Reporters Without Borders today condemned the censorship and police violence against journalists which have accompanied the government’s crackdown on the opposition’s efforts to stage pro-democracy demonstrations in the past few days.
“Unable to stifle the demonstrations against his autocratic rule, the king is responding with more and more violence against the press,” Reporters Without Borders said. “In the space of 48 hours, at least five journalists have been physically attacked, two have been arrested and censorship has been stepped up against the Indian media. We pledge our entire solidarity with the journalists who continue to fulfil their duty to report the news despite the crackdown.”
The security forces seized control of Kathmandu and other major cities on 20 and 21 January in order to enforce a curfew called to prevent pro-democracy rallies. At least four journalists were injured in police charges. Satya Ram Parajuli, the editor of the monthly Majdoor Aawaj, had an arm broken by a policeman. Damodar Dawadi of the weekly Naya Bikalpa, Kamal Pariyar of the daily Jana Sangharsha and freelance journalist Diwakar Pant were also injured.
An army patrol arrested Khem Bhandari, the editor of the regional dailies Mahendranagar Post and Abhiyan, in the western town of Mahendranagar as he was returning home on 21 January. Two days earlier, reporter Dwarika Upreti of Roadmap Weekly was arrested by police outside the weekly’s office in Kathmandu. After being held for a few hours in a police station, he was transferred to a police barracks in Maharajgunj.
On 20 January, a policeman fired at Khuman Singh Tamang, a correspondent of the daily Kantipur in Kavhrepalanchok, west of the capital, as he was taking photos of student leaders detained by the police. Tamang was not injured.
Soldiers seized video-cassettes from the correspondents of the Indian TV stations CNN-IBN and Star News TV in Kathmandu on 20 January. Footage they had shot of soldiers inside the home of the secretary-general of the opposition CPN-UML was then erased. Journalist Parul Malhotra described their action as “unfortunate and ridiculous.”
The local authorities in the southwestern border city of Nepalgunj began on 20 January to censor Indian newspaper articles about the pro-democracy demonstrations. Civil servants were ordered to tear out the relevant pages out of the newspapers before they were distributed in Nepalgunj.
In Kathmandu, the communication and information ministry forced cable TV operators to stop broadcasting the Indian TV channels Star News and Aaj Tak, which was nonetheless still available in some parts of the capital. The ministry said some the news reports posed a danger for Nepal’s security.