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Nepal: Continued Violations of Press Freedom

IFJ Welcomes Annulment of Nepal’s Controversial Media Ordinance But Troubled by Continued Violations of Press Freedom

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has welcomed the annulment of the controversial media ordinance, yet after another week of press freedom violations in Nepal is calling for the new government to make a firmer commitment to the protection of journalists’ safety and rights.
“The annulment of the media ordinance offers hope for all journalists and media organisations in Nepal. But while this is an important step in the right direction for press freedom in Nepal, there is still a long way to go,” IFJ president Christopher Warren said.

“The attacks on media workers over the past week highlights that it will take a lot more than the annulment of ordinances to ensure Nepal has a free media and is a safe place for journalists,” Warren said.

Photojournalists assaulted by police
On May 11, 2006 three photojournalists, Dhruba Kumar and Rawal Raju Mitra Khanal and Raju Krishna Shrestha were assaulted by police while reporting on the Democratic Students Alliance‘s removal of the photos of the King and Queen from government offices at the Nuwakot district headquarters.

The police also confiscated film from Raju Krishna Shrestha who works for Kantipur Television.

The IFJ calls for an investigation into the incident and the immediate return of the confiscated film.

Journalist attacked and robbed:
Dinesh Yadav, senior sub editor of Kantipur Publications was assailed by demonstrators in Kalanki while he was on his way to Sitapaila on a news assignment, on May 16, 2006.

The demonstrators allegedly stopped Yadev’s motorcycle and, when he showed his press card to prove that he was a journalist, seized the document and tore it up. They also seized his key ring, which contained the key to his motorcycle and other personal keys, and broke the mirror of his motorcycle.

Yadav was also physically and verbally abused.

The IFJ strongly condemns the incident and urges all demonstrators to show respect for press freedoms and the rights of journalists.

Maoists threaten radio station
The IFJ is deeply concerned over Maoist threats to Kalika FM in Chitwan and Radio Birgunj in Parsa.

The Maoist-aligned All Nepal Trade Union Federation issued a letter on May 12, 2006 accusing the two FM radio stations of exploiting their respective staffs, dismissing staff without reason, extreme excesses and mental torture of the staff, and called for the immediate termination of the Kalika FM station director, alleging him to be a pro-royalist.

IFJ affiliate the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) issued a statement urging the All Nepal Trade Union Federation not to create unnecessary pressures on an organisation or a person and not to obstruct the performance of their professional duties by imposing threats.

The FNJ is committed to the welfare of working journalists and is seriously discussing the issues raised by the trade union group with the concerned bodies.

The IFJ argues that threats, force and imposition of ideas are not appropriate ways to lead Nepal's radio movement and urges the All Nepal Trade Union Federation to address any concerns through the proper channels.

Media Ordinance annulled
The IFJ has welcomed the annulment of the controversial media ordinance on May 9, 2006, which, since its commencement in October 2005, had banned news programs on FM stations, restricted media licences, forbidden any news that was damaging to the king or any member of his family, and increased penalties for defamation ten-fold.

The IFJ also welcomes statements from the new government that they will review other ordinances issued under the king’s rule and that they are working on rescinding the draconian Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (2002) ordinance.

“While these are vital steps on the path to press freedom in Nepal, the events of the last week remind us that the path is long and arduous and we pledge our continued support to the Nepalese people during their struggle for democracy,” Warren said.

“The IFJ renews its calls for the government to release imprisoned journalists, to reinstate all journalists who were unfairly dismissed under the king’s rule, to relinquish its control of the state-owned media, and to reframe the existing media laws and policies to firmly underpin democracy in Nepal.”

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