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World Press Freedom Review
1999 World Press Freedom Review
The three-year-old Maoist insurgency in the Kingdom of Nepal has considerably blemished the country’s press freedom record. The 1989 Anti-State Crime and
Penalties Act forbids dissemination of any information deemed harmful to state interests. Any journalist covering the conflict is vulnerable to legal harassment or threats and intimidation from either party. And many journalists have reported being threatened and intimidated by the rebel forces. At least 16 journalists were imprisoned in Nepal during 1999.
There have been several reports of police confiscating publications carrying articles of clashes between government and rebel forces, and dozens of journalists and media workers have been arrested and detained over the past year.
On January 5, police raided a newspaper office and printing company and arrested six journalists -- Shakti Lamsal and Dhan Bahadur Magar of Janadesh weekly, Ashok Subedi of Himalaya Times, Bharat Adhikary, reporter for Mahima weekly -- and seven staff members of the Indreni Offset Press. The police apparently seized printing materials and computers belonging to Janadesh, Yojana and Mahima and accused the media workers of having Maoist links. Janadesh had published a photograph on its front page that day of two policemen who had been reportedly killed by the Maoists rebels.
On June 21, the police arrested Milan Nepali, former managing editor of the Janadesh weekly. He has not been seen since police took him into custody and the police have not issued any information regarding his status. At least two other journalists -- Chitra Bahadur Chaudhary and Amar Budha
The Kathmandu Valley police arrested three journalists on April 1 from the tabloid Jwala -- publisher Chun Bahadur Gurung and journalists Danda Bahadur Gurung and Deepak Khanal -- and seized computers and printing equipment, RSF reported. The journalists were accused of "creating unrest and insulting the state." On April 5, Bhim Prakash Sharma, publisher of the weekly Jana-Ahwan, and Om Sharma, executive editor, were also arrested. On the same day, a freelance photographer, Arun Pant, was arrested by plainclothes policemen, his studio was ransacked and his films were seized. Similarly, Rishi Raj Baral, a consulting editor of the weekly Yojana, was also arrested. On April 20, Krishna Sen, editor of Janadesh, was arrested along with two other staff members and 20,000 copies of the paper were confiscated. The paper had carried an interview with Baburam Bhattarai, one of the top leaders of Nepal's Maoist insurgency. Sen was still in detention at the end of the year. The Nepalese authorities suspect all these journalists of having close links to the Maoist guerrillas and strategies.
Since the Maoists declared a "people's war" in 1996, over 1000 people have been killed. Stamping out this rebellion has been the priority of the successive governments in recent years; to the detriment of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Beyond this highly sensitive issue, freedom of the press is generally well respected. In one of Asia's poorest countries, the media's key problems are economic and institutional. Less than 40 percent of the population are literate and only 15 percent have access to electricity, making it a very difficult market to operate in. Most citizens pick up their news through state-controlled Radio Nepal, which the ruling parties guard jealously.– are missing, believed to be in police custody.
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