Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is seen addressing the nation from the office of state broadcaster Nepal Television in Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 20, 2020. Nepalese TV providers recently stopped airing broadcasts from Indian news networks. (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar)

Nepal TV operators refuse to air Indian news channels following critical reports

From July 9 to 13, 2020, at least eight Nepalese cable and satellite operators stopped airing broadcasts from about 20 Indian news channels, following reports perceived to be critical of Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, according to news reports.

The vice-chair of Nepalese cable company Max TV, Dhruba Sharma, said that on July 9, eight to nine television service providers joined in refusing to air about 20 channels, and accused them of “attacking” Nepal’s sovereignty, according to those reports.

The block was initiated after the privately-owned Indian news channel Zee News aired a report insinuating that Prime Minister Oli was working at the behest of China and accusing him of having close ties to the Chinese ambassador to Nepal, according to those news reports.

The Nepalese television providers resumed airing many Indian news channels on July 13, but have not resumed broadcasts of Zee News, Aaj Tak, India TV, or ABP News, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

Sharma said the decision to block the channels was made by the privately run cable operators, and was not at the behest of the government. The providers continued to air India’s state broadcaster Doordarshan and Indian entertainment and sports channels, according to those reports.

In an opinion piece, Sharma wrote that Article 9 of Nepal’s National Broadcasting Rules bars broadcasting content that “undermines the sovereignty and integrity of Nepal.” Sharma told CPJ via messaging app that cable operators did not have an obligation to air any broadcast that “hurts the sensibilities of our viewers and breaks our law.”

Dinesh Subedi, president of the Nepal Cable Television Association, a local trade group, and chair of Max TV, told the Kathmandu Post that the companies will continue refusing to air those channels for an undetermined amount of time.

The Nepalese government condemned the allegations about Oli, according to The Associated Press. Yubaraj Khatidawa, a Nepalese government spokesperson, said on July 9 that the government would seek legal and political remedies against the “baseless” and “insulting” allegations against the prime minister, according to that report.

Sudeep Acharya, managing director of Nepalese satellite service provider Dish Home, which also refused to carry the Indian news channels, said his company was flooded with complaints about news reports concerning the prime minister, according to The Associated Press.

The Nepal Cable Television Association did not respond to CPJ’s requests for comment sent via email and Facebook.

CPJ emailed the Nepal Ministry of Information for comment but did not receive any response.