NEPAL: Police pull out from Kantipur FM

Government authorities surround the office of Kantipur FM, as journalists take to the streets of Kathmandu to protest new media law

Nepal News
Friday, October 21, 2005

AsiaMedia Editor's Note: Reports are unclear as to whether the lifting of the state of emergency on April 30 allows for press freedom, and thus Nepalnews may still be operating under the directives of King Gyanendra.

After gheraoing (surrounding) the office of Kantipur FM for nearly two hours, police have pulled out and officials from the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) have also returned without taking any action against the popular radio station.

Earlier, police had gheraoed the office of private sector Kantipur FM at Pulchowk, Lalitpur Thursday evening as officials from MoIC pressurized the FM management to stop its eastern regional transmission with immediate effect.

According to latest reports, a three member team visited the station of Kantipur FM, being run by the Kantipur Publication -- a leading private sector media group in the country -- at around 3:00 p. m. Friday. They first said they were there to inspect the FM transmissions. Later, they said they had orders to cut off the uplinking facility of the FM to its Bhedetar transmitting station in eastern Nepal. The team comprised an administration staff and two technical staff. They said it was 'illegal' to air transmission of the FM to other parts of the country as per the new media ordinance introduced early this month.

According to Prabhat Rimal, station manager of the Kantipur FM, the FM management then demanded written orders from the ministry team. The officials then contacted the MoIC and instead of written orders, police arrived at the FM station at around 5:30 p. m.

Meanwhile, office-bearers of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), Nepal Bar Association, general secretary of CPN (UML) Madhav Kumar Nepal and members of civil society have reached the office of Kantipur FM to express their solidarity.

Talking to Kantipur TV, a sister concern of the Kantipur FM, general secretary of Nepal Bar Association Madhav Baskota said it was the 'naked aggression on media by the government.' He said the government's action violated the principle of natural justice at a time when the issue of news broadcast over FM stations was sub-judice.

Acting president of FNJ, Shiva Gaule, said it was yet another example of 'physical assault by the state against independent media.' He said the government was making mockery of the constitutional and legal norms in the country instead of honoring them.

On Thursday, Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF)-- a Paris-based press freedom watchdog -- said Nepal ranked among ten countries at the bottom out of 167 countries surveyed in terms of press freedom.

Nepali authorities are yet to react to the damning RSF report.

Journos, professionals take out rally against the new media law

Hundreds of journalists and professionals took out a rally in the capital, Kathmandu, protesting the new media law.

Organised by Professionals for Peace and Democracy (PAPAD), hundreds of journalists, lawyers, university teachers, doctors, engineers, writers and civil society activists took part in the rally demanding immediate withdrawal of the ordinance that amends half a dozen media related laws. The government had introduced the law early this month -- just ahead of the Dashain holidays.

Talking to Nepalnews, acting president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) Shiva Gaule said they had no other option than to take to streets as the government was trying to gag the media by introducing harsh laws. He said the FNJ would also knock the door of the court challenging the ordinance.

The rally started from New Baneswore, in front of the Birendra International Convention Centre (BICC) and ended in a corner meeting at Maitighar Mandala. Representatives of various professional organizations addressed the meeting and demanded immediate withdrawal of the ordinance.

The new media law -- that will last for only six months unless re-promulgated -- has banned criticism of the king and royal family members and broadcast of news over the FM radio stations. The law has also raised the fine journalists and media publishers in defamation case to Rs 500,000 or two years in imprisonment or both.

Media activists said the government has introduced the new law to suppress all kind of opposition to the royal regime.

The authorities, however, say the law had to be introduced to make the media dignified and responsible.