered prime time content such as news, interview, talkshows, commentary, advertisements, free airtime, and entertainment. Radio programs were monitored from 6:00 to 8:30 a.m. as well as 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. Television programs were monitored from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.

Statistical analysis showed that major political parties-- Nepali Congress (NC), Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) led all registered parties in terms of time given to them and direct speech opportunities in all the monitored media. The tone of coverage was mostly neutral for all parties.

Dr. Dharma Adhikari, a senior journalist and media expert, led the program. He was appointed program director on March 01, 2008 to set up the MMP operation, which was headquartered in Kathmandu. MMP offices were set up in five regional centers chosen on grounds of high media concentration outside the valley.

Work began from the basics. Some 100 media monitors and program staff members were recruited side by side to launch the operation from March 09, 2008. A three-day refresher training was given to a pool of media monitors, who were trained in the methods earlier before November 2007 CA elections were put on hold.

In a matter of days, donors committed initial funds and monitoring of eight TV channels and 15 radio stations in Kathmandu began on schedule. A couple of days later, on March 11, when donors approved more funds, MMP dispatched monitors to five regional centers, namely, Biratnagar, Janakpur, Butwal, Nepalgunj and Dhangadi. Regional coordinators set up offices and started work right away.

The operation, in the first week since it started, in all, covered 8 television channels, 58 radio stations and 151 newspapers. Regional media monitoring sub-centers were added in Birtamod, Birgunj, Chitwan, Pokhara and Dang.

The study was adapted from the design and methodology developed by United Nations Media expert on elections Mr. Riccardo Barranca. It has been applied to monitor the media during elections in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Monitors in Kathmandu filled up media analysis forms and entered the day's data into a database that was periodically analyzed. The scientifically generated data and reports were then forwarded to the EC on a regular basis.

Monitors in the regional centers sent their spot reports on cases of violation of Code of Conduct and analysis forms to MMP Headquarters in Kathmandu, where the data were to be analyzed, processed and reported to EC.

The analysis forms (coding sheets) and the computer analyzed data are maintained at the MMP headquarters in Kathmandu.



The above transcript is based on a release, entitled "Preliminary Report on Media Monitoring Program for CA Electio" issued at a press conference organized by MMP on Monday, April 14, 2008 at Press Council Nepal, Kahtmandu.

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Posted by Editor on April 15, 2008 10:21 AM