Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Glum Future

Communications are still cut off. And the future of the country, people and our journalistic career look glum.

India has strongly come against the move as well as US, UK and UN. India’s PM Manmohan Singh’s decision to cancel the SAARC meeting starting Sunday, we believed, would hit the King hard. Despite the Foreign Secretary of India Shyam Saran quoted two reasons (the other being deteriorating situation in Dhaka, Bangladesh where the meeