We, as members of the ‘International Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression Mission to Nepal', express our serious concern that HM King Gyanendra, together with the government and security forces, is seeking to further undermine Nepal's vibrant independent media, which has been opposing the actions of the authorities to curb press freedoms and freedom of expression since 1 February 2005.
In specific, we condemn the ‘Ordinance Amending some of the Nepal Act related to Media' promulgated on 9 October. This Ordinance contains a number of provisions to amend existing media laws, thereby introducing strict controls over the publication and broadcast of materials and ownership of the media, as well as introducing harsher penalties for those considered to be contravening the law.
Penalties have increased dramatically, with journalists charged with defamation now facing fines ten-times higher than before, and a possible two-year jail term. The Ordinance also prohibits an organization or individual from receiving licenses to operate radio, television and newspapers. Those who have already been granted licenses to operate all three media are now limited to choosing any two forms within a year.
Other provisions ban the importing of foreign publications that contain prohibited information and barring FM stations from broadcasting news-related programmes. These stations will be limited to airing "informative" programmes on health, education, weather, road and transport conditions and other similar development topics, whilst being banned from addressing, amongst others, "any subject matters with negative effects to political parties," "offensive matters," and "any matters against non-aligned foreign policy of Nepal". Under the Ordinance any news that "causes hatred or disrespect" to any member of the royal family will also be prohibited.
We wish to reaffirm our solidarity with the media community and freedom of expression advocates in Nepal who continue to be the victims of intimidation, harassment, repression and violence. In this regard, we will continue to support the media community, without any intention to interfere in the editorial lines of the Nepali media.
We praise the media community for its dynamism in defending media rights and freedom of expression and call on the authorities to reconsider the ‘Ordinance Amending some of the Nepal Act related to Media', as well as end all forms of direct and indirect censorship, intimidation, harassment and attacks against the media community and freedom of expression advocates.
In addition, we urge the international community to step up support for the independent media in order to help save one of the kingdom's last surviving democratic gains.
For further information about this statement please contact any of the international organisations listed above or International Media Support at [email protected] or +45 3269 8989