Saturday, October 22, 2005

State Terrorism (The Cowardly Act)

"This government is more terrorist than the Maoists."

Bhupati Dhakal, the chairperson of the Nepal Professors Association reportedly said in the mass meeting of the journalists. When I heard it from somebody I thought its a little exaggeration. But Friday night, the government proved he was more than right.

More than three dozens policemen, armed and uniformed, who came in three police vans at midnight forcefully entered the building of Kantipur FM, the most popular private radio station broadcasting in Kathmandu and Eastern region of Nepal, and 'looted' all the equipment necessary to uplink the broadcasting to eastern region.

Around 24 hours have already been passed but there have been no words from the government about it. All the political parties and professional associations have condemned the act as 'dacoit' and 'naked terror'. But when the state who is supposed to protect from such things turns into evil, who will listen?

If you call anything going in Nepal a drama, this piece of chapter would be called The Cowardly Act. Friday afternoon, government officials asked the FM to delink its broadcasting which the FM refused with a perfectly legal point that they have all the documents provided by the government to do so and wouldn't do it unless there is a formal directives from the ministry.

The officials waited five hours for the outcome of the meeting that was supposedly being held in ministry. At the end, they went with a letter from FM stating that 'they had come.'

Four hours later, when the city was sleeping, the policemen came with the two engineers who had inspected the facility during the day, and took away all the equipment – a day before the seventh anniversary of the radio station.

King Gyanendra's men are now at the lowest level of wrongdoings attacking press in such a way that hasn't been seen in the history. O sad, I don't know where my country is heading and what more terror we have to face.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More Screws for Press

If the King's democracy is the real one, there would have no need to shut the mouths. But his model of democracy won't allow people to speak up anything about him and his family. The new Communication Ordinance promulgated on the first day of long holidays of the biggest festival in the country, on Oct 9 – probably to steam down the protest as many were outside the Kathmandu Valley – gives media no rights of write or broadcast anything about him and his family. Why? Simply because he doesn't want his wrongdoings to be known by the people.

The new ordinance is harassing for press as there are effectively unexpected punishments – a threat to media. It doesn't allow a media house to run three types of media – very good, but what about the government? Won't it effect for their three types of media?

The ordinance won't allow any radio station to uplink their broadcast to other station or region – a practice state-owned Radio Nepal is doing for many many years. Nepal has been pacesetters in the community and private radio broadcasting in South Asia which will remain no more. If the ordinance is allowed it would kill the private radio.

It also bans all radio to broadcast news because radio news has been much more popular than expected. The government is saying the practice exists nowhere in the world. Okay, if something that doesn't exist in the world should also be removed from Nepal, let's remove active monarchy. Does any country these days is ruled by the King?

Media, a sector that fostered in the democracy, has grown into an industry. Journalists like us have been able to live by the profession – unlike 15 years ago when journalists were considered beggars and blackmailers and political activists. But now it looks like we are going backwards and the King want nothing more than state-owned media that would broadcast his walk among the citizens for half an hour in prime time news.

Journalists are taking on road to protest the ordinance, thanks to some people who have registered writ in the Supreme Court thus it hasn't been enforced yet.

What the king should understand now is that closing his own eyes won't make all people blind.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Reluctance for Peace!

On September 3, the rebels unilaterally declared ceasefire for three months. At the time when we are desperately hoping that there would be no more news about the deaths and fights and the country will become peaceful again, the news of truce brought a glitter of hope. We thought – this might lead to the peace. The conflict had already killed more than 12,500 of Nepalese in last decade and we want this to end as soon as possible.

We hoped that the government would also declare such ceasefire to initiate talks (it's the other case that the spokesperson of the rebels said on Sept 3 that they wanted no talks with the Royal government). We waited but instead the King, ministers and the army started saying it's a ploy for the bigger attack and the Maoists are not serious about the peace. How can we believe you are, now?

Let it be for three months or three days, non-violent days are always welcome. We all know the battleground is no solution for the armed conflict. Talks are the only way out to peace. But this government wants us to believe that with the army they will crush the rebels and return peace to us. (Or even better to them would be that peace never returns because if it happens they will loss the right to remain in the power as the King had said he would step down after the restoration of peace!?)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

RFN Returns!

Radio Free Nepal has been silent for more than three months – not because the problem in Nepal was solved. It was rather because of the problems with us. It's not always easy to blog anonymously. But now we will write frequently because our fight is not over yet! That's true, Nepal is still under the ruler who seems to have no idea where he is taking the country.

King Gyanendra not only trying to close his ears to the shouts of the people in the country but also not able to understand how the international community is taking all this. He hopes, desperately, soon the international community will believe him and then he will be able to continue his autocratic rule. This is not going to happen.

The king says he had support from the majority of the people inside the country. Can we believe this seeing his cabinet of ministers? No. Because his ministers are corrupt, opportunists and even criminal. Can he deny his one minister was imprisoned for attempt to kill a journalist? Or can he refute the news of his three ministers masterminding a fertilizer smuggling right under his nose? It's rather easy to point a finger towards others, but had he seen four of his fingers are pointing towards the men on his side?

Thousands of people are taking on roads to demonstrate against his autocratic rule despite knowing that the security force he controls will try to stop them with water-canons, tear-gas shells and latthis. Academicians, journalists, political activists, teachers, litterateurs, laborers and students are taking our rallies demanding democracy everyday. And in his interview, he is saying they are free to do it because its democracy. Can he tell us why exactly then they are being beaten, dispersed with water-canons and tear-gas shells?

Major political parties are on the demonstration after adopting the theory that will technically direct towards a republican country. People are starting to believe the country will remain better without the monarchy. Activists are fighting against monarchy. It had been tradition of Nepal, but sorry to say, dear ruler, it's not the future.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Friday was an important day as it saw a few incidents making headlines

King's Address

The King addressed a ceremony felicitating him organized by Tribhuvan University, to which he is the chancellor. The summary of his speech was, for political interest, was that the parties if they call themselves democratic should come forward to support him to fightagainst terrorism. He said he wanted the parties to be popular and effective engaging themselves in democratic process.

During his early speeches, the King used to criticize parties for failing to understand the country's situation and not functioning properly. In the latest one, he was neutral - not criticizing them and asking them for reconciliation with him. It looked like he is under a bit pressure, but still stubborn to his intentions.

Seven Parties' Agitation

The seven big parties of the country jointly staged an agitation rally where the top leaders publicly asked the King to choose between absolute democracy (constitutional monarchy) or a republic. The rally organized by Nepali Congress, Nepali Congress Democratic, Nepal Communist Party - United Marxist Lennist, People's Front Nepal, Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, Nepal Sadbhawana Party and United Left Front was participated by thousands of people - it was the biggest rally after Feb 1.

Political leaders heavily criticized the King for his Feb 1 move and asked him to restore dissolved House of Representatives.

Govt Bans Media House

On the same day, the Ministry of Information and Communication ordered Communication Corner, a radio program production house, to close down saying it was being run illegally. Communication Corner produces programs for more than a dozen FM radio stations around the country.

They stopped producing Nepal Khabar a news and current affairs program after Feb 1 while Kayakaran, another similar program used to be broadcasted by 12 FM stations, now is only broadcasted in Hong Kong.

The decision came days after the journalists issued protest programs against the press law ordinance and the FM journalists readying themselves for agitation.

Human Rights Commission

The King nominated all controversial people in the National Human Rights Commission after the tenure of earlier committee expired. Nayan Bahadur Khatri, the 80-year-old chairman, kept his place (probably a reward for him to speaking in favor of the King\'s move in UN\'s Geneva Meeting). Other appointed were all considered the supporters of the King.

They stopped producing Nepal Khabar a news and current affairs program after Feb 1 while Kayakaran, another similar program used to be broadcasted by 12 FM stations, now is only broadcasted in Hong Kong.

The decision came days after the journalists issued protest programs against the press law ordinance and the FM journalists readying themselves for agitation.

