Reporters Without Borders today condemned the interrogation of five weekly editors in the past 48 hours for publishing blank pages in protest against censorship, and the mistreatment of a reporter while being questioned by soldiers in Kathmandu.
The press freedom organization said it deplored these attempts to intimidate courageous editors who have been combated censorship and it reiterated its call for the lifting of all the censorship measures imposed by the king since 1 February.
"This does not scare me," one of the editors, Kabir Rana of the weekly Deshantar, told Reporters Without Borders. "I will continue to write in support of democracy and press freedom and I am ready to go to jail for this cause," he said.
Rana and Rajendra Baidh of the weekly Bimarsh were interrogated for two hours yesterday by Baman Prasad Neupane, the chief of the Kathmandu district administration office. They were freed after being made to sign a statement undertaking to report to the authorities whenever summoned.
The same official questioned Navaraj Timilsinha of Prakash, Gopal Budhathoki of Sanghu and Shashidhar Bhandari of Hank on February 24.
All the editors agreed today not to run any more blank spaces in their newspapers. "We are going to fill the blank spaces with reports about social issues, but not politics," said Budhathoki, who spent 22 days in detention in March 2002. "I wanted to show and tell my readers that I was prevented from expressing my views freely," he explained.
The editors of two dailies, Rajdhani and Himalaya Times, were summoned for questioning by the Kathmandu district administration office on 16 February for publishing political news reports in violation of the 1 February royal decree. Neupane asked them in future to notify the office before publishing any articles on the political situation. The two newspapers did not mention this summons in any of their reports.
Some Nepalese newspapers such as the daily Kantipur have run editorials on such subjects as archery and classical dance in order to protest against the censorship. The weekly Nepali Times, for its part, ran an editorial headlined "The Green forest is Nepal’s Health" that defended democracy by using ecology as a metaphor.
Swagat Nepal, a reporter and columnist for the daily Nepal Samacharpatra, was held for more than 14 hours by the military after being arrested on a Kathmandu street on 21 February by soldiers in plain clothes, who forced him into a jeep with no number plate. He was interrogated throughout the night, seated in chair and deprived of food and water. The soldiers questioned him about the nature of his links with Maoist publications such as Janadesh. He was released during the morning of 22 February.