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Maoist party leader's warning to publishing house bodes ill for press freedom, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Leader's Warning Undermines Press Freedom in Nepal

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) fully supports its affiliates in Nepal in condemning a statement by the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal, CPN (Maoist) party that a publishing house would risk serious consequences if it continued to criticise the party.

Puspa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, issued the warning to Kantipur Publications as he addressed a mass meeting in Kathmandu on May 30 to celebrate the declaration of a republic.

His CPN (Maoist) party is the single biggest party in Nepal's new Constituent Assembly (CA), and is expected to lead the Government. The CA met for the first time last week following an election in April.

Chairman Prachanda was quoted as saying, "You journalists did well to continuously criticise the Maoists before the Constituent Assembly polls. Otherwise the election would not have taken place at all."

"Now we will no longer tolerate criticism as we have already been elected by the people."

The warning to Kantipur exposes the dual standards of the CPN (Maoist) with regard to media freedom in Nepal, according to Dharmendra Jha, the President of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), an IFJ affiliate.

"Genuine press freedom depends on open debate within society, and such debate will commonly involve criticism of political leaders, of all affiliations. It is worryingly disingenuous for the CPN (Maoist) leadership to praise the role of the media in supporting a successful CA election and then immediately issue threats to rein in critical media commentary," said IFJ Asia-Pacific.

The IFJ joins its affiliates, the FNJ and the National Union of Journalists (Nepal), in urging CPN (Maoist) leaders to respect and uphold media freedom in Nepal, as they had promised to do in the lead-up to the CA election.

The CPN (Maoist) party is also called on to issue publicly its formal policy on media freedom.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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