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Magazine suspends publication after bureaucratic harassment in Nepal

This statement was originally published on samsn.ifj.org on 6 September 2016.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Nepal Press Union (NPU) express concern over the suspension of publication of the Himal Southasian magazine "due to non-cooperation by regulatory state agencies in Nepal". The IFJ demands that the Nepal government should immediately probe the case to ensure the smooth operation of the magazine.

On August 24, 2016, the Southasia Trust, the publisher of the cross-border magazine, announced that the November 2016 edition would be the last issue published. The Trust cited the non-cooperation of regulatory bodies as the reason behind the decision, noting that the regulatory bodies "have made it impossible to continue operations after 29 years of publication". The Trust said that "Himal is being silenced not by direct attack or overt censorship but the use of the arms of bureaucracy to paralyze its functioning".

In a statement announcing the decision, the Trust added that "with no notification or explanation, grants meant for Himal were not approved over seven months of waiting, obtaining work permits for non-Nepali editorial staff became impossible, and there were unreasonable delays in processing payments for international contributors".

Recently in April 2016, its founding editor and Trust's chairman Kanak Mani Dixit was arrested in accusations of corruption without charges and was detained for days until the Supreme Court ordered his release. Earlier in April 2014, the magazine was the subject of debate in the parliament when parliamentarians accused it of accepting grants to campaign against the peace process. Himal Southasian started in 1987 as a Himalayan journal and in 1996 it was changed to a regional magazine.

The Trust further added: "Though Nepal has been a leader of free press since the introduction of democracy in 1990, continuous socio-political chaos over two decades has progressively weakened the commitment of the political class to an open society."

Ajaya Babu Shiwakoti, the General Secretary of the NPU, said in a statement: "The Southasia Trust has serious accusations about the state's regulatory bodies and it's sad that the publisher and editorial staff have felt that the state has used bureaucracy to force the shutdown of an independent media. The NPU is seriously concerned over a situation whereby the state and bureaucracy are continuously ignoring their commitment towards an open society."

The NPU has urged the government to create an environment to ensure the resumption of the publication of Himal Southasian magazine stating that "there should be no restriction of any type on independent media following the laws of the country".

The IFJ said: "The IFJ criticizes the actions of the Nepali government which has led to the suspension of the publication of Himal magazine in South Asia. The bureaucratic non-cooperation [with] any media is a violation of the principles of press freedom and the Nepali government should immediately look into the case to ensure that the media are not harassed by the regulatory agencies. The IFJ calls on the Nepali government to work with the Southasia Trust and Himal to end the suspension of publication and ensure independent media can continue publication without being unnecessarily harassed."

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