Supreme Court provisionally allows radio news back on the air

New York, November 30, 2005— The Committee to Protect Journalists applauds a decision today by Nepal’s Supreme Court to provisionally lift a government ban on the broadcasting of FM radio news. Independent radio stations such as Kantipur FM and Radio Sagarmatha resumed news bulletins after the interim ruling, local reporters said.

“This is an important first step on the road to restoring press freedom in Nepal,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We look forward to a final ruling that will permanently overturn the government’s repressive media ordinance.” A government ordinance in October enshrined temporary media restrictions imposed after King Gyanendra seized absolute power in February into permanent law.

The Court’s two judges, who ruled in response to a petition filed by media advocate Tulsiram Niroula, said that broadcasting news was “part of FM radio’s duty to its listeners,” according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur. It was not known when the court would issue its final verdict.

The ruling represented a U-turn for the Court which earlier this month refused to issue an interim order lifting the ban on Kantipur FM news broadcasts. It was the second victory for radio broadcasters this week. On Tuesday, the Court temporarily blocked the government’s suspension of Kathmandu-based Radio Sagarmatha (Everest) which was raided by police on Sunday to prevent it from broadcasting a BBC interview with a Maoist rebel leader.

Journalists have been protesting a crackdown on media freedom since the February coup. As well as banning private FM news broadcasts, the government ordinance also restricts coverage of the royal family and the Maoist insurgency, and increases the penalty for defamation.