Mass arrest of journalists protesting media curbs

New York, September 16, 2005—Police detained more than 80 journalists today in Kathmandu ahead of a planned protest against restrictions on the media. The journalists had gathered in the capital’s Ratna Park area, where rallies are banned. The journalists were held for about four hours and released.

“The authorities should not prevent protests by journalists calling for a complete restoration of press freedom,” said Ann Cooper, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Scores of journalists have been arrested, and some held for several months, since February 1, when King Gyanendra dismissed a multi-party government, called a state of emergency and imposed press curbs. The state of emergency was lifted at the end of April but a ban on independent reporting of fighting between security forces and Maoist rebels is still in effect.

“We urge the government to withdraw all bans on independent reporting, and to ensure that journalists can work without harassment,” Cooper added.

Thousands of pro-democracy activists have held citywide protests in the last two weeks to call for multi-party rule. Two hundred protesters were arrested today, according to the Associated Press. Several journalists have been injured covering the protests.

Journalists told CPJ that police appeared to be deliberately targeting them despite their clear identification as press. Radio reporter Tilak Mahat received four stitches on his head on Tuesday after police beat him at a protest in the capital’s Bagh Bazar.