There was good news at the beginning of 2003, with Nepal’s release of a score of journalists suspected of being supporters of Maoist rebels after a ceasefire was agreed between the army and the rebels. In Bangladesh, Reporters Without Borders correspondent Saleem Samad and three other journalists, all accused of conspiracy, were freed from prison, where they said they had been tortured. In India, a Kashmiri journalist was freed after the government admitted it had no case against him.
In China, the new political leadership brought no change and control of news, especially about the SARS epidemic, was maintained. The government banned two newspapers, threatened to crack down on the Chinese editions of three foreign magazines and tightened control of a noted liberal paper, Nanfang Zhoumo. Arrests of cyber-dissidents also increased.
In Vietnam, the detention of the editor of one of the few underground publications showed the regime’s refusal to accept criticism. The Malaysian government also showed its intolerance by seizing the computers of the country’s only independent daily, the website malaysiakini.com. The king of Tonga banned the island’s only privately-owned paper, Taimi ’o Tonga, for allegedly libelling him.
The ways of the old regime returned to haunt Afghanistan. The hardline supreme court banned reception of all foreign TV stations through cable companies and journalists in Herat province were harassed by aides of the governor.