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South Asian IFEX members sign on to letter expressing concern over assault on free expression in Nepal

(PPF/IFEX) - The following is an 8 February 2005 joint letter to Nepali King Gyanendra. IFEX member organisations that have signed on to the letter are listed below:

His Excellency
King Gyanendra

8 February 2005

We, the undersigned members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) in South Asia, are gravely concerned at the dramatic assault on freedom of expression in Nepal, following the sacking of the government by Your Excellency, as well the declaration of the state of emergency and imposition of martial law on February 1, 2005.

We are also especially concerned about the safety of journalists following your decision to restrict civil liberties, including freedom of the press, the constitutional protection against censorship and the right against preventive detention.

There have been numerous reports of intimidation and arrests of journalists. Khagendra Sangraula, prominent columnist of Kantipur daily, has been arrested for his critical articles against an active monarchy. The whereabouts of Bishnu Nisthuri, general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), remain unknown after his arrest by security forces. FNJ President Tara Nath Dahal remains in hiding and risks being arrested by security forces who are searching for him.

Your Excellency has ordered a complete black out of all media outside the Katmandu Valley. All independent FM stations outside the Kathmandu valley have been closed down. Radio Sagarmatha, the first community radio station in South Asia, is now being run by the Royal Nepal Army.

In Rupandehi district in Western Nepal, Butawal FM and Lumbini FM have been ordered by security forces to stop broadcasting and have ordered Mechi Kali, the daily Lumbini, Jana Sangharsa and Naya Disha to discontinue publishing.

According to reports, all communications, including e-mail, have been cut off and privately-owned FM radio stations have been forced to cancel news programmes. We are extremely concerned to hear that communication lines into and within the country remain cut off, as the military has taken charge of all Internet service providers and the two companies providing telephone and communication services, Nepal Telecom and UTL.

This is not the first time that the monarchy has declared a state of emergency. In November 2001, martial law was imposed and within four months, security forces had arrested more than one hundred journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders, Nepal has the highest number of journalists arrested in the world, a record that no country should wish to hold.

We call upon Your Excellency to immediately restore multi-party democracy and basic civil rights including press freedom, for which the people of Nepal have given great sacrifices.

Yours sincerely,

Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka
Media Watch, Bangladesh
Pakistan Press Foundation

Pakistan Press Foundation

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