Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of 51 journalists yesterday in Kathmandu while taking part in a demonstration organised by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) to demand the restoration of press freedom. They were held overnight and released this morning.
"Nepal’s journalists have already been subject to censorship and repeated arrests ever since King Gyanendra assumed full powers on 1 February, and now they find themselves exposed to reprisals when they dare to demand the restoration of their rights," the press freedom organisation said.
The demonstrating journalists, who were demanding an end to the ban on news reporting by radio stations, were surrounded and manhandled by police when they crossed the perimeter of an area of streets near the royal palace in Kathmandu which has been declared a "restricted zone" for protesters.
The demonstrators were bundled into police vans and taken to the Mahendra police station in Kathmandu. Those detained included all of the FNJ leadership - president Bishnu Nisthuri (photo), vice-president Shiva Gaule, general secretary Mahendra Bista and secretary Balaram Baniya - and many other leading FNJ members such as Surya Thapa, Narayan Amrit, Purnat Basnet and Ramji Dahal.
Several of the journalists, including Hemanta Kafle and Deepak Rijal, were roughed up and injured at the time of arrest. They were all freed this morning after being held for a total of 17 hours.
This was the largest number of journalists detained in a single operation since the government imposed its curbs on the press at the start of February. Police arrested nearly 300 journalists at an "illegal" demonstration in April 2004.
Before yesterday, the figure for journalists arrested and imprisoned since 1 February was at least 30, while 35 others had been briefly detained.