UK journalists brave Nepalese unrest to cover democracy fight

By Caitlin Pike

UK broadcasters covering the people’s demonstrations for democracy in Nepal have got the news out despite the brutal clampdown from the king’s security forces.

The BBC’s South Asia correspondent, Nick Bryant, told Press Gazette: "Logistically it has been a nightmare with the mobile phone network shut down. On top of that we were subject to the same curfew conditions as everyone else — shoot on sight — if we were outside the hotel.

"Initially we walked out of the hotel to make sure we weren’t going to get shot. After we had walked past the army and police without getting shot at, we then were able to go out in our car."

Bryant described a real determination by the authorities not to let them film, but at no point did they come under fire or violence from forces, unlike Nepali journalists who have been beaten, arrested and detained over the past two weeks.

He said: "The forces are certainly more respectful of the international media — especially an organisation like the BBC. There were a couple of instances when we thought the police and army were going to get very aggressive, but when we turned up we seemed to be a moderating influence. It doesn’t always apply though — we have turned up and the army have carried on beating people as if we hadn’t been there."

Channel 4 News Asia correspondent Ian Williams told Press Gazette his presence proved a problem when trying to film: "One of the big challenges for television is telling the story beyond the riot, because, not unsurprisingly, volumes of people being tear-gassed tends to make a very dramatic picture, but it doesn’t tell the whole story and can be misleading.

"We had an incident where we saw a crowd of protestors and stopped. As we approached them it became obvious that they had been turning around to leave, but when they saw us they turned back and the fixer said they were saying ‘let’s throw stones, let’s throw stones’.

We decided to get out of there because we didn’t want to feel that by our presence we were creating a riot. It’s a fine line to tread when there are people performing to camera and you are there to record events."

Williams described the exhilaration which Nepali journalists, who have been severely censored since King Gyanendra assumed direct powers in February 2005, are now experiencing after his pledge to reinstate parliament.

"I spoke to the editor of The Kathmandu Post and Nepalese paper Kantipur, which are the two bolder newspapers. A year ago when the king seized power, they had military censors sitting in the newsroom. Now they are really pushing the boundaries and telling the real story for the first time in a year.

"There is a real exhilaration and excitement among Nepalese journalists."

For more, visit www.pressgazette.co.uk

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