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Nepal July 14, 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 recent grave violations of free speech and press in your country. Since February 1, your government has imposed censorship on Nepal ‘s news media, banning the press from airing, printing or publishing anything that pertains to politics in Nepal . This pernicious ban is still in place, even after your declared state of emergency was lifted in late April.
The Overseas Press Club of America (OPC), an international organization that has defended journalists around the world for more than 65 years, believes that along with depriving Nepali citizens and the world of information, the restrictions also trample on the right to free expression.
We request that you immediately rescind 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 detained and to make public any information on the status and whereabouts of all who have been placed under arrest.
On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, more than 1,000 Nepali editors and reporters participated in a rally in Kathmandu , demanding the release of their arrested colleagues and a lifting of curbs on the media. The Federation of Nepali Journalists says that at least six journalists remain in detention and more than 2,000 have lost their jobs since the royal take-over in February.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, protests against your government’s ongoing restrictions — in particular, the banning of FM radio news programming — have been regular features in recent months. A number of journalists have been arrested and detained briefly during recent demonstrations, including 10 journalists who were held for five hours after holding a protest in a restricted area in the central district of Kavre.
Other incidents of recent Nepali journalist arrests and intimidation include :
• Police arrested a group of journalists on 29 June when they were trying to stage a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Information and Communications demanding full press freedom in Nepal . The protest was called by the Nepal Press Union . According to the union, the police have arrested journalists Murari Kumar Sharma, Bindu Kanta Ghimire, Kiran Pokhrel, Shital Koirala and Shiva Devkota . The journalists are affiliated with the union.
• According to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, police have questioned Kishor Karki , editor of Blast Time , a daily newspaper based in the town of Dharan , about his reporting on a clash between the government and Maoist rebels.
• According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in June, in the town of Butwal in western Nepal , police briefly detained nine journalists, including the Federation of Nepalese Journalists’ Rupandehi district secretary Deepak Gyawali, who were protesting the detention of their colleagues in Kathmandu . Six journalists were hurt when police used their batons to round up protesters
• Dinesh Chandra Thapaliya , a journalist with the national Prerana monthly and Youth Awareness Environment Forum, was reportedly abducted by unidentified persons from his residence at Kalanki on Sunday, July 3.
Journalists are also facing pressure from Maoist rebels who have issued threats in recent weeks against reporters who are critical of their activities. At least two journalists have been kidnapped by Maoists since May. Bikram Giri , a correspondent for the daily, Kantipur , was abducted in June in the western district of Darchula. He was released one week later on June 10. Journalist Som Sharma , who was abducted on May 13, was released just this week by Maoist rebels.
In sum, the climate for the press in Nepal is grim. We urge your government to reverse your current censorship of Nepal ‘s media and to cease arrests and intimidation of those working as journalists in Nepal .
We look forward to your early reply.
Co-chair, Freedom of the Press Committtee
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