IFJ Calls on Kingdom of Nepal to Rejoin Ranks of Democratic Nations

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the Nepalese government’s threat that they will take action against local journalists who report on the Maoist rebels in Nepal and urges the King to return the nation to full democracy.

The Interior Minister of Nepal was reported saying on March 12, 2006, “The government will treat anyone publishing and writing news about the Maoists as their accomplices, and will deal with them accordingly.”

“The government of Nepal must understand that reporting the news of the day is not a crime,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren. “The time is long overdue for the Kingdom of Nepal to rejoin the ranks of democratic nations and allow journalists to do their job without harassment, intimidation and fear,” he said.

The announcement by the government came two days before the planned blockade of the capital, Kathmandu, by Maoist rebels on March 14. The Maoists have also called for a nation-wide strike to begin on April 3. On March 13, Ministers from the government again demonstrated their tight control of the media when they barred local journalists from a meeting between business leaders and government officials in Birgunj.

The meeting was held to assess the problems facing the business community of Birgunj due to general strikes, and appeal to them to continue operating industries and transport services. Local reporter, Govinda Devkota, stated security personnel prevented local journalists from entering the venue at DDC Hall. Only government media and a few TV camerapersons from Kathmandu were allowed to enter.

This incident follows the seizure of a journalist in Tatopani by members of the Armed Police Force (APF) on March 8, who threatened to charge the reporter with terrorism. The managing operator of Sri Abhilekh weekly, Pabitra Kumar Khadka, was then pressured by APF DSP Deepak Thapa, in his office, to divulge his news sources. A week earlier, Khadka’s newspaper had reported on APF abusing civilians when they beat up a dozen local women, injuring one of them severely.

The IFJ president condemned theses actions by Nepalese government officials and police stating, “We will continue to demand the Nepalese authorities re-institute the people’s fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of expression and association. “

The IFJ is participating in a second joint International Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression Mission to Nepal between March 20-25, 2006.

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