IFJ Condemns Nepalese Government Following Arrest of Six Nepalese Journalists at Rally

Nepalese journalists face the very real threat of kidnapping, torture and arrest on a daily basis. Since February 1, the risks associated with being a journalist have increased dramatically as the Gyanendra Government embarks on a major campaign to intimidate and censor any person who speaks out in favour of free speech. Alongside lethal violence, journalists are confronting major job losses and widespread censorship.

Despite the threats to their personal safety, journalists in Nepal continue to protest these comprehensive civil rights violations. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the organisation that represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries, supports their Nepalese colleagues' determination to restore press freedom and freedom of association.

The systematic bullying of journalists continued on July 25 when riot police arrested another 22 members of civil society, including six journalists, on July 25 at a public rally. Riot police intervened in the rally when the group defied the government by trying to enter the Ratna Park area.

According to information received by the IFJ, the vice president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) was among those arrested, as well as a member of the FNJ's central executive committee. Four other journalists - Kanak Mani Dixit, Shyam Shrestha, Kedar Khadka and Krishna Abiral - were also arrested.

The activists and professionals were detained overnight in Mahendra Police Club in Exhibition Road. They were released on July 26 at 9.30am. Some of the detainees had received minor injuries during the scuffle with police.

"We welcome the news that all the journalists that were unjustly arrested on July 25 have been released. Nonetheless it is greatly distressing that in a country where free expression could make a real difference to society, those who work towards it face certain retribution," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

"Having just finished talks in Nepal, we had hoped that the situation there might improve. Instead it just keeps getting worse. All journalists have the right to be safe in their profession and this just is not the case in Nepal."

"This is a sheer mockery of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990 and the democratic norms that guarantee the right to hold peaceful rallies and demonstrations," said FNJ secretary Balaram Baniya.

In recent months there has been a pattern of harassment of journalists with mass sackings at Nepalese Television (NTV) on July 24, death threats against the executive editor of Kathmandu's Dristi Weekly on July 18 and 19, and widespread media bans.

King Gyanendra fired the government on February 1, suspended civil liberties and press freedom and blocked internet access in a move he said was needed to fight an anti-monarchy Maoist revolt that has left 12,500 people dead.

The IFJ participated in the International Advocacy Mission for Press Freedom in Nepal from July 10 to 16. Click here to read the full mission statement. http://www.ifj-asia.org/files/final_mission_statement.pdf

For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 (0) 411 757 668
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries