By Ram Khatry
5 January 2018
The first shot has been fired to kill Rabi Lamichhane’s unique journalism. It was long expected but as the fearsome stalwart of Nepalese media put it, no one knew the trigger would be pulled by someone within. It was long expected. Because, he practices journalism in a country where journalists have lost lives for telling the truth, for irritating the powerful, for warning the public and for exercising freedom of expression. He does all this on a daily basis, many times over. So it was sort of expected both by him and his millions of followers.
Rabi Lamichhane is a soldier, although the battle he fights is through words, audio-visual and stealth media operations. In a country where most things get influenced through a combination of money and power, Rabi Lamichhane has survived thus far despite the fact that his feared television programme Sidha Kura Janta Sanga has sent many famous and powerful dust-licking.
However, no crook dared touch him because he is a solid mass of confidence and public support.
If the things he does “for his country” were done by another regular journalist of Nepal then he or she would have met the fate of Dekendra Raj Thapa (murdered by Maoists in 2004) or Krishna Sen (believed to have been tortured to death by security forces) by now. But Rabi is no weakling; he is protected by the support of working-class Nepalese both at home and overseas. A simple evidence of this support would be to count reactions on his Facebook status detailing his ex-wife’s attempt at slandering him – in 24 hours his status attracted 18,000 plus reactions, 4000 comments and over three thousand shares.
This sort of support is unheard of not only in Nepal but in the entire South Asian region. Journalists do not usually enjoy this sort of fanfare – cricketers and Bollywood stars do.
The television talk-show host is so effective that the corrupt fear him a million times more than the country’s powerful anti-corruption body itself. Because once the 44-year-old broadcast journalist smells corruption on you, his questions will strike you hard and fast and there is no escape.
He is usually on the offensive but right now he is on the defensive. The defense he is building is against his ex-wife Isha Lamichhane who currently lives in the US along with the now-separated couple’s two daughters. She has apparently sent a volley of messages to Nepalese journalists purporting to show “true colour” of Rabi Lamichhane.
Mr Lamichhane pre-empted the “scoop” his colleagues were planning on his love life by proactively posting a Facebook status on 4 January which basically laid bare his personal life.
He told his fans that he married Isha Lamichhane some 24 years ago, that he had two daughters to her. It appears their relationship soured over time and that he was living separately when they were all still in the US. He has also admitted that he developed an intimate relationship with a “foreign lady” after he became estranged from his wife and that a child was born out of that relationship also. But that second attempt at family life, he indicated, was also soon over following which he returned to Nepal and in due course of time became a formidable media force through his now famous Sidha Kura Janta Sanga live talk-show on News24.
The status is extremely poignant and emotional and shows the loneliness the star journalist experienced throughout his life.
Against all the attention and appreciation the world showered on him, he suffered extreme “loneliness at home” and became ill on several occasions, he recounted his unhappy married life with Isha Lamichhane. He nearly became a “victim of depression” because of that loneliness. He helped many rebuild and save their homes but could not help his own, he sadly remarked in the status.
It remains to be discovered as to why Mr Lamichhane’s ex-wife decided to send those texts to journalists just weeks after their divorce was settled which became possible only after he accepted all conditions put forward by the ex-wife.
Could Mrs Lamichhane have been used by the opponents of Rabi Lamichhane? It remains to be seen but the celebrity talk-show host appears to believe so when he said that efforts were being made to break into his private life after all attempts to discredit him became unsuccessful.
Whatever may be the case, news about his previous married and romantic life have had no effect on this fan-following. Estimated tens of thousands of people have so far taken to Facebook to show their solidarity with Mr Lamichhane.
Here, a question arises? Should a journalist’s personal life affect his reputation as a journalist? Should his married or love life be a precondition to his right to practice journalism?
Most importantly, do these extremely personal details of Rabi Lamichhane’s past be deemed as possible ammunition for his opponents seeking to damage his reputation?
There would be hundreds of famous journalists in the west who would have lawfully divorced and moved on to the next stage of their life as they remarry or fall in love again. There are journalists that have been caught up in scandals but even if people do talk about such rumours (even in the west) these incidents are viewed as purely personal matters having zero effect on their reputation and work as journalists.
Far from Nepal, Sydney-based solicitor of Nepalese origin, Dr Shamser Singh Thapa thinks somewhat similar. He considers what transpired between Rabi Lamichhane and his ex-wife is purely a private matter for them to sort out. “There should be a clear demarcation between his journalism and his personal life. One should not affect the other so long as he has not involved himself in anything illegal,” Dr Thapa said when asked if the latest media attention on Rabi Lamichhane’s personal life would affect his career.
The texts Mrs Lamichhane sent to Nepalese journalists in Kathmandu could well have been prompted by jealousy as she does refer to her ex-husband’s current affair with a Kathmandu woman.
Another Sydney-based Nepalese-Australian solicitor Bharat Pokharel commented, not in particular reference to Rabi-Isha saga, that ex-partners are often likely react out of jealousy after their divorce is settled. “Sometimes a partner wants to continue spousal relationship despite complications. May be she was one of them,” he said warning that he does not have the details of the case.
In the meantime, support for Rabi is mounting by the minute. In fact, it seems fans’ love for him has grown manifold now that they know how their “hero” has been silently suffering over the years while he kept them entertained with this unique genre of journalism.
A particular comment by Rabi-fan Yogesh Senchuri has attracted over 2,000 reactions from Facebook users. “…Because this country needs you..I am ready to go to jail for you…I am ready to die for you but please do not take a single step back from truth,” his emotional, punctuation-free comment reads. He further goes on to urge Rabi Lamichhane to “fight against” journalists who write headlines aimed at character assassination for a “glass of whiskey” and “a plate of sukuti”.
The latest media attention on Rabi Lamichhane is the first direct shot taken at the “people’s journalist”. Fortunately, the shot has hardly scratched him and the iron man of Nepalese media sector is not even bleeding. Question is, will there be more attempts in the future? The answer is something you can’t tell when it comes to a journalist determined to fight against corruption and irregularities in a dangerously disorganised nation.