IFJ Applauds Courage of Nepalese Colleagues and Calls for Global Solidarity

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) applauds the courage of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and called for a strong global response in defence of democracy and civil rights after the royal coup in Nepal.

The FNJ was the first group to condemn the monarchy’s grab for power in a statement smuggled out of the country today. The statement demonstrates great courage by the FNJ leader and prominent Nepali journalist Tara Nath Dahal. It says:

“This has utterly destroyed the fabric of democracy and has confirmed that the lives of ordinary citizens as well as national values are in grave danger.”

According to reports from a source in the country, one Nepali language paper Rajhdani has demonstrated extreme courage by publishing the names of people arrested in the 1 February coup.

The media are being monitored by army personnel, usually inside the offices themselves. In the case of one anti-monarch publication, the Jan Ashta weekly, a colonel is reported to have moved into the building.

The private media are protesting by not publishing entertainment news or reporting deliberately on non-issues.

All local land lines and mobile phones have been cut off so the Nepalese cannot even talk to each other. Access to the Internet and satellite television has been blocked.

The airport was shut and planes turned away. Some limited flights from India have been resumed, but it is unclear how frequent these will be. Nepal has an open border with India, but reports suggest that the army and customs officials are searching all returning Nepalis for any newspapers, magazines or other published material

The only reports coming from inside the country are being smuggled out or broadcast through the BBC and UN organisations in the country.

There is information that hundreds of people have already been arrested. Some are under house arrest, others under police arrest. Other groups are being held by the army. It is reported that many of those have been arrested based on video footage of street demonstrations taken by army intelligence.

In a statement to the BBC, Tara Nath Dahal has also said that the journalists are organising a protest rally, despite the martial law order that no groups of more than five people are allowed.

“We also believe that it is important to fight for this with courage and determination in order to guarantee the right of the Nepali people to information,” said FNJ President Tara Nath Dahl in his media release.

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.

The IFJ is co-ordinating a global action of all affiliates to protest to their local Nepalese Embassy and write to their foreign minister condemning the King’s actions. Journalists across South Asia have condemned the media crackdown and suspension of other basic freedoms in Nepal.

“We can’t know how much of these global protests are known to people like Tara Nath Dahal fighting for democracy in Nepal,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

“But we can be sure that they’re being heard by Gyanendra and the Nepalese Army,” said Warren.

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

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

The full text of the release from the FNJ of February 2 follows:

“The Royal announcement made yesterday, by ending the spirit and value of the Constitution of Nepal, is a coup against democracy and peoples’ rights. This has undoubtedly destroyed the fabric of democracy and has also confirmed that the lives of ordinary civilians as well as national values are in grave danger.

“The Federation strongly condemns and expresses disagreement on this historic and enormous mistake. To believe that following a path like this will restore peace and democracy is standing against the values and ideas of modern civilization.

“The Federation of Nepali Journalists does not believe that, in the 21st century, the country can progress and achieve democracy through an ‘imposed’ monarchy by the King. This move has also ended freedom of expression, press freedom and other rights of the citizens that were won after great struggle and sacrifice.

“Press censorship and the presence of the army in media houses have begun. Communications have been completely disrupted. Now there is no free press and it has been effectively killed. At this time, the Federation of Nepali Journalists believes that its duty is to fight for freedom of the press, democracy, a just peace and national freedom. We also believe that it is important to fight for this with courage and determination in order to guarantee the right of the Nepali people to information.”