More journalists arrested as protests continue in Nepal

New York, June 13, 2005—Dozens of Nepalese journalists were arrested today in the capital, Kathmandu, and the neighboring district of Kavre as protests against media restrictions continued across the country. More than 40 journalists were still being held in police stations in Kathmandu this evening, according to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and other local sources.

Hundreds of journalists and their supporters gathered this afternoon in Ratna Park, an area in the capital where the government has banned mass demonstrations, according to local journalists. Shortly after their protest began, riot police with batons began arresting the protesters, according to local and international news reports. The FNJ has reported that 46 journalists, including FNJ President Bishnu Nisthuri, were loaded into vans and taken to Janasewa, Singha Durbar, and Kamalpokhari police stations across the city, where they remained in custody late today.

Some journalists were injured as baton-wielding police attempted to round them up, FNJ and local journalists told CPJ.

Journalists were demonstrating against reported government proposals to institute restrictive media laws, as well as the arrests and overnight detentions of journalists protesting in Kathmandu on June 8.

Despite the arrests, police were unable to stop the rally. Protesters continued marching through the restricted area, and the demonstration culminated with speeches calling for an end to restrictions on the press.

Earlier this morning, as many as 52 journalists, lawyers, and other citizens in the town of Banepa, Kavre district, were arrested while protesting the government’s repressive actions toward the press. They were released this afternoon.

“The government of Nepal should respond to media protests by restoring press freedom, not arresting journalists,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call for the immediate release of our colleagues.”

Nepal’s King Gyanendra dismantled the independent press when he seized power from the multi-party government on February 1. While some restrictions have been eased, a ban on FM radio news broadcasting and other limits on independent reporting remain in place. Journalists have stepped up protests since reports of a government proposal to codify and intensify current media restrictions were leaked to the press at the end of May.