Human Rights Commission

The King nominated all controversial people in the National Human Rights Commission after the tenure of earlier committee expired. Nayan Bahadur Khatri, the 80-year-old chairman, kept his place (probably a reward for him to speaking in favor of the King's move in UN's Geneva Meeting). Other appointed were all considered the supporters of the King.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Indirect Media Censorship

King Gyanendra ended the media censorship immediately after his foreign tour to show the world that he is moving towards the direction of restoring press freedom. But it was only a trick - and here comes the unmistakable proof of that. The government has drafted an ordinance that would amend some Nepal laws related to press and anybody can tell that the ordinance is for nothing but to keep the media silent and afraid.

The ordinance has introduced strict measures against media ownership and broadcasting of news related programs.

The ordinance asks any individual or organization owning all newspaper, radio and television to choose any two within a year. It says no single organization will now after granted license to operate more than two media. In other time this could have looked good but at the present situation it only looks like a measure to weaken Kantipur - the largest publication and broadcasting house in the country and the most vibrant one in demanding democracy.

And I think the ordinance would not likely to effect the government that owns all three types of media too because there is nothing about it in the ordinance.

Those 1,000 journalists who previously worked for FM radio stations and who lost their jobs after the King's regime barred these radio from broadcasting news are more in trouble now as the ordinance not only bans FM radio from broadcasting news but also anything that is 'informative'.

And, the ordinance puts media on the situation where it can't criticize government or anybody in the government. If the media do so, they have to pay a hefty fine.

Other laws that is amended by the ordinance mainly deals with what to publish and what to not. There are hefty fines and harsh punishment introduced against those who violate the rules.

With all the amendments it would be now easier for the King to extend control on media though indirectly and the media industry which were hit hard by the King after the takeover are now 'to be punched right on nose'.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Defying Court Orders

Two student leaders Rajendra Rai and Rup Narayan Shrestha were ordered to be released by the Supreme Court on May 16. The policemen were ready to re-arrest them inside the court premises - as soon as they came out along with their lawyers, police tried to arrest them despite protests from lawyers, journalists and followers. Rai was arrested while Shrestha was avoided it by the help of his supporters.

Similar incident happened two weeks ago to Gagan Kumar Thapa and Pradeep Paudel. Both were released by Supreme Court, they signed the papers and were re-arrested.

On May 18, a few communist leaders were released by court orders but the lawyers and others had to do a lot of exercise to keep him away from re-arrest. There were two police vans inside the court premises which were later removed after the registrar inquired about it.

Nepal Bar Association staged a protest to raise voice against such unlawful activities and the Home Minister Dan Bahadur Shahi met Chief Justice on May 18. Probably he told the CJ to be careful about such decisions but his answer to the journalists' query about re-arrest was simple: The Supreme Court ordered to release them. Did it say not to re-arrest them?

All these shows the situation in Nepal hasn't improved despite the 100 days of the King's rule were over. The king had previously promised the international communities to improve the situation in 100 days - but had he forget about the promise? Or what's going on is the improvement of situation?

Things look glum for us who want democracy to be restored soon since the Indian government flip-flopped from its earlier reactions and resumed the military support (though the Indian PM said only vehicles). India as a big neighbor of Nepal has always wanted to keep the tiny country under their grip and has a lot of things to bargain for. I don't know what they have bargained this time but am sure that the partial support to the King didn't come without a price.

Meanwhile, the hard days for journalists aren't over yet. On May 18, the government grilled publisher of Himal magazine and noted journalists Kanak Mani Dixit. Similarly, Dev Kumar Subedi of Surkhet district working for Samaya Weekly was handed over a three-month detention on May 14.

On 14 May 2005, newly elected Federation of Nepalese Journalists President, Bishnu Nisthuri and General Secretary, Mahendra Bista cancelled a trip to Islamabad, Pakistan to attend a South Asia Parliamentary Forum. Nisthuri and Bista cancelled their trip in solidarity for security personnel unconstitutionally barring Nabaraj Subedi, the General Secretary of People's Front Nepal and former parliamentarian from travelling as part of the delegation of senior media personalities and political leaders to Islamabad.

Similarly, journalists have been denied access to prepaid mobile phone use two weeks after Nepalese authorities resumed the service. Yubaraj Ghimire, editor, Samay Weekly; Taranath Dahal, former FNJ President; Gunraj Luitel, news editor, Kantipur Daily; Puskar Lal Shrestha, editor, Nepal Samacharptra and Ujir Magar, sub-editor, Kantipur Daily have all been denied access to prepaid mobile phone service.

On May 15, FNJ President, Bishnu Nisthuri was allowed to visit Bhaikaji Ghimire, managing director of Sam Dristi Weekly in Nakhu Jail, Kathmandu. Ghmire has been kept in custody for 18 months without an arrest warrant or appearing before a judicial court reportedly in connection to an article he published "Nirnayak Yatra" (The deciding voyage).

Thursday, April 28, 2005

State Vandalism in Nepal

King Gyanendra would call his foreign tour that included his participation in the Asian-African Summit 2005 a successful one - mainly because the Indian Government did the U-turn about the military aid. At the summit, he reiterated his commitment to democracy and put forward some points supporting his February 1 coup that had definitely earned him some good fame.

But saying and doing are two different things and that can be entirely different: the King proved it.

On April 25, plain-cloth policemen vandalized the central office of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) or CPN (UML) - the second largest political party of the nation, when the party was mourning death of a leader - Sadhana Pradhan - the wife of first elected communist prime minister of the world Man Mohan Adhikari.

If you think this a party propaganda, read the statement from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), whose chairman supported the King's move in the international forum which drew much criticism. According to reports, Nayan Bahadur Khatri said after the inspection: "This is foolish act and we will take necessary action."

The statement by NHRC said plainclothes policemen in masks vandalized the door and windows and also pointed guns at the students at the UML office. The move was criticized by all the political parties, more than a dozen human rights association and many other organizations.

But had we heard anything from the government? Where is the answer of the question? Will there be an investigation on the issue? All the answers should have a 'YES' answer in democracy, but in King's rule, it might just be unheard and unanswered of.

On April 27's night, former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was oust by the King to grab the power, was arrested on corruption charges. It would have been a good move by the state if it had been done properly with the assurance that there will be proper investigation. But the way it happened indicates it as a terrorism functioning than a state functioning.

Deuba was arrested at 2am when he was asleep by plainclothes policemen. More than three-dozen policemen, some of them uniformed, entered Deuba's house after cutting off the phone connection and arrested him despite family protest of 'midnight action'. After the arrest, the electricity was also cut off at his residence.

Despite strict direction to press not to criticize the King, some newspapers condemned both these actions calling it a 'vagabond action'.

Plainclothes policemen are more at action than the uniformed one - we don't know why. Besides these, the arrests of student leaders including Gagan Kumar Thapa and many other rallying protesters and leaders, plainclothes policemen do the action.

The King's democracy has all this for us. Let's see what will come next and how long.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Peace Bond: Sign of Problems

For the first time, Nepalis were given a chance to know that the King alone is unable to run the country smoothly. The news of the government issuing Peace Bond to raise Rs. 5.5 billion is a clear effect of the lack of fund for coming fiscal year as the international donor communities have shy away.

Despite stern warning to the press, some noted newspaper criticized the government's latest decision saying 'this would have a long term effect on Nepali economics.' No wonder, it was a tested formula - by neighbors. India and Pakistan did the same after donors stepped back due to their nuclear test. Notable here is that the Indian were more successful in it than Pakistanis and that's because Pakistan was being ruled by a man.

Nepali government has probably hopes that Nepalis living abroad would be interested in the bond - and for that reason, it could be bought in equivalent to dollars and named 'Peace' - a word that would attract anybody.

Will I buy it? No, not because it has nothing to do with the peace. It will be used more for army's budget and to kill the Nepalis. Since, the rebels' leader has denied talking in such condition, there is no way we should give money to army to kill Nepalis (especially in the condition when their acts are hidden due to media absence). There have been lots of talks about human-rights abuses by the army, even the King in his interview with TIME magazine, didn't deny that.

The present government is the most uncompetitive in recent times, thus we can expect no visionary program from them. They probably overlooked the future of economy while the King told them about the bond. But that will be the big burden for Nepal in coming future because - neither it isn't likely that the country is capable of developing national resources to pay back nor the international donors seem convinced with the King's move and motives. Also another damaging factor is that the interest rate of the bond would be much higher than that of international loan (and also considerable is the valuation of the bond in dollars).

