NEPAL: Nepali press continues to face restrictions says CEHURDES
Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies says journalists caught between government imposed media restrictions and the Maoists
Wednesday, May 4, 2005
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Kathmandu -- Nepali media continue to face assaults from both the government and Maoist rebels with unprecedented restrictions imposed upon the media since the royal move of February 1, said Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), a Kathmandu-based press freedom watchdog.
The summary of the report, released on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day Tuesday, said nearly two dozen Nepali journalists were killed over the last six years during the on-going insurgency. Half of them were killed over the last years, the group said.
"Atrocity against the press is increasing from both sides day by day," the annual press freedom and freedom of expression report, also called as Nepal Report 2005, said.
Since the royal proclamation on Feb. 1, 2005 all constitutional and legal safeguards available to the media were paralysed through government directives. Censorship was imposed directly for the first time in the last 15 years and security personnel were stationed in the editorial room and censored all news items, articles etc.
After the royal takeover and imposition of the state of emergency three months ago, editor of Dharan Today, a newspaper published from eastern town of Dharan, Khagendra Shrestha, was shot at by a group of unidentified assailants. Shrestha succumbed to injuries while undergoing treatment at a private hospital at Siliguri, India.
A total of 28 journalists reported that they were interrogated by security forces and government authorities over the last year (mid-April 2004 until mid-April 2005). Four received death threats. At least 51 journalists were arrested and were subjected to harassment while in detention. Most of the journalists who were given three months detention warrants under public security act were released at the initiation of Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and human rights groups. By mid April 2005, there were still 11 journalists serving detention. There were incidences of manhandling against over two dozen media personnel during the period.
During the state of emergency, local authorities forcibly closed over three dozens newspapers. Most of them were allowed to resume their publications after sometime on condition that they would not violate government’s orders. The cases of closure of newspapers were the highest in Mechi zone while journalists in mid-western region were mostly harassed by both the security forces and Maoists.
The FM radio stations operated by the communities and private sector were hit hard by the government’s decision after February 1. The government banned broadcast of news and news-related programs over FMs for the next six months. As a result over 1,000 journalists working in 47 FM stations all over the country are believed to have been laid off. With the closure of news-related programs, business transactions of FM stations has also been affected badly, the report said.
Even prior to the state of emergency, the situation of press freedom was far from satisfactory. Five persons affiliated to different media were killed (2 by Maoists, 2 by unidentified group and 1 by the state) between Mid-April 2004 and February 1, 2005. 35 journalists were harassed and were attacked. Seven cases of abduction were reported, while 26 journalists received death threats. Security forces arrested four journalists while whereabouts of two media personnel remain unknown.
Maoists' atrocities towards press have been increasing with greater impetus. They killed the Dailekh correspondent of the state-run Radio Nepal, Dekendra Raj Thapa, brutally. They neither informed nor announced the murder of Dhan Bahadur Rokka for months. This shows that Maoists are getting more aggressive against the media, the group said.
CEHURDES has also renewed its call upon both the government and Maoists to ensure safety and security of media personnel and ensure that journalists are allowed to work freely and in a fearless environment.
Date Posted: 5/4/2005