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Nepal February 18, 2005
H.M. King Bikram Gyanendra Bir Shah Dev
The Royal Palace
Kingdom of Nepal
Fax: (011.977.1) 22-73-95
We write to condemn the extreme censorship that your government has imposed on Nepal’s news media during the state of emergency you recently declared. Your suspension of fundamental constitutional rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to information, should be reversed immediately.
At a meeting this week with newspaper editors, your personal secretary reportedly stated that he would be unable to “help” if the military decided to “disappear” journalists or editors “for a few hours,” an appalling statement in a country that according to the United Nations had the highest number of reported “disappearances” in the world in both 2003 and 2004.
We also write to express our concern for the rights and safety of individual journalists who are subject to arrest and arbitrary detention under the state of emergency. A number of prominent journalists have been arrested or detained and intimidated. According to army spokesperson, General Dipak Gurung, Bisnu Nisthuri, the general secretary of the Nepal Federation of Journalists, has been arrested. The BBC’s Nepali news service has been forced to suspend its broadcasts, and Netra K.C., its correspondent in the western city of Nepalgunj, was reportedly detained and then released. The president of the Nepal Federation of Journalists, Tara Nath Dahal, has been forced to go into hiding after several attempts by the Royal Nepalese Army to arrest him.
Because the constitution does not allow the King’s actions to be challenged in court, Nepal’s journalists are effectively at the mercy of the security forces, which have a history of widespread and serious violations of human rights. Besides depriving Nepalis and the world of information, the restrictions also trample on the right to free expression.
The Overseas Press Club of America, an international organization that has defended journalists around the world for over 60 years, asks that you immediately rescind your restrictions on the media and publicly affirm that journalists be allowed to do their vital work free of threats and pressure. We also urge you to release all journalists who have been unjustly detained and to make public any information on the status and whereabouts of all who have been placed under arrest.
We thank you for your attention and look forward to your prompt reply.
Freedom of the Press Committee
cc: H.E. Surya Bahadur Thapa
Office of the Prime Minister
Kingdom of Nepal
Fax: (011.977.1) 22-72-86
Jai Pratap Rana
Ambassador of Nepal to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Kingdom of Nepal
2131 Leroy Place, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 667-5534
Ambassador Murari Raj Sharma
Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Nepal
to the United Nations
820 Second Avenue, Suite 17-B
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 953-2038
Michael E. Malinowski
U.S. Ambassador to Nepal
Embassy of the United States of America
Fax: (011.977.1) 441-9963