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Barely two weeks after massive public protests in late April forced Nepal's King Gyanendra to end his autocratic rule and restore parliament, lawmakers have voted to repeal a media law widely criticised as being overly restrictive on freedom of expression, report the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

On 9 May 2006, the parliament voted to annul the "Ordinance Amending some of the Nepal Act related to Media". Passed by the King in October 2005, it banned news programmes on FM radio stations, increased penalties for defamation tenfold, and forbade any news deemed damaging to any member of the royal family.

Nepalese parliamentarians also announced that they will review other laws passed by the King, including the controversial Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (2002), under which individuals suspected of collaborating with Maoist rebels or acting against the government can be detained without charge or trial for up to 12 months.

While welcoming the repeal of the media law, IFJ said the new government needs to make a firmer commitment to protecting press freedom, citing three incidents in the past week in which journalists and media outlets were attacked or threatened.

On 16 May, Dinesh Yadav, a senior editor of Kantipur Publications was assaulted by demonstrators in Kalanki while on his way to Sitapaila on a news assignment.

Four days earlier, two radio stations received disturbing letters from the All Nepal Trade Union Federation, an organisation sympathetic to Maoist rebels. The letters accused Kalika FM and Radio Birgunj of exploiting their staff, and called for the firing of Kalika FM's director, claiming he was a supporter of the royal family.

On 11 May 2006, three photojournalists were assaulted by police in the district of Nuwakot. Dhruba Kumar, Rawal Raju Mitra Khanal and Raju Krishna Shrestha were attacked while reporting on the Democratic Students Alliance's removal of photos of the King and Queen from government offices.

According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, Nepal's 12-year civil conflict between separatist Maoist rebels and Nepalese security forces has claimed more than 13,000 lives. Numerous human rights violations have been committed by both sides.

Visit these links:

- FNJ:
- IFJ:
- RSF:
- IPI Watch List:
- Human Rights Watch:
- ARTICLE 19 Analysis of Media Law:
- Report of International Press Freedom Mission to Nepal:
- Maoists Prepare for Peace Talks:
- International Crisis Group:

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