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).