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Nepal 25 May 2005

New edict tightens screw still further on press freedom

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemned a new edict adopted by the council of ministers on 18 May that turns the screw still further on the media.

The press, which has been constantly under attack since King Gyanendra assumed direct power on 1st February, finds itself under even tougher state control with this new law, the organisation said.

"Press freedom has never threatened national interests or internal peace," it said. "Restricting it constitutes a major brake on a return to democracy."

Among its provisions is a licensing clause banning cross media ownership so that a private company can no longer own a TV station, radio and a newspaper. Companies with this kind of license will have to rid themselves of one of the three media within one year. The government, which runs Nepal Television, Radio Nepal and several newspapers does not seem to be affected by the measure.

Fines have been hiked up, in some cases tenfold, so that editors face fines of 100,000 rupees (about 1,200 euros) instead of 10,000 rupees (120 euros) for publishing illegal articles, such as those inciting "terrorist activities"

The edict also grants increased powers to the government which can seize and cancel journalists’ press cards if they consider that their work infringes "the spirit of the law".

FM radio is not spared. They were already subject to a 1st February ministry of information and communications directive for a six month period banning news programmes and debates. The new edict extends government control to news on health, education, sport, the environment and population.

The edict now awaits ratification from King Gyanendra and is intended to be put into force with immediate effect.

In this country
30 April - Nepal
Radio station threatened by Maoists
8 February - Nepal
Nepalese media in great danger, International Press Freedom Mission finds
14 January - Nepal
Four arrested for woman journalist’s murder, while clandestine group claims responsibility
12 January - Nepal
Journalist and women’s rights activist brutally murdered
23 December - Nepal
Militant maoists continue their attacks against the media

in the annual report
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