FEBRUARY 1, 2005
Posted: February 4, 2005

All journalists
Nepal’s king declared a state of emergency and effectively shut down the independent press with blanket news bans, military patrols at media outlets, and threatened reprisals against journalists.

King Gyanendra imposed a six-month ban on what state radio described as critical reporting on government activities. Soldiers were posted at Nepal’s major print and broadcast outlets, controlled television broadcasts, and vetted news articles, according to CPJ sources and international news reports.

Internet and telephone communication, including domestic land lines and mobile phones, were cut off today in the initial days after the state of emergency was declared. Some local reporters anonymously smuggled information from the country through satellite communications.

Editors at the major dailies Kathmandu Post and Kantipur were summoned by the principal press secretary of the king and warned that they may face military punishment, according to sources inside the country. Soldiers surrounded the offices of The Kathmandu Post and officers scanned all content before it went to print, according to a local source.

Jana Aastha weekly, which has been critical of the monarch in the past, was placed under special army surveillance, local sources said. Eighteen soldiers led by a colonel entered the weekly’s offices at 6 p.m. on February 1 and detained journalists there until 11 a.m. the following day, a source told CPJ. The officer censored all contents and warned reporters to avoid criticizing the king or the army.

Hundreds of people were arrested in the initial days after the king’s declaration, according to local sources. The Nepalese-language Rajdhani daily risked government reprisals by publishing the names of those arrested this week.

Fearing punishment, hotels refused to allow foreign news crews to set up satellite dishes on their roofs, according to Reuters.

Despite the great risk, Tara Nath Dahal, a prominent journalist and president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, issued a statement condemning the state of emergency.

“This has undoubtedly destroyed the fabric of democracy and has also confirmed that the lives of ordinary civilians as well as national values are in grave danger,” he wrote. He called the action an “enormous mistake” which has ended Nepalese citizens’ hard-won freedom of expression and press freedom.