IFJ Deeply Concerned Over Local Media Safety as Nepal Enters a State of Emergency

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is extremely concerned over the safety of journalists and the collapse of democracy after King Gyanendra dismissed the Nepalese parliament and declared an immediate state of emergency.

On 1 February 2005, King Gyanendra of Nepal dismissed the 8-month old Sher Bahadur Deuba government and declared a state of emergency. The king also suspended constitutional rights to freedom of press, speech and expression, to assemble peacefully, to privacy and against preventive detention.

All telephone and mobile phone lines have been cut, flights to the capital were cancelled and Nepal's press has been suspended. Nepalese news sites are inaccessible and all Internet services in Nepal have been suspended. With Nepal cut off from the outside world journalists and others committed to freedom of the press and opinion are left vulnerable.

The IFJ has since had reports that Royal Thai airways has resumed all flights and that the King has appointed a ten member cabinet including members of the previous cabinet.

The limited information that we are receiving out of Nepal is that the palace has summoned all newspaper editors and they have been told that all publications will be subject to vetting by the Palace from now on. Unconfirmed reports tell of journalists detained in army camps and threatened not to publish articles critical of the King's action.

The IFJ has been unable to contact any of our affiliates or colleagues in Nepal and we are deeply concerned for their safety.

The IFJ has called on all affiliates to urgently take action by sending letters of protest to their foreign minister and local Nepalese Embassy. IFJ South Asia affiliates and other partners of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network will also use the forthcoming SAARC meeting in Dhaka to press these demands.

The IFJ has written to King Gyanendra, UN Secretary General, the Australian Foreign Minister, and the Nepalese Embassy in Australia calling for the King to ensure the rights, safety and freedom of movement of all journalists and a quick return to democracy in Nepal.

The IFJ, together with affiliates and partners in Nepal, has documented Nepal's grim history of violating human rights and oppressing freedom of speech. More than 100 journalists were arrested during the previous state of emergency and many of them were subjected to torture.

"The IFJ is gravely concerned about the violation of human rights and disintegration of democracy in Nepal. We hold grave concern for the journalists there and urge the King of Nepal to take immediate action and re-instate democracy in Nepal," said IFJ President, Christopher Warren.

"A democratic government and a free and independent media will be crucial to reaching a peaceful resolution to the current conflict," said Warren in a letter to King Gyanendra.

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

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