Nepal pursues media crackdown one year after royal coup

New York, January 31, 2006— The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the ongoing harassment of journalists and assault on freedom of expression in Nepal one year after King Gyanendra seized absolute power.

“In the past 12 months the authorities in Nepal have detained more than 275 journalists and stripped the independent press of many of the legal rights and protection it has acquired since 1990,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director. “We call on the government of King Gyanendra to release all journalists and immediately stop its disastrous campaign of intimidation of the media.”

The king took control of government on February 1, 2005 saying emergency measures were needed to control a Maoist insurgency. He promised international allies and donors that curbs on private media were temporary but the crackdown has continued into 2006.

On January 20, security forces arrested Keshab Neupane, a reporter with the Darshan Daily newspaper based in the eastern city of Biratnagar. Journalists in Nepal told CPJ that Neupane had been informed by government officials that he would be held for at least three months.

Police arrested Chamina Bhattarai, a reporter with the Pratik Daily newspaper, in the central region of Simara on January 29. Radio reporter Jagadish Bhattarai, station manager of Shrinagar FM, was arrested January 30 in the central town of Palpa.

Government officials also ordered radio station Dhaulagiri FM to stop broadcasting news. The order blatantly contradicted a November 30, 2005, Supreme Court decision that provisionally lifted a government ban on the broadcasting of FM radio news.

Read a press release by the International Mission for Press Freedom and Free Expression in Nepal on the first anniversary of the royal coup.