CPJ welcomes court decision in favor of FM station

New York, August 11, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes a Nepalese judge’s decision on Wednesday to block a government order that could have shut Nepal FM 91.8. Authorities have sought to close the station for defying a government ban on broadcasting news. Buoyed by the preliminary court ruling, several FM stations in Nepal have begun airing news bulletins, and others said they expect to resume news programming within the week, according to local newspapers.

“Nepal’s radio journalists have fought bravely against the government’s unjust and illegal ban on independent news broadcasts,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We welcome the court’s stay on the government order to shutter Nepal FM 91.8, and we call on authorities to withdraw the FM news ban immediately.”

Supreme Court Justice Anup Raj Sharma issued the interim ruling, which stays the government’s effort to revoke the license of Nepal FM 91.8. The court has asked government authorities to provide a written explanation for the legal grounds for its actions, according to local and international news reports.

The Ministry of Information and Communications last week gave the independent station seven days to provide an explanation for airing news, rather than entertainment, on its program “Rajdhani Khabar” on July 1, July 10 and August 1. Bishnuhari Dhakal, managing director of Nepal FM 91.8, went to court instead.

Authorities banned independent FM radio news stations from broadcasting news after King Gyanendra dismissed the multi-party government and declared a state of emergency on February 1. Hundreds of radio journalists lost their jobs and rural citizens lost a primary source of information, according to CPJ research.

Synergy FM in Chitawan, Radio Swargadwari in Dang and Radio Madanpokhara in Palpa resumed news broadcasts yesterday, according to statements released by local radio journalists. Local newspapers reported that other radio stations were planning to resume news broadcasts by the end of the week.

A final ruling by the Supreme Court on the case is expected soon, according to local and international news reports.