Police raid on leading radio station called ‘outrageous’

New York, October 24, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the brazen late-night raid on Kantipur FM’s Kathmandu headquarters on Friday when dozens of armed police officers forcibly entered the radio station, seized control of the studio, and confiscated modems, recorders, and equipment used by the station to transmit programming to the country’s eastern districts.

The raid on the popular station came just two weeks after the government instituted a draconian new media law that severely restricts the press. Among other provisions, it bars criticism of King Gyanendra and his family and imposes a blanket prohibition on radio broadcast news.

Officials from the Ministry of Information, accompanied by armed security guards, visited Kantipur FM on Friday afternoon to present letters to the station owners demanding that they follow the new media law, including its ban on simultaneous transmission from more than one location, Kantipur reported.

The station’s management resisted, asking for written orders; a group of politicians and activists joined them at the station to protest the government’s move. The officials left that evening, but police returned hours later and seized the station’s equipment.

According to the Kathmandu Post, Kantipur FM’s transmissions to the eastern districts reached 6 million listeners.

“Nepalese citizens are entitled to news and information. Disrupting the free flow of information is outrageous and unconstitutional,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.

In a meeting with the heads of several stations on October 23, the government threatened to revoke the license of any FM radio station that violates the new media law.

Kantipur FM is planning to fight the government seizure in the Supreme Court. The station’s legal advisor told the Kathamandu Post that the station holds a license from 2000 granting it the right to transmit from multiple locations. Kantipur FM is owned by the Kantipur Publishing Group, one of Nepal’s largest media companies and one known for its criticism of the King and his February 1 takeover. Its newspapers include the Kathamandu Post and Kantipur,

The new media law, or so-called “black ordinance,” and the confiscation of Kantipur FM’s equipment have drawn widespread criticism across the country. A joint petition filed with the Supreme Court on Sunday challenged the new media law as unconstitutional.