Media Blackout Outside Kathmandu in Nepalese Royal Media Crackdown

The International Federation of Journalists’ (IFJ) grave concerns for the safety of media in Nepal were reinforced today after it was confirmed that King Gyanendra has ordered a complete black out of all media outside the Kathmandu Valley.

The IFJ received reports that soldiers told media houses to shut down, “until further notice” in Pokhara, a city 200km west of Kathmandu.

“You don’t have to publish news from now onwards. This is the responsibility of the Kathmandu-based daily papers,” quoted army personal to a local reporter from one of the Nepali dailies.

It’s been reported that all the private media houses are now being run by military personnel since the February 1 takeover. The IFJ has reports of army majors dictating to editors what to include in editorials in Jan Ashta.

All the FM stations outside the Kathmandu valley have been closed down. Radio Sagarmatha, the first community radio station in South Asia, is now being run by the Royal Nepal Army. It has banned any news, discussion or regular programs from broadcast.

The local administration and army battalion head quarters of Rupandehi district in Western Nepal have ordered Butawal F.M and Lumbini F.M to stop broadcasting and have ordered Mechi Kali, Daily Lumbini, Jana Sangharsa and Naya Disha to discontinue publishing.

Khagendra Sangraula, prominent columnist of Kantipur daily has been arrested and is being detained at the Armed Police Head Quarters in Halchowk, Kathmandu, for his previous critical articles against an active monarchy.

All communication lines into and within the country remain cut off, as the military has taken charge of all internet-service providers and the two companies providing telephone and communication services, Nepal Telecom and UTL.

Ironically, the only outside link left remaining on BBC Nepali service website is a link to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Government, currently under house arrest.

The IFJ continues to have grave concerns for journalists and those committed to freedom of expression and, in particular, those who have in past been critical of the King.

The IFJ has documented Nepal’s grim history of violating human rights and freedom of speech. Nepalese journalists have been under intense pressure over the last three years during the CPN (Maoist) bloody struggle to establish a "people's republic" and abolish Nepal's constitutional monarchy and the state’s attempt to control the movement.

More than 100 journalists were arrested during the previous state of emergency from November 2001 to August 2002 and many of them were subjected to torture.

Eight journalists and one media worker have been killed since May 2002 and hundreds more threatened and attacked.

To date IFJ affiliates and partner organisations have delivered protest letters to Nepalese Embassies and consulates in Sydney, Moscow, Tokyo, Washington, New Delhi and Dhaka and journalists across the world have condemned the media crackdown and suspension of other basic freedoms in Nepal.

“Denial of information during this crucial time is a denial of basic human rights to the Nepali people, ” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

“We reiterate ours and the FNJ’s calls for a quick return to democracy and that the King ensures the rights and safety of journalists in Nepal,” said Warren.

For further information, contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries