New York, April 8, 2005 – The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Nepalese government's abrupt decision to stop publishing all ads in private media—an action that CPJ interprets as an attempt to stifle critical coverage. According to a copy of a government memo reproduced on April 6 in the weekly Jana Aastha, the new directive ordered all government agencies to stop payment on ads to private media as of March 15. Only state-run media will receive ad support from the government, according to local news reports.
Information Minister Tanka Dhakal confirmed the ad suspension at a press conference in Kathmandu yesterday, The Kathmandu Post reported. "We are seriously thinking of giving incentives to those media working for the nation and the crown, so we have stopped giving ads to the private media temporarily," Dahal said. The government would devise a system for distributing ad revenue among those media outlets deemed "responsible," the minister said.
Advertisement from government agencies accounts for 25 percent of the media's revenues nationwide, according to a report on the Nepal News Web site. Local journalists told CPJ that the ad suspension will cause even more economic hardship for the Nepalese press. Since King Gyanendra announced a state of emergency on February 1, enacting strict curtailments of press freedom, hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs or are no longer receiving salaries.
"This blanket action by the government seems designed to punish those media outlets that report critical stories about the government," CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. "We call for the immediate repeal of this inequitable directive for the good of the free press."
Meanwhile, at least three more journalists were detained this week while covering political protests across the country. Today, police in Birgunj, 60 miles from the capital, arrested two journalists reporting on the protests—Kashinath Yadav, the editor of the daily Brahmastra, and Rabindra Singh of the weekly Kalaiya—according to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ). The FNJ also reported that Krishna Prajapati, a correspondent with the daily Sandhya Times, was detained yesterday in Banepa, a town 15 miles east of Kathmandu, while he was covering a demonstration there.
In a letter to the King on March 31, CPJ expressed concern about the detention of several other Nepali journalists. .