Nepalese authorities harass journalists for reporting on the military

New York, June 23, 2005—Nepalese authorities continue to harass and intimidate journalists who independently cover military activities. Local newspapers report that two editors were interrogated this week and urged to disclose their sources for stories involving the Royal Nepalese Army.

Police today questioned Kishor Karki, editor of Blast Time, a daily newspaper based in the town of Dharan, about his reporting on a clash between the government and Maoist rebels, according to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ).

Citing orders from the chief district officer, a police inspector questioned Karki for two hours in an effort to compel him to reveal the source for his reporting on violence in eastern Bhojpur district on June 22, the FNJ said in a written statement. The editor did not disclose his source.

In a separate incident yesterday, two plainclothes military officers entered the offices of the Kathmandu-based weekly Jana Aastha three times to question staff members about a June 22 article on the activities of a general in the Nepalese army, editor Kishor Shrestha told the Committee to Protest Journalists. Shrestha said that he also received a phone call at his home.

Military officers demanded that Shrestha and other journalists at the newspaper reveal the source for the June 22 article, the editor said. The reporter who wrote the story was not in Kathmandu, and other Jana Aastha journalists refused to disclose the source. Officers left only after threatening to return on Monday.

“The staff were very much afraid,” Shrestha told CPJ. “The officers said, ‘We’re not going to forgive you. There’s no excuse for this.’”

Armed military censors occupied all major media houses during the week of February 1, when King Gyanendra took power in a royal coup. Shortly afterward, the Ministry of Information and Communication (MOIC) issued wide bans on reporting, including a directive banning the press from reporting independently on the ongoing conflict between the government and Maoist rebels. While journalists have pushed the lines of government control during recent months, the MOIC orders have never been lifted.

In recent weeks, journalists have stepped up protests against media restrictions initiated on February 1, including a total ban on private FM radio news broadcasting. Dozens of journalists have been arrested and detained briefly since protests intensified this month, including 10 journalists who were held for five hours after holding a protest in a restricted area in the central district of Kavre yesterday.

“Independent reporting on the conflict in Nepal is crucial to the safety of its citizens and the defense of human rights,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on Nepalese authorities to stop harassing journalists who report on military affairs.”