NUJ calls for press freedom in Nepal

By Dominic Ponsford

NUJ leader Jeremy Dear visited the Nepali embassy this week to
demand the reinstatement of press freedom and the release of imprisoned
journalists.

King Gyanendra took direct control of the country last week and
sacked his government. According to the International Federation of
Journalists he has imposed a media blackout and ordered the army to
close down private media companies until further notice.

Radio
stations have also been closed down and journalists are reported to
have been detained by the authorities, including Federation of Nepalese
Journalists president Tara Nath Dahal and FNJ secretary general Bishnu
Nisthuri. Both have been vocal opponents of the king’s decision to take
power.

Dear and NUJ president Jim Corrigal handed a letter into
the Nepali embassy “to protest in the strongest possible terms at the
media blackout that has been imposed in parts of Nepal and the arrest
of the general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists
Bishnu Nisthuri”.

It said: “The problems faced by Nepal cannot be solved by removing constitutional rights and arresting journalists.

We seek an urgent meeting to discuss the crisis in Nepal and will be
raising our concerns with MPs and Government in the UK and Ireland.”

King Gyanendra is also reported to have imposed a six-month ban on
news reports deemed to be against the “letter and spirit” of the King’s
proclamation that he was seizing power.

One of the only ways that
Nepali people can access impartial news is via the BBC World Service
broadcasts. An English language service is broadcast 24 hours a day on
Radio Nepal, a partner station for the BBC. However, the station is
subject to severe censorship.

At 3pm (8.45pm local time) a Nepali
language service kicks in on both fm and short wave. If the fm service
is censored it can still be heard on short wave. The number of people
using the BBC’s Nepali website has increased, with daily page
impressions rising by over 80,000 in recent days.

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