The King has to step down someday - there is no alternative to that but it looks like he wants all Nepalis to curse him for burden when he steps down.

Must-Read Stories: April 20

Exclusive Stories From TIME Magazine on Nepal

Rebel Territory: A look inside the lives of Nepal's Maoist rebels

Gunning for Nepal: A TIME special report on the bloody civil war that is tearing the Himalayan kingdom apart

Interview with King Gyanendra [TIME]

Extended Interview with King Gyanendra [TIME]

A Strategy of Failure
South Asian Intelligence Review

UN Human Rights Body Urges Nepal to Restore Democracy
Voice of America [VOA]

Human rights abuses escalate under the state of emergency
Amnesty International

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Municipal Election: For Covering Up the Death of Democracy

The King has announced that there would be municipal election in the country within a year. The Election Commission said they had already started updating voters' list to fulfill the 'wish of the King'. The political parties said they would not participate in the election unless there is democracy and freedom in the country.

So what's next? I believe there will be municipal election soon - no problem if the parties choose to stay out (that will be even better for the King and there will be small parties willing to participate to benefit from the opportunity), no problem if the turnout is low, no problem whatsoever with the results. The King wants to show the world that he believes in the democracy and thus using the election (considered worldwide as a mean of exercising democratic power by the people) as a tool to deceive the international communities.

The result of municipal election is going to have no problem for the King because a) the elected body will have no power in the high level, and b) even if they try to do something like that the King has already implemented a plan to stop that by appointing his men as zonal-chiefs in 14 zones and regional chiefs in five development regions (Politically Nepal is divided into 5 Development Regions, 14 Zones and 75 districts).

So there can be nothing better for the King to show the world his 'democratic commitment' than by holding election. You will see how the authority will try to show the municipal election as a democratic process and the international media will be tried to utilize by feeding such information that this election is a first step to show the King's commitment towards democracy.

And, since he has said the election within one year, the international communities would be forced to wait and see it for a year. And after election, the King would try to persuade them for continue stopped support for Nepal. But I believe the international communities should understand the situation - and believe that unless the King steps down and give away the executive powers to the people's representatives, there will be no democracy in Nepal.

Articles of Interest: April 16

"One of the biggest press freedom crises in the world "
Anne Cooper, executive director, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Interview in Nepali Times

A State on the Verge of Failure
New York Times

The crackdown and after
By Daniel Lak, column in Nepali Times

Monday, April 11, 2005

Attempts to Blur Borderlines

Is peace equivalent to the King's rule? Is Royal Nepal Army's success against Maoists is the King's success? Are political parties and rebel group similar? Are political parties supporting insurgency?

There are attempts to make people believe all the answers to these questions 'Yes'. But the reality is that most of the answers to these questions is NO. And I strongly believe blurring the border between many things stated above will not have a good result in future.

Here I present my views on each question and the difference in two things compared.

The King & the Peace

I agree that political leadership in past years didn't honestly try to solve the problem, and the King has for many times reiterated his commitment to restore peace in the country (after which he had said he would return democracy). That certainly shows the King's willingness for peace but that doesn't mean that he is the synonymous to peace. His honestly towards bringing peace could make him one or two step ahead of other but not the only one who can restore the peace in the country.

Royal Nepalese Army & Maoists

RNA claimed a grand success against the rebel group in Khara in Rukum where the insurgents lost more than 113 fighters.

Maoists claimed a grand success in Dolakha where they restrict army in the barrack keeping them busy in fire exchange while the other group brunt down offices and broke into district jail.

The propaganda: in first event, the rebel claimed death of more than five dozens armymen while in second event the army claimed successful retaliation that saw only two policemen killed. Certainly the media carried the army's version in both events due to censorship.

In anyway, the question is: Is army is successful due to the King's rule? Yes if you believe in 'no information is good' theory. And also, if the same army is capable of fighting against rebels why didn't that happened in past because the army were same. (Since the King was the supreme commander of the army, was he behind all these planning for power takeover?)

Political Parties & Rebel Group

The King told the people there are not only two group in the country - first those who want peace and other of those who want bloods. The first he said were with him and the second were those who criticized him.

The rebel group called political parties to join them. Some of the leaders of the political parties agreed that there could be strategically cooperation if needed.

It is no good.

The King is trying to make people believe those political parties favor rebels. And some leaders are talking without thinking of consequences.

They are different: one is fighting for democracy where everyone will be accommodated with people enjoying rights. The rebel group is fighting to establish their one-party 'democratic' rule. And more importantly unlike the King said, the political parties fall on the third group - those wanting peace but criticizing the King.

And to conclude, should fight for democracy be fight for republic?

There have been a considerable number of people who believe it should be. Seeing that the monarch twice assumed power dismissing democracy, the answer should be yes. Once there is republic, the danger for democracy's dismissal by the monarch will end.

But the alternative view is that which is quite more useful is to keep the monarch powerless as honorary head of the state. He should be given no power and his assets and budget should be transparent and his deeds publicly debated.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

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Press: Support King or Die

It is what the King's government is saying to the press. Like every undemocratic ruler, the King can't tolerate any criticism and has said 'there would be no state advertisement for the newspaper that does not support the nation and crown.'

This is a big blow of small newspaper, especially weeklies which are more vibrant in criticizing the government.' Most of them run on small investment and don't have sales or advertisement to support them fully. The government used to provide ads to them according to their classification performed by government agency. It was of a great support for them.

A weekly, Jana Astha, published a main story revealing the new circular by the government asking all the government offices not to provide ads to newspaper other than those run by state. They published the circular and it went wide - dailies and other paper carried the news. And minister for communication and information Tanka Dhakal had to speak about it (two weeks after the decision).

"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," Dhakal said in a press conference.

All this comes after the media censorship that still prohibits newspaper to write freely.

And the authority is also following a double standard about news of the rebels - Maoists. The army Directorate of Public Relations is issuing daily dispatches about the death of the rebels and their surrenders, but are prohibiting media even to write a word not included in the dispatches. The authority in Pokhara summoned three reporters for reporting the torching to seven vehicles by the rebels (while the government, before the news was published, decided to compensate the vehicle owners).

This is a clear message by the King to the press: either support me or you will be left to die.

Related Headline:
The Kathmandu Post: No govt ads to private media: MoIC

Articles of Interest: April 7

New Kerala, India: Nepal's NHRC tells govt not to encourage anti-Maoist clashes

Reuters: Nearly 50 Killed in Nepal Clashes -Rights Group

ReutersAlert: Nepal Human Rights Crisis Continues

Deccan Herald, India: UN urges Nepal's parties to respect human rights

Asia Pacific Media Network: BBC Radio blocked

Bloomberg: Nepal Will Act Against Anti-Government Protests, Minister Says

Friday, April 1, 2005

Nepali Congress leader released from house arrest

Girija Prasad Koirala, Nepal's most influential political leader and the chairman of Nepali Congress, has been released from house-arrest today, the best day in the whole year to release him because it's an April Fool day and the Monarchy of Nepal wants to fool the world by reiterating its commitment to democracy (people's will).

Koirala, who has been Nepal's prime minister for three times, is being taken as the only leader capable of leading the movement against the King's Feb 1 move despite his detiorated image, and his release would certainly boost the morale of those who have already taken to the roads. With Koirala, 258 other arrested political activists have also been released.

The release of Koirala is the King's attempt to show India that he is true to his words - he had urged India to give him 100 days. And although India has welcomed his release, it is unlikely that they will be impressed by this. Lately, there has been a few articles in Indian newspaper indicating that Nepal has joined the anti-Indian group by enfriending Pakistan and China. That impression will do no good for the country.

India has also demanded release of other leaders, including the general secretary of Nepal Communist Party - United Marxist Lennist Madhav Kumar Nepal and to curb all the restrictions on fundamental rights.

"For Koirala, as for other top political leaders similarly penalised under the king's state of emergency, house arrest has not only meant being confined at home. It also involved an almost total severance of communications such as phone lines and the cutting of their access to independent media." - according to BBC, UK.

