The information and communication ministry yesterday allowed radio Kantipur FM to recover equipped seized on 21 October - including an encoder, a digital recorder and a satellite modem - which it needs to relay its broadcasts to 16 districts in eastern Nepal.
Previously, on 14 December, the authorities returned equipment that had been confiscated from Sagarmatha FM, including a relay transmitter for re-transmitting BBC World Service programmes.
Courts urged to take firm stand in defence of press freedom
Reporters Without Borders today hailed a provisional ruling by Nepal’s supreme court on November 29 staying the government-ordered closure of Radio Sagarmatha (Everest), which allowed the station to resume broadcasting after being forced off the air for two days by the seizure of its equipment and arrest of five of its journalists in a police raid.
The court’s judges should now demonstrate their support for press freedom by handing down definitive rulings in favour of Nepal’s radio stations, especially Sagarmatha, South Asia’s oldest community radio station, and Kantipur FM, the press freedom organisation said.
“The supreme court stirred up trouble with its recent decision supporting a government ordinance cracking down hard on the press, and it is now time for the Nepalese judicial system to put itself at the forefront of the struggle to ensure respect for the constitution and civil liberties,” Reporters Without Borders added.
Police and information ministry representatives seized equipment from Radio Sagarmatha on the evening of 27 November in order to prevent an exclusive interview by the Nepalese-language service of the BBC World Service with Maoist rebel leader Prachanda from being retransmitted by Radio Sagarmatha on the FM waveband.
Five of the station’s technicians and reporters, Durga Karki, Rajendra Rijal, Deepak Pandey, Deepak Babu Aryal and Punya Bandari, were arrested and held for 15 hours. The only woman employee present, Durga Karki, was also arrested but was released almost immediately.
Radio Sagarmatha presenter Gham Raj Luintel said the police told them not to broadcast programmes that could help to “promote terrorist activities.” Prachanda said in the interview that the Maoists would be ready to accept the principle of a monarchy if King Gyanendra held free elections for a constituent assembly.
Seven other radio stations were simultaneously threatened with reprisals if they broadcast the interview, while the state-owned Radio Nepal suspending its retransmissions of the BBC World Service’s English-language programming for 12 hours. Radio Nepal and the BBC signed a retransmission contract in November 2004.
The BBC did broadcast the interview, but since then access to its Nepalese-language service’s website has been blocked by the Nepalese authorities and most of the half-dozen Nepalese stations that normally retransmit BBC programmes have ceased to do so.