Nepal’s journalists are still subject to arbitrary arrests and harassment by the security forces as well as violence and kidnapping by Maoist armed groups, and although King Gyanendra lifted a state of emergency on 30 April, they still have to deal with entrenched censorship, Reporters Without Borders said today, urging the government to restore democratic values and press freedom.
"Restricting free expression will not help Nepal emerge from the present crisis, while the duty of the security forces is to protect journalists not to arrest them in an arbitrary fashion," the press freedom organization said. It also condemned violence against the press by Maoist groups.
As journalist Maheshwor Pahari of the Rastriya Swabhiman daily newspaper was leaving Kaski prison in the central town of Pokhara on 13 May, on completing a six-month prison sentence, he was re-arrested in an entirely illegal manner and taken to Ward police station in Bagar. He has been detained several times since January 2004.
Kanakmani Dixit, the publisher of the magazine Himal Khabar Pat, was interrogated on 18 May by Sthaneswor Devkota, the chief district officer of Lalitpur (a Kathmandu suburb), about articles advocating constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. He was ordered to defend himself in writing.
Maoist rebels meanwhile blew up the transmitters at the state-owned Nepal Television in the western district of Palpa last night after overpowering guards.
Reporters Without Borders said it also condemned the abduction of journalist Som Sharma of the weekly Aankha from his home in the eastern city of Mangalbare Bazaar on 13 May. Maoist rebels are believed to have carried out the kidnapping, although no group has yet claimed responsibility.