BBC added: "Others, however, remain confined or detained, including the leader of the country's second biggest party, Madhav Kumar Nepal, who is reported to be in poor health. Strict media censorship means it is difficult to know how many detainees there are."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Articles of Interest: March 30

Guardian Unlimited, UK: 120 Nabbed for Defying Nepal Protest Ban

BBC, UK: Nepal journalists urge free press

World Press Review: Nepal: The King's Gambit

Inter Press Service: MEDIA-NEPAL:Bad News From All Sides

International Crisis Group: Nepal: Dealing with a Human Rights Crisis

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Photo: Protesters demonstrating near Singha Durbar

Protesters from Nepali Congress party demonstrate at the gate of the Supreme Court near Singha Durbar that houses PM's office and other ministries on March 28.

Monday, March 28, 2005

King Increasing Personal Properties!

King Gyanendra is a businessman. His major investment is in the Soaltee Group, one of the major business houses of the country running a few businesses. Though publicly his involvement in business is not seen, it's a well-accepted truth. I don't know how much the businesses are benefiting from his direct rule, but I can safely assume that they are probably doing the best business.

This shows that King Gyanendra thrive for property. After the Royal Massacre, he became the lone heir of all the properties accumulated by the Shah Dynasty during their 300 years of reign.

The latest information is about the properties once owned by the late King Birendra's family. There is a piece of land in the prime space at Sallaghari of Bhaktapur meant for the palace constuction of late Prince Nirajan. The land was in name of Nirajan but King Gyanendra is the owner of that land. The land was tranferred to the King's name 22 days after he took the executive power, according to an official who works in Land Revenue Office. Why in the King's name?

Besides, late Princess Shruti owned a land at the prime space at Putali Sadak which was leased for 30 years to a businessman called Bahadur Singh Tamrakar. Tamrakar constructed a business plaza, called Kathmandu Plaza, there. The property should have been gone either to her husband or to her two little daughters, but it went to the present King's daughter - Prerana. Is that good?

Besides people are also talking that other properties, shares and bonds held by members of late King Birendra's family are transferred to present King's family members. He is in power, there is no one to oppose, press are kept quiet - so he can do whatsoever he likes, but time will come when all these misdoings will be dug out - and he has to face the people then.

(Although these information come from reliable sources, they have not been cross verified.)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Photo: Naryan Wagle with police superintendent

Narayan Wagle, the editor of Nepal's largest circulating daily Kantipur, in the office of police superintendent where he was summoned for publishing news about anti-king protests.

Photo Courtesy: Dinesh Wagle/United We Blog! (

Photo: Protesters arrested March 17

Protesters being arrested from Kathmandu on March 17. Seven students unions have called the joint protest today and police arrested at lease two dozens.

Photo Courtesy: Nepal Photo Agency (

Photo: Narayan Wagle speaking to media

Narayan Wagle, the editor of Nepal's largest circulating daily Kantipur, talks to media persons before being interogated by police infront of the police station where he was summoned on March 17.

Photo Courtesy: Dinesh Wagle/United We Blog! (

Articles of Interest: March 24

Khaleej Times, UAE: Sanctions on Nepal likely

New Kerala, India: Nepal govt accused of neglecting treatment of ill pol prisoners

NetIndia123: Rightist trade unions protest against Nepal coup

IndiaDaily: An Economic Blockade?

Scoop, New Zealand: Sexually Exploited Women In Nepal Conflict

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Articles of interest: March 2

Additional recent headlines about Nepal

BBC News: Nepal curbs reporting on rebels

Manorama Magazine: US, India working together to restore democracy in Nepal

Voice of America: US urges Nepal to restore democracy

Daily Times (Pakistan): US ambassador prevented from meeting detained Nepal leader

Times of India: Nepal may become next big refugee crisis: UN

Express Newsline: Five-party front to start anti-king stir in Nepal

IOL Asia: 'Nepal takeover will spur increase in abuse'

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Articles of interest: February 27

Many developments have come about in the past week that are hopefully of interest to all of you.

The Economic Times: US rejects Nepal King's 3-yr timetable for restoring democracy

The Japan Times: Nepal's king under pressure inside and out

Newkerala: 5 Nepal parties to launch stir from Mar.8

The Times of India: India reiterates stand: Restore democracy

Khaleej Times: Gyanendra must change his style Follies Of The Kingdom

The last article is quick to point out that King Gyanendra is on "the road to disaster."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Nepal in the News - Feb. 25, 2005

Nepal Monarchy Should Work with Democracy: India Prez
US Asked to Freeze Military Aid to Nepal

Student Leader Calls for Revolution in Nepal

An hour ago, RFN interviewed a student leader, the vice-president of Nepal Student Union - the largest student union on telephone:

NSU Vice-president Pradeep Poudel, the vice-president of the Nepal Student Union (NSU) – the sister organization of one of the largest parties Nepali Congress, while giving an exclusive interview to the Radio Free Nepal claimed that the 'new movement would overthrow the king' and the country would 'experience true democracy – that is democracy without king.' Poudel believes it is impossible to bring kings under constitution and is now calling on the international community to support the democracy movement in Nepal and for donors to cut off the flow of aid to Nepal.

Excerpts of the telephone interview:

RFN: How you have taken the February 1's move by King Gyanendra?

POUDEL: Our conclusion on the move is that it had ended whatsoever limited rights the people of the country were enjoying after the restoration of democracy in 1990. We also believe that this step helped us to consolidate our voice about the need of new movement for the establishment of republic as now it would be easier for the democratic power-centers to unite against the King.

RFN: But after more than three weeks of the move, there has been no significant protest programs. Why?

POUDEL: Since this is a political issue, it takes time to reach the mass public. Besides, the King has tried to create the fear among the mass imposing absolutism. We also admit that we have been so far not been able to inform the mass about the real situation, but this doldrums wouldn't remain long.

RFN: You talked about 'New Movement'. How would it be?

POUDEL: The result of all movements so far has been temporary. In 1950, the 101-year-long tyrant Rana regime was thrown but for only 10 years. The monarch didn't let the democracy remain long then. Now similar has happened. There is a need of agreement between the political forces on basic issues for the effective movement that will result in permanent change. Nepali Congress always believed on constitutional monarchy. We, the youth, always questioned monarchy. We always said it's impossible to bring the kings under law – because the kings are by nature absolutists. Now, it's time for all political parties to make consensus for the 'system with our monarch'.

RFN: NSU raised the issues about a year ago, but Nepali Congress tried to discourage the move. So, in new pretext, are you sure the party will support this vision?

POUDEL: Nepali Congress believed in the monarchy, they always saw importance of it. But the King's move on Feb 1 has proved that there can be no democracy when there is the king. Now, it's time for parties to be clear on the issue.

RFN: Nepali people were irritated with the behaviors shown by political parties during democracy and they are saying there are people who believe the king's step is right. In this pretext, how sure
you are for the support of the people for the new movement?

POUDEL: Individuals can be wrong, but that doesn't make a system wrong. We don't believe the state should award corrupt people, but then there are alternatives in democracy. People are free to make their choices whereas there is no such situation now. The people can't choose. The king ended the system pointing at the wrongdoings of individuals. But how clean is the king's behavior? Is monarch clean from corruption? No, today, monarchy is the most opaque and corrupt institution in the country. We want to know where did King Birendra's property go. We want to know why there is increment in palace's budgets. Besides, the present king is a businessman – he owns businesses. Who guarantees that these businesses won't get undue advantages? About people's support, no movement can succeed without people's support. And I believe the mass, especially the youths, are aware of
the need of new movement.

RFN: The king has reiterated his commitment for democracy and said that they will restore democracy in three years. Why can't you wait and see?

POUDEL: There is censorship in media. The media industry which flourished so much during democracy is stalled. There is ban on free flow of expression. People are being arrested. So, all these things prove that it is only the king's fake reiteration – nothing more. No king can be honest for democracy and the expression by King Gyanendra is only an unreal commitment to deceive people and international community.

RFN: At present, what you expect from international communities?

POUDEL: The king is trying to militarize the country; to end people's rights and our history is only the history of monarchy. Nepali people have always suffered due to monarchy. So we request international communities to support in our movement which is for a revolution. We also request all our donor communities, who support Nepal in social, political and military front to stop all the support for now. I request all Nepalis residing abroad and all the well-wishers of Nepal to closely watch our movement and to spread the words. People like Kundan Raj Kafle, who advocated for republic, may face atrocities in custody so we request them to pressure the authority to protect such people from state atrocities.

RSF: Three Journalists Released, Another One Arrested

From Reporters Without Borders/Reporters Sans Frontieres

Reporters Without Borders repeated an appeal for the release of the nine journalists still imprisoned in Nepal after three journalists were released on 25 February.

The authorities freed Bishnu Nishthuri, Secretary General of the Nepalese Federation of Journalists, after 21 days imprisonment; Khem Bhandari, editor of the daily Abhiyan, and Sujeeb Bajracharya, editor of the daily City Times. Seven public figures, including a former minister and an ex-ambassador, were released on the order of Baman Prasad Neupane, head of the Kathmandu district administrative office.

Khem Bhandari, detained since 16 February, was sentenced by the authorities in Kanchanpur district in the east of the country, to pay a fine of 5,000 rupees (50 euros) for infringing the press law.

The previous day, Dipin Rai, editor of the regional weekly Mukti Aawaj and local official for the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, was arrested at his home by security forces in Jhapa, east of the country. All publications in the Jhapa district were closed on 1 February but Dipin Rai had republished his weekly on 22 February. The journalist has been held since 23 February at the barracks of the Chaar Aali battalion in Jhapa.

Tough To Get Word on Civilian Death Toll

I couldn't confirm from reliable sources but there has been talks around about the civilian causalties in the army's offensives against Maoists insurgents. Many people believe, the killings of civilians is rampant in the time when media is not reporting anything, and many my friends have told me there has been Maoists attack in their villages outside the valley. But we are hearing nothing about army causalties (although, we have seen on two occassions, a few army ambulances running out from airports). RFN would like to receive emails at from the people around the country about such incidents. Tomorrow, I will get the lists of published news about the killings of Maoists and Maoists' attacks.

King Missing His Aid Money

The international aid-cut is showing the effect. The King today invited editors of national dailies along with editors of and for tea at the palace and told them that 'he wants his friends (the donor countries) to understand his resolve.'

Bagirath Yogi of was first to publish the report. He wrote: "In the first-ever interaction with a select group of Nepali media at the Narayanhiti royal palace Thursday afternoon, His Majesty King Gyanendra said when we are fighting for democracy and against terrorism, Nepali people want to know what our friends are thinking. We want our friends to help us by word of mouth and by deed. If that is not the agenda they want to go along, then they should tell us what their agenda is, the King said."

So his agenda was terrorism and with terrorism as a stick he wants to walk along the other leaders of the world. What an excuse for dismissing democracy? Terrorism seems to be an unique tool for US support.

The King also asked the donors to clarify their message - what they want to say with the aid-cut? Isn't it clear: they want democracy back in Nepal and the king under constitution. “Are they telling us that we should not fight against terrorism, that we should put our democracy into jeopardy?” The king asked. One may ask: where is democracy in Nepal?

“When we have chosen to uphold democracy and fight against terrorism, why are they shying away from helping us? I can see one thing clearly emerging out of it. Our objectives are the same. We are going to meet somewhere. But we have chosen may be different paths in attaining that objective,” he added. I firmly believe he should stop saying we and start telling I. And the path the king has chosen to end terrorism not only would worsen the situation.

“They must say what they must say and we must do what we must do,” the king's expression not only say he is stubborn to his decision but also that he is ready to put Nepal into more troblu by walking alone if he didn't get support. He also asked political parties to come up with clear vision against terrorism.

So, at least for now, the King is seeing that the water is not moving his way. Rather its the other way and now he is a bit little worried (that's a good sign for people like us who want him to return democracy.) More international dissatisfaction will bring him down the stream and that may save Nepal from lots of trouble

Friday, February 25, 2005

Nepal in the News - Feb. 24, 2005

Even Family Members Can't See Leader Koirala
Nepal Defiant on Military Aid Cut

Civil War Atrocities Follow Royal Takeover

from Human Rights Watch:

(Kathmandu, February 24, 2005) -- In Nepal's civil war, both Maoist insurgents and the Royal Nepali Army continue to attack civilians after the royal takeover of power, violating the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch researchers in the southern town of Nepalgunj documented several attacks on civilians by both the Maoist insurgents and government troops, including the Maoists' burning an ambulance and placing bombs in schools, and government troops shooting and wounding two members of a wedding party. [read more]

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Online Journalism Review Writes About Radio Free Nepal

Nepalese Bloggers, Journalists Defy Media Clampdown by King
By Mark Glaser

After the Royal Takeover in Nepal, King Gyandendra censored the media, arrested journalists and cut communications. But tech-savvy journalists are using their blogs to get news out to the rest of the world.

"Communications are still cut off. And the future of the country, people and our journalistic career look glum." -- Radio Free Nepal blog, Feb. 2, 2005

In the Internet Age, powerful rulers have little chance to operate in a media blackout. They can shut the newspapers, the TV stations and even block Web sites and telephone lines. But eventually, news leaks out, an e-mail here, a Web site there and eventually a Weblog fighting for the cause of the repressed.

In Nepal, King Gyandendra took power February 1 from Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, putting ministers under house arrest and immediately censoring and threatening the free press. But a few days later, after phone lines were back up, journalists were getting news out via Weblogs -- either anonymously posted or under their own names. [read more]

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Nepal in the News - Feb. 23, 2005

Mess in Nepal
India Asks Nepal to Lift Press Curbs
India Must Take the Lead on Nepal: US
Nepal's Military Aid Cut by U.K., India Over State of Emergency

Reporters Without Borders Press Release: Eleven Nepali Journalists Imprisoned

22 February 2005


Reporters Without Borders has renewed an appeal for the release of 11 journalists currently being held in prisons in Nepal.

Six of those being held were among at least 16 journalists security forces picked up after King Gyanendra seized power on 1 February and declared a state of emergency.

Nepal was already holding five journalists before the royal coup, making it, after China, Cuba and Eritrea, the world's fourth largest prison for journalists.

"Until they are released we will continue to urge the international community, particularly the European Union, to apply political and economic sanctions against Nepal", the worldwide press freedom organisation said. It was particularly regrettable that Nepal was using exceptional and anti-terror laws to detain the journalists, it added.

The six journalists still being held after their arrest on the orders of the palace are:

Bishnu Nisthuri, Secretary General of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, arrested on 4 February.

Naryan Adhikari, RSS and Kalifa FM, arrested 13 February.

Basanta Parajuli, Gorkhapatra and Synergy FM, arrested 13 February.

D. R. Panta, Kantipur, arrested 15 February.

Sujeeb Bajracharya, City Times, arrested 16 February.

Khem Bhandari, Abhiyan, arrested 16 February.

The security forces have used exceptional laws to keep the journalists in prison. Narayan Adhikari and Basanta Parajuli, arrested in Chitawan district, were placed in custody for 90 days under the state of emergency. Police who arrested them said it was for criticising the king's orders. Their families can visit them daily for 10 minutes. In the far west of the country, Bhandari, editor of the local daily Abhiyan, was detained for covering a local opposition demonstration. Police had previously arrested him at the beginning of February.

Appeal from Gagan Kumar Thapa

Gagan Kumar Thapa
(copyright Radio Free Nepal; f you wish to display this photo you must put a credit/link to Radio Free Nepal)

Gagan Thapa, the outspoken republic-advocate, and former General Secretary of Nepal Student Union, the sister-organization of the biggest political party Nepali Congress has issued an appeal urging the youth of the country to fight against the King's move. Radio Free Nepal received the appeal in email and is being reproduced here.


Democracy and individual freedoms are not only the hallmark of the 21st century but are the inalienable rights of a nation and its communities and individuals. Today these rights are not only restricted within documents but have become a way of life. King Gynendra's assumption of absolute power in Nepal has not only caused a set-back to the national development but has also compelled all the freedom lovers to re-group to fight till the end using all peaceful means available. We the youth of Nepal represent the agents of change—more fit to invent, than to judge; more fit for execution, than for counsel; and more fit for new projects, than for existing business. No wonder our troubled nation has once again put her faith upon us.

Inefficiency in tackling Maoists and corruption by the political leaders in the past fourteen years has been the basis behind the king's move towards the assumption of absolute power. But the past fourteen years of democratic practice has impacted the way people perceive their rights and freedom. Commoners have become more vocal in demanding their rights with the concerned authorities and that has been the greatest achievement of democracy in the last fourteen years. King Gyanendra claims that the democracy failed to represent the voice of people and is therefore, misleading and baseless. Nepal has remained poor and the justice has been curtailed since its unification. What about the corruption, inefficiency and injustices that have been perpetuated by the Monarch of Nepal for the past 237 years? Shouldn't it be raised as a relevant question? And therefore we the young ones of Nepal have been advancing the cause of republic set-up in Nepal.

Maoist insurgency could have been tackled by the democratic government in its infantile stage back in 1996. But the army headed by the present King didn't allow for that to have a basis and refused to be unified on the side of democracy. And this has happened again, in the last month in Nepal. Therefore the present monarch is not the hero but a villain that has claimed the lives of more than 15,000 lives of common Nepalese and needs to be brought to justice. We the youth of Nepal have to fight our war on two different fronts at this critical moment of history: Monarch and the Maoists. Monarch on the one hand has shown its ambition of maintaining state power at all cost. Maoists on the other have not shown commitment towards the practice of democracy. Both the Monarch and the Maoists have established themselves as extremists with whom the democratic forces cannot afford to comply with until the Maoists change their stance theoretically as well as practically. We the youth, believe that we have a capacity to eradicate the injustices that have prevailed since its unification and to face those that are yet to arise.

Security forces have entered the campus premises today. Many of our political and human rights activists have gone underground but only in order to consolidate our strength and come back with much vigour and enthusiasm. The bigger threat is to these young people who can make the things happen despite the risk. New Nepal cannot rest upon an elite few who have perpetuated crime for the last 237 years. But rather we choose to rely on those who see this nation as a place for all to exercise their rights and pursue a happy and life of abundance.

I, Gagan Kr. Thapa in my capacity as a young leader would like to appeal to my entire generation that the time has come to exercise our capacity to make a positive difference in the national life in Nepal. We have two choices, we can either be mere spectators or we can take the responsibility to propel the nation toward a positive future. The latter choice will lead to a prolonged struggle against all the reactionary forces in Nepal and the former leads to a compromise with those forces. The latter demands the commitment, conviction, and dedication and the former requires total submission. The latter will allow us a free life with access to the state's resources and the former is a future wherein all the Nepalis dignity will be at the mercy of another. I have chosen the path of prolonged struggle that requires commitment and conviction, in order to be instrumental in realizing the common dreams and ambitions of my fellow citizens. I strongly believe that I belong to a generation that knows no compromise with their dignity, a generation that loves to live in a free and just world, a generation which believes in a peaceful movement, and I'm extremely proud to be a part of this generation.

We the youth of Nepal have traveled our hills, terrains, and terais. The sweet smells of our nation runs through our veins making us restless to achieve dignity for our citizens as a nation. We assume this as our moral responsibility. I, Gagan Kumar Thapa, see the takeover of King Gyanendra as a glorious day in the history of Nepal not because it has abolished all the fundamental rights enshrined by the constitution but because this day marks an end of the monarchy in Nepal. I would therefore like to appeal to all the youth in Nepal and abroad to prepare for the peaceful movement. We have seen what we have been provided by our elder generations and we are not ready to accept it any further. Our motherland calls upon us and dear friends, at this crucial point of history we are being looked upon not to falter. We place our firm commitment in the democratic way of life and we believe that every single individual has the right to live in a dignified way. I call upon a total revolution against all the reactionary forces in Nepal, a revolution that is based on the premises of love and brotherhood, a revolution that guarantees freedom and dignified life for all. This freedom will be marked by the "glorious revolution" in the history of Nepal because it will be lead by the generation of the 21st century Nepal fighting for a new and glorious republic of Nepal.

Three Editors Summoned by Government to "Clarify" Blank Opinion Pages

Three editors, Kabir Rana of Deshantar Weekly, Gopal Budhathoki of Sanghu weekly and Rajendra Kumar Baidh of Bimarsha weekly were summoned on Feb 23 to the District Administration Office in Kathmandu to "clarify" their decision to publish blank opinion pages immediately after the Feb 1 Royal Takeover. The black opinion pages were widely seen as a protest of media censorship following the Royal Takeover.

Kabir Rana of Deshantar weekly before he entered the premises of District Administration Office.
(copyright Radio Free Nepal; f you wish to display this photo you must put a credit/link to Radio Free Nepal)

Kabir Rana of Deshantar Weekly, Gopal Budhathoki of Sanghu weekly and Rajendra Kumar Baidh of Bimarsha weekly display the issues of their newspaper immediately after the Feb 1 Royal Takeover when they published blank opinion pages in protest of media censorship.
(copyright Radio Free Nepal; f you wish to display this photo you must put a credit/link to Radio Free Nepal)

RSS Feeds Fixed; More Feed Options Added

We received this note from a reader:
I'm very impressed by your efforts to fight for a free Nepal. I hope to show my supports to you by adding the atom (or RSS2) of your website ( to my blogs. However, it seems the link that you provided, has some setting problems. The cannot add your atom.xml link and asks for a password! Please check these out nad let me know if there is anything that I can help. Thanks! - PYC
We found the error causing this problem. We fixed it. We have also now activated Feedburner and added more options to add feeds to most of any readers. We now hope all is well and you can use our feed. If you encounter more difficulties please send e-mail.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Nepal in the News - Feb. 22, 2005

Nepal Leaders Demand Restoration of Democracy
Military Takeover of Community Radio in Nepal
Nepal's Political Bosses Hide, Plan Political Movemement Against King's Government?
Nepal A Police State: Nepali Congress

King Blocks Web Sites in Nepal

The King is catching on to the Internet. How long until Radio Free Nepal is blocked by the King?

So far these two sites are confirmed as blocked:
(with headlines blocked by King today)

Nepal-India: A story of wasted opportunities: Pandey, Feb 22/05
Swiss projects come to a halt, WI, Feb 22/05
Cartoonist Kalashnikov on target, IANS, Feb 22/05
12 Maoists killed in Sindhuli, Feb 22/05
FM Pandey confident of international support, NK, Feb 22/05
India must take the lead on Nepal: US, Sify, Feb 22/05

News sites in Nepali language; to view Nepali correctly set your encoding to user defined. Download Nepali Fonts for PC. For MAC, Click here

Pro-Bush Bloggers Support Coup

Commenters on the Pro-Bush blog are supporting the King. One says the coup is the same as the Queen sacking the Australian Prime Minister in 1975.

- The king dismissing the prime minister in an effort to ensure the nation does not slip into a Maoist twilight doesn't move my outrage-meter very much.

- A democracy that produces Maoist collectivism is not nearly the moral equal of a monarchy that holds the line against it.

The situation in Nepal is nothing like Australia. Their friend Bush went to war to fight the Taliban and Saddam Hussein to bring democracy to 50 million people. Nepal has 20 million people but now the King has suspended the following rights indefinitely.

  • Freedom of opinion and expression
  • Freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms
  • Freedom to form unions and associations
  • Press and Publication Rights
  • Rights against preventive detention
  • Right to information
  • Right to property
  • Right to privacy
  • Right to constitutional remedy through writ jurisdiction (Writs like
  • mandamus, certiorari, prohibition and quo warranto), except habeas corpus

So does the U.S. support democracy or not?

Radio Free Nepal Interview on The Media Drop blog

TMD: To start, can you explain a little bit about how you've been corresponding over the Internet for the last weeks? I know there are times when outbound communications are shut down, and I would expect that dial up Internet access creates for frustrating situations when trying to get information out there. Are you being monitored while on the Internet at all, or are there certain times when you are able to be online, uncensored?

RFN: At exactly 10:00am on Feb 1, the King's address to the nation was broadcasted by the state-run radio and television. And, by the time, the half-an-hour speech ended, all the inbound and outbound calls were closed. Later I heard that army personnel went to each ISPs and shut down the servers and told them not to run it until further orders.

