Nepal: Journalists must be free to report on their country’s turmoil

New York, April 21, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on King Gyanendra, all political parties, and other groups to respect press freedom and ensure the safety of Nepalese journalists, more than 20 of whom remain in detention.

“While Nepal is in political turmoil, we must remember the important role that journalists play at such times. They must be allowed to continue to inform the public of the fast-changing events that will affect the course of the nation as well as the safety of Nepalese people,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director. “We call on the king to release all journalists and to ensure that they can work safely and freely.”

Since pro-democracy demonstrations started on April 4, more than 200 Nepalese journalists have been detained while participating in protests to demand press freedom or while covering the nationwide demonstrations, according to information compiled by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ). Dozens more have been injured while covering the events or joining in the demonstrations.

Nepalese journalists contacted by CPJ today said that security forces showed more restraint in the period leading up to King Gyanendra’s announcement that he will return executive power to the country’s political parties. A curfew remained in force, but journalists were on hand to report on the hundreds of thousands of protestors who turned out on the streets.

Journalists in Nepal have been fighting to restore press freedom since King Gyanendra took absolute power and curbed their rights on February 1, 2005. Despite efforts by the king’s appointed government to inhibit independent coverage by harassing, arresting and assaulting journalists, Nepal’s press has taken a lead in reporting the events of the recent nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations.