Reporters Without Borders today welcomed yesterday’s ruling by Nepal’s supreme court that a government order closing the radio news agency Communication Corner was illegal. The court issued its decision in response to a writ petition filed on 30 May by the head of agency, Gopal Guragain, challenging the order issued on 27 May by the information and communications ministry.
Supreme court judges Ram Prasad Shrestha and Rajendra Kumar Bhandari instructed the government not to enforce the directive, stressing that the news agency has a valid operation licence issued by the information and communications ministry to produce news programmes for FM radio stations. During the hearings, government representatives revealed that the pressure to close the news agency had come from the defence ministry.
Crackdown on radio continues with ban on "Communication Corner"
Reporters Without Borders gave its backing to radio production agency ’Communication Corner’ threatened with closure on the orders of the government, the latest move in its media crackdown, as radio stations campaign against censorship imposed since 1st February.
The agency’s management received a letter for the ministry of information and communication on 27 May ordering it to halt all activities because of "complaints about illegal operations"
The agency’s managing director Gopal Guragain on 30 May lodged an appeal before the Supreme Court. "Contrary to the government, we believe in the rule of law", said Guragain who has been offered help by some 15 lawyers.
One Communication Corner journalist told Reporters Without Borders that he feared security forces would act to close its offices. In defiance of the closure order, the editorial staff, though much reduced since 1st February, has produced several programmes.
The closure decision was reportedly taken by Lokman Singh Karki, secretary at the ministry, under pressure from security forces, unhappy by the independent coverage put out by the agency, the only one of its kind in the kingdom.
Until 1st February, Communication Corner, which was founded five years ago, employed around 60 staff to produce programmes for 14 FM radio stations across the country.
Several hundred journalists demonstrated in the capital Kathmandu on 29 May to call for an end to radio censorship imposed by King Gyanendra. One banner read "Lift the ban on news on radio". Most of Nepal’s FM radio stations have combined to create the Save the Independent Radio Movement (SIRM)
The SIRM has planned a week of action starting 29 May in which all the radio stations will send a broken radio set and a copy of the Constitution to the information and communication minister. On 3 June, all radio stations are due to observe a two minutes silence.