CPJ condemns Nepal’s repressive media law

New York, October 11, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the restrictive media law implemented on October 9 by Nepal’s King Gyanendra. Local journalists report that the ordinance codifies severe restrictions on the press that were announced when the king sacked the multi-party government and claimed absolute authority on February 1.

“These extremely repressive amendments to the press law are a major blow to journalists in Nepal, who have worked tirelessly to preserve their livelihood, from a king who appears determined to destroy the independent press,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We condemn this law and call for its immediate repeal.”

The king’s cabinet first passed the law in May but delayed its implementation when journalists launched a wave of protests, according to local news reports.

The new law bans FM stations from broadcasting news, according to local reports. Radio stations in Nepal started airing news programs in August for the first time since February after the Supreme Court stayed a government order banning FM news broadcasts. The ministry issued a warning today to private FM radio stations to stop broadcasting news in compliance with the new ordinance, according to local reports. As many as 2,000 radio journalists face unemployment.

The law also limits any one group or individual from operating more than two types of media, according to local news reports. This provision appeared to be aimed at Nepal’s major independent media house Kantipur, which operates radio, television and newspapers.

The ordinance codifies a prohibition on news content that “causes hatred or disrespect” to the king and members of the royal family, according to news reports. It also bans news “promoting terrorists, terrorism and destructive activities.”

In addition, the law increases the penalty for defamation and for importing, publishing, or translating “banned items.” According to the state-owned Gorkhapatra, it also forbids any local news organization except the National News Agency (RSS) from distributing reports from foreign news agencies.

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists told local media that its members plan to protest the ordinance.