IFJ Warns Over Safety Crisis for Local Journalists Following Attack on FM Station in Nepal

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned over the safety of four journalists who remain in custody after a police raid on Radio Sagarmatha FM, a community radio station in Nepal.

On Sunday November 27, 2005 at approximately 9pm, Radio Sagarmatha FM went off air after police raided the station, ordered staff not to use the phone, seized its transmission equipment and took into custody five journalists and technicians working at the station. Police raided the station as it was airing relay transmissions of BBC Nepali Service Live from London.

The journalists arrested were Durga Karki, Dipak Babur Aryal, Dipak Raj Pandey, Punya Bhandari and technician Rajendra Bhandari. Police later released Durga Karki. The others are being kept at District Police Office in Jawalakhel, Lalitpur.

“The use of intimidation tactics by the Nepalese Government in attempts to silence the media and dissenting, critical voices is unacceptable,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

According to officials of the FM station, armed security officials left behind two letters, one asking for Sagarmatha to shut down its transmission until further notice and the other stating the authorities were taking the radio equipment for investigation.

The reason for the raid against Sagarmatha is thought to be connected to the BBC Nepali Service airing an exclusive interview with Maoist chairman Prachanda alias Pushpa Kamal Dahal—the first radio interview given by him in the last ten years. Despite Sagarmatha airing music instead of the Prachanda interview.

It is reported that approximately seven FM stations outside of Kathmandu were forced to drop their transmission of BBC Nepali on Monday November 28 by local authorities because of the interview.

The authorities also suspended the transmission of BBC World Service over 103 FM owned by the state-run Radio Nepal despite state-run Radio Nepal blocking the news broadcast of BBC over 103 FM since the royal takeover in February.

The raid of Sagarmatha follows the October 21 police raid of the station of Kantipur FM where its equipment used to uplink its transmission were seized. The authorities are yet to return the equipment.

“The government’s attempts to quell all dissenting voices will only result in the complete quashing of all democratic space in Nepal, leaving little room for a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict the king used as an excuse for the February 1 coup, “ said Warren.

“The IFJ is calling for the immediate release of the journalists and technicians who remain in custody,” said Warren.

For more information about the Nepal crisis visit http://www.ifj-asia.org/page/nepalcrisis.html

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries