Government maintains chokehold on independent press

New York, March 2, 2005—The Nepalese government yesterday directed editors of four weeklies to replace the word “Maoist” with “terrorist” or face punishment. The weeklies, including Jana Astha, were forced to change large portions of their text to comply with the order.

The Ministry of Information and Communication also issued a new notice banning media from publishing or broadcasting news related to the Maoist insurgency that is not from security sources, according to news reports. The notice reiterated the intention to punish those who violate the guidelines.

Today, authorities shuttered the weekly Budhabar for publishing an article reporting on banned political parties’ criticism of the government, according to local sources.

Last week, the District Administration Office summoned editors from five weeklies and interrogated them about running blank pages to protest of government censorship. The journalists were warned not to repeat the act.

“Thirty days after calling a state of emergency, King Gyanendra continues to throttle independent coverage of government actions in Nepal,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “The risks to journalists and to ordinary citizens only compound as the government prolongs its program of censorship in the midst of a volatile civil conflict.”

Though military censors no longer inhabit media houses, as they did in the first days after the February 1 coup, journalists still publish or broadcast news reports critical of the government at their own risk. A journalist told CPJ that senior palace officials advised him that while they might be lenient in their treatment of the press, they could not promise the same from the army.

While several journalists imprisoned during the first weeks of the state of emergency have been released, including Bishnu Nisthuri, general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, others continue to be harassed, threatened, and detained.