October 11, 2005
New media laws will cripple press freedom in Nepal, says IFJ
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries, is alarmed at the King’s decision to dramatically change media laws in Nepal.
On October 9, King Gyanendra announced changes to media law that would come into force immediately, limiting media licences, banning the broadcast of news on radio and prohibiting a number of foreign publications. Most alarmingly, fines for defamation have been increased ten fold.
King Gyanendra announced the laws the day before Nepal’s ten day long festival (Dashain Leave), leaving media organisations no time to respond to the ordinance.
“Press freedom and journalists’ rights in Nepal will be swept away by these laws. In announcing these laws, the King has effectively declared he has no intention of upholding press freedoms guaranteed in the constitution of Nepal or respecting journalists’ rights,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.
“In July, vice chairman of the Council of Ministers, Kirti Nidhi Bista, and Minister of Information, Tanka Dhakal, assured the IFJ that all articles of the Nepalese constitution were in force. These assurances have not been upheld, and the IFJ strongly condemns the amended media laws,” said the IFJ president.
“Most people return home to the countryside during the festival, so by announcing the new laws on the eve of the holiday, King Gyanendra ensured many media workers unable to protest during the festival,” said Warren.
According to IFJ sources, the amended laws were passed several months ago, but had not been introduced due to strong opposition from the Nepalese media and international condemnation.
Penalties have increased dramatically, with journalists charged with defamation now facing a fine 10 times more than the previous amount, and a possible two-year jail term.
Radio stations are now banned from broadcasting news-related programmes, and foreign publications containing ‘prohibited information’ are banned.
Under the new law, any news that “causes hatred or disrespect” to any member of the royal family is prohibited, previously this law only applied to the king.
Individuals and organisations won’t be able to hold licenses across all three media. Those who already have licences for radio, television and print will have one year to choose which two media they will keep and allow the remaining one to be managed by a separate person or organisation.
Press freedom and the rights of journalists in Nepal have been repeatedly attacked since the royal coup on February 1, this year.
For more information about the Nepal crisis visit www.ifj-asia.org/page/nepalcrisis.html
For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 (0) 411 757 668.
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries