King Gyanendra and Maoist rebel leader Prachanda, the instigators of many killings, attacks and arrests of journalists, were removed today from the Reporters Without Borders list of Press Freedom Predators because the king has ceded power to parliament and government, and Prachanda signed a political accord with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on 16 June undertaking to respect democracy and press freedom.
"The press freedom predators have been defeated or forced to accept the rules of democracy and pluralism in Nepal," Reporters Without Borders said. "But we will continue to monitor developments. A journalist has just been threatened by Maoist cadres in Chitawan. This is unacceptable under the terms of the accord signed by Prachanda."
The press freedom organisation called on the government and the Maoists to quickly settle the issue of compensation for victims of the civil war, including journalists.
"It would be an absolute scandal if the families of Maheshwor Pahari, who died in October 2005 after catching tuberculosis in Pokhara prison, Dekendra Raj Thapa, a reporter with the government-run Radio Nepal who was murdered by Maoists in August 2004, or Padma Raj Devkota, a correspondent of the national magazine Nepal Today who was killed by the army in February 2004, did not get justice and compensation from the state," the organisation said.
Reporters Without Borders has registered several isolated cases of threats, censorship and physical attacks against journalists by Maoist cadres, members of the security forces and local criminals including others since parliament’s restoration last month.
"We will remain extremely vigilant and we will denounce attacks on journalists whether they come from the state or the Maoists," the organization said. As part of an international press freedom mission to Nepal, Reporters Without Borders secured guarantees in late March from two members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) central committee that the rights of journalists would be protected.
In its follow-up to its participation in the international mission, Reporters Without Borders now hails:
1. The release of all imprisoned journalists, including those who support the Maoist movement.
2. The repeal of the media ordinances issued by King Gyanendra’s government.
3. The end of the policy of restricting the allocation of state advertising.
4. The suspension of the anti-terrorism law.
5. The overturning by the supreme court of article 8 of the Radio and TV Broadcasting Act and article 15(1) of the Publications and Newspapers Act.
6. The formation of a commission that will look at ways to adapt legislation to the emergence of the electronic media. Reporters Without Borders nonetheless regrets that no media experts or online journalists are on the commission.
7. The signing of an 8-point accord between the government and the Maoists declaring the protection of press freedom to be a priority.