The telephone was open for a few minutes everyday at random time but with out international calls but no internet. The internet and phone started running as usual after a week and since then working fine without any problem. I don't know if its being monitored or not but my query to the ISP was answered in negative.

During the time, the only way to communicate to outer world was the satellite phones which very less people own. And embassies and UN offices let journalists (I don't know about others) to use internet using their V-SAT.

TMD: Also regarding the Internet, are you able to read most websites, but not have access to self-publishing tools such as blogs and whatnot? [read the rest here]

NOTE: If you wish to interview bloggers from Radio Free Nepal send email to

Blog Links for Radio Free Nepal

Radio Free Nepal Links via Technorati
Nepal "tag" at Technorati
Global Voices Nepal wiki page

Some blogs linking to Radio Free Nepal. Thank you to all for spreading the word.

BuzzMachine: Brave bloggers from Nepal
Publius Pundit
Junkyard Blog
Simon World

Hobbsonline: Radio Free Nepal
It's one thing for bloggers to take on the king of CNN. It's quite another to take on the king of your country.

This is a very good site: International Nepal Solidarity Network

More Nepali Bloggers defy King.

Images from Nepal - Feb. 22, 2005

Nepalese army soldiers patrol a highway in the backdrop of smoldering trucks in Jabang, 100 kilometers (63 miles) southwest of Katmandu, Nepal, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2005. Maoist rebels blocked a key highway leading to Nepal's capital Sunday, planting bombs, laying logs across the road and firing at motorists, injuring three, while security forces struggled to keep crucial lifelines to Katmandu open. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)

Nepali women walk past armed police standing guard in Kathmandu February 20, 2005. Nepal's King Gyanendra said on Friday he took power to protect democracy from Maoist rebels and political instability, as political workers were detained and telephone lines were cut in a bid to scuttle anti-king protests. (REUTERS/Gopal Chitrakar)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Images from Nepal - Feb. 20, 2005

Army Puts Squeeze on Democracy Protestors in Nepal
(copyright Radio Free Nepal; f you wish to display this photo you must put a credit/link to Radio Free Nepal)

Making Mockery of Democracy

His Majesty King Gyandendra
(copyright Radio Free Nepal; f you wish to display this photo you must put a credit/link to Radio Free Nepal)

Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people.

- Abraham Lincoln, 1864

Lincoln's definition to democracy, in his Gettysburg Speech given at the height of American Civil War, is the most widely used and simplest to understand. But Nepal's King Gyanendra either couldn't understand it or is trying to make mockery of it.

Falgun 7, which fell on February 18 this year, is celebrated in Nepal as the Democracy Day because in 1950 AD, for the first time democracy was introduced here ending the 104-year-long autocratic Rana Regime.

King Gyanendra's grandfather King Tribhuvan, a democratic king, led the fight for democracy. Gyanendra's father Mahendra however didn't like democracy and in 1960, suspended democratically elected government to introduce partyless Panchayat System that ended through People's Movement in 1990.

History is gone. But what King Gyanendra is trying hard these days is to show him the most ardent supporter of democracy. The function of democracy day that was live on state-run television and radio, Gyanendra listened while his follower reiterated his support for democracy.

The democracy day was celebrated in manner that would have made a lot of sense in democracy. But at the time, when democracy is dead, it was not more than a mockery of democracy.

Before that too, King Gyanendra mocked democracy. On his Royal Proclamation on Feb 1 after taking all the executive power and dismissing government, he lectured on the importance of democracy and that he is doing all that for protection of democracy. Can anything be protected after killing it?

And iterating his commitment to democracy, he appointed two most undemocratic deputies – Dr Tulsi Giri – the one who thinks there shouldn't be election at all, and Kirti Nidhi Bista – who received 136 votes compared with the winner's more than 59000 when he went into election. Both will be vice-chairman of the government that 'is for the people, by the people and of the people'.

And what's more: on Feb 18, the very democracy day, the security disrupted the rallies in various cities of the country because they were protesting the King's move (see the photo) – so in his democracy, King Gyanendra believes there should be no protest. The phone lines went dead (for outgoing calls) for more than 10 hours in the Kathmandu Valley.

King Gyanendra is an absolutist, no democratic and he should immediately stop mocking democracy.

Advocacy Project Tells Nepal Story

The Advocacy Project in Washington DC USA is telling the story of what happens is Nepal

Bulletin #10: Update from the Nepal Democracy Desk

200 Nepalse Activists Flee to India As Emergency Deepens in Nepal

Bulletin #9: Escaped Daughter of Ex-Premier Says King Ruling By Terror

Dispatches from the Nepalese Democracy Desk

International Nepal Solidarity Network

Human Rights Watch on disappearances in Nepal

UN working group on disappearances in Nepal

Images from Nepal - Feb. 20, 2005

Show of Force from Nepali Army
(copyright Radio Free Nepal; f you wish to display this photo you must put a credit/link to Radio Free Nepal)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

King Cuts Phones & Internet Again; Democracy Day Protest Collapses

Democracy Takes A Beating in Nepal
(copyright Radio Free Nepal; if you wish to display this photo you must put a credit/link to Radio Free Nepal)

Posts to this site are again impossible as the King has cut phone service throughout Nepal in the hopes of curbing protests scheduled for February 18th, Democracy Day, in Nepal.

UPDATE: only outgoing from Kathmandu Valley, incoming service was okay

The King of Nepal cut telephone lines in and out of the country today in an attempt to squash potential protests against the monarch. In an interview, he said he took control at the beginning of this month to protect the constitutional monarchy for democracy and avoid political instability. Political analysts say the military and police are staunch supporters of the king and masterminded the takeover. Maoist rebels have been struggling since 1996 to establish communist rule. More than 11-thousand people have been killed in the related violence. Yet, the Maoists have considerable popular support in some regions of the country. In other regions, people say they are fed up with corruption and instability and support the king.

Here are a few stories this fellow will not be reading tonight:
Only Democracy Can Defeat the Maoists
Students Tooo Will Join Protest
Nepal's King Sets Up Anti-Graft Panel
12 Rebels Killed in Nepal as Maoist Blockade Enters Day 4
Nepal Shrugs Off Critics
Journalist Organizations Express Concern
Protest Against Nepal King Collapse, After Communications Blackout, 57 Arrested
US threatens Cutoff for Nepal Crackdown
43 Anti-Gov't Guerrillas Killed in Nepal
Nepal marks Democracy Day

Cats to Guard Milk: The Anti-Corruption Move

Corruption, which has been continuously spreading its tentacles, has not only cast a shadow over politics and administration, but has also obstructed the nation's march towards progress. Corruption has struck at the very core of our society, the result of which the common man's confidence in the laws of the land has been shaken. Therefore, in keeping with the popular will and to fulfill the main criterion of good governance, effective measures will be adopted to curb corruption, while ensuring that the principles of justice are not infringed upon.

King Gyanendra told the nation in his Royal Proclamation on Feb 1. His commitment towards curbing the corruption which is deep-rooted in the country 'ensuring that principles of justice are not infringed upon' was sweet to the ears. On Feb 16, he constituted five-member Royal Commission for it.

But sadly enough, the reality is, what he had told and what he had done do not match. Indeed he has been asking cats to guard milk.

Let's begin with Day 2 when he constituted his cabinet. His sweet-worded commitment towards curbing corrupting became bitter within 24 hours. His cabinet included two such ministers who can not be called clean in the regard.

Minister of Home Affairs Dan Bahadur Shahi is still under investigation for the suspected embezzlement of NRs. 6,7100,000 along with 14 others. The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is investigating that 'corruption' in importing chemical fertilizers which happened when he was agriculture secretary. And wasn't he the one who was sacked during Girija Prasad Koirala's premiership for dubious charters tics (later to be reinstated by court).

King Gyanendra appointed two vice-chairmen to his cabinet a few days ago. Who are they? Dr. Tulsi Giri, former prime inister, was the 'chief accused' in the Carpet Scandal in 1965 AD. After the scandal known as the biggest of the Panchayat Era, Dr. Giri's political career ended and he left the country. He along with 90 others – including administrators and businessmen – were accused for inappropriate conduct in export of carpet. (Three years after all were given clean chit however.)

Radha Krishna Mainali, another minister, was also under investigation of CIAA but later was given clean chit in lack of enough proofs.

The Royal Commission is constituted for five members with Bhakta Bhahadur Koirala as the chairman. Koirala claimed that 'the corruption will be totally eradicated if he had support of people'. But had anyone looked at Mr. Koirala's career?

He was special secretary at ministry of home affairs when he was sacked after restoration of democracy in 1990. He was also the one pointed out by commission, Mallick Commission (1992), as the administrator with 'corrupt behavior'.

A member of the commission, Shambhu Prasad Kharel, long served in ministry of finance and retired as the secretary of Election Commission. He is known for his love to 'Playing Cards'. He spent most of his career in such department where people believe everyone is corrupt.

So will the government and commission would really curb corruption. Not at all, they will target leaders of politica parties. The chairman has already hinted that. Those who had poor economic standards have suddenly become millionaires today,” Koirala said in a TV interview. His references are directly hinted at political leaders who are accused of having amassed huge property during their term in office.

One more thing is wrong with the Commission: their power. The commission is in a position to investigate and take punitive action against any individual found indulged in embezzlement of fiscal matters, amassing wealth by unfair means, tax evasion and dealing with illegal contracts on the basis of complains received from any source. Probably no other commission in the world has the power to investigate and punish (the commission is equal to the special court).

Moreover, there is no way to criticize the commission's action (that could cost upto NRs. 10,000 fine or 6 month term or both). However, the last appeal could be lodged at the Supreme Court but what could SC do against Royal commission?

Once again, the King's step is only the popular one because there is already CIAA which investigates (alas, they had to take the accused to court and prove the embezzlement!). If he wanted, truly, to curb corruption, CIAA would be the best mean as they are operating for last 25 years.

One thing is clear: the commission will stage a few dramas in coming days and many leaders will be the victims – without chance to clarify themselves (and that will be said to go in accordance with the spirit of the Royal Proclamation!).

An Account from Kantipur TV News Staff on Censoring

This report was written several days ago and recounts the moment immediately preceding the coup when the military took control of Nepali broadcast facilities prior to the announcement of the coup by King Gyanendra.

The army began cordoning our office premises at around 9:30 (0445GMT) in the morning, some half an hour ahead of the Royal Proclamation… the state-owned radio and television had already announced that King Gyanendra was going to address the nation. Nothing more than that had been said, except that the King had summoned the then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and chiefs of security agencies for a Royal audience.

As the group of armymen covered the periphery of the premises, an army major, in his military outfit and a gun, asked for an entry into the television station's newsroom. He politely said that he was here to provide security to the office in case an incident like September 1 occurs (On Sept 1, following the killing of 12 Nepalis in Iraq, there were riots in the city...the rioters had vandalized the office, burning several vehicles and pelting stones on the office building).

All of us, almost the entire news team, watched the Royal Proclamation live on the state owned television. Following the proclamation, the army major asked whether he could visit the control room. By then, the telephone lines were already cut and the cellular phones were cut during the address to the nation itself.

He was promptly shown the studio and news control room of the television station. A lot of confusion had already been created with the announcement of emergency, following the sacking of the then government. A lot of fundamental rights were suspended with the announcement.

The following rights have been suspended:

  • Freedom of opinion and expression
  • Freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms
  • Freedom to form unions and associations
  • Press and Publication Rights
  • Rights against preventive detention
  • Right to information
  • Right to property
  • Right to privacy
  • Right to constitutional remedy through writ jurisdiction (Writs like mandamus, certiorari, prohibition and quo warranto), except habeas corpus

As a matter of fact, not many of us knew what line to follow as far as the news was concerned. So one of the bulletin spot was used to re-telecast the proclamation. In the following bulletin, all the scripts were screened by the Army major. An armed army man was present within the news control room throughout the bulletin. The screening continued throughout the day, including all the bulletins. The same was the case with all of our daily publications and the FM radio news. The armymen
cordoned the premises throughout the night.

The following day, King announced a cabinet of ministers. So we prepared a report on all the cabinet members, which included their positions. Incidentally, the report also talked about the ministers holding some important positions during the Panchayat regime (the non-party political system, which was overthrown by the popular movement in 1990). That news, aired at 1200 local time, was said to be bold under the prevailing circumstances. The army major told us that the news should not go in the format written and those parts had to be deleted from it. So those parts
were removed in our subsequent bulletins.

The same day, we had aired an international news, which had it that the Marxist guerrillas had killed 14 Colombian marines, in Colombia. We ran the news in three of our bulletins, starting in the morning. The army major, very polite in his conversations, requested to remove that news as well. The reason: that could be detrimental to our security forces' morale. The word communist had its effect.

The armymen stayed within the premises for three days and the screening went on a regular basis. One of our bulletins had to be aired two minutes late, because the Major had not finished reading the news then. On the third evening, the army left. But before leaving, they cautioned us to follow the guidelines issued by the government while disseminating news. And we have been following that ever since.

An interesting pattern of news had emerged in the whole media. While some papers had editorials on archery, weather and significance of socks, our regular section of vox-pop in the prime time news, called Janamat, had people being asked the importance of fruits in one's diet. While that was being aired, the control room crew had a hearty laugh. That also prompted the news-anchor to smile. Eventually, the chief of news was asked from a certain person close to the Royal Palace (although he did not reveal the identity and name of the person) on why did the news-anchor had that mocking smile on his face, while reading that particular section. Well, perceptions...

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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Media Fails Nepal in Time of Need

After a fortnight of the Royal Coup, I would like to comment on the media and their 'bravery' in publishing or not publishing about the coup.

Himal, a fortnightly newsmagazine that never failed to criticize the King's role in the past, came up in the bravest way. The first issue after the coup was published two days ago and ran a full page advertisement and a note by editor to tell the readers that the magazine has been censored and claimed that it would soon change. The ad with two photographs, the first with the mountain (mountain is Himal in Nepali) covered by clouds with caption Mountain is blocked … and the second without clouds saying … but will again be unblocked, is so vivid in meaning that everybody understood the hidden meaning.

The editor's note on the content page ‘we regret the difficulties caused by the imbalance in some of our article due to special censor' and grey fill for the content relating to the coup along with the main editorial (‘Long Live Democracy') talking about the King's commitment towards democracy were all but the protest of the King's move. The newsmagazine was heavy censored (how do I know it? Because they left all the censored areas blank.)

Weeklies like Deshantar and Bimarsha although were censored protested the move by leaving the editorial page blank and publishing the front page in grey. What we today popularly talk as the Mission Journalism (the role of journalists in returning democracy to Nepal in 1990 was greatly appreciated and called that Mission Journalism while trying to separate it from professional journalism) is set to make a return. The journalists at era of 1960-1990 bravely published newspapers despite being imprisoned and punished several times.

After 1990, journalism has become an industry and we all enjoyed the good things about it in the recent past, now we are experiencing the misery. The big newspapers despite having a huge reader-base and influence failed in the test due to fear that the King would order the close-down of the newspapers (why would any publisher want to lose the advertisings and the huge investment?) Kantipur Publications, which never let slip away any moment to show itself the great supporter of the democracy, chose to protest meekly with light editorials (on newspapers) and light news stories (on TV). No wonder many people around me have stopped reading the #1 newspaper (why should we?)

Kantipur even chose to close-down its printing press in Chitwan and handed contract-termination letters to all the employees there. One of my acquaintances, who was working for the newspaper for last 12 years as a plate-maker, couldn't stop his tears. I felt really sorry for him when he talked about the need for finding a job as soon as possible for his family survival.

The other day, The Kathmandu Post, printed a photograph of a journalist who lost the job as his newspaper was closed. In the photograph he was seen playing guitar in front of the board that displayed the advertisement of the newspaper he worked for. So many around me has lost the job, even mine is in danger, that I felt all my enthusiasms for journalism have swept away.

The Maoists have announced the blockade to the capital and I heard that outside the Kathmandu Valley everything is closed. With army escorting around 200 vehicles are going out and coming in but nothing is as normal. If all this continue, I don't know what will be the situation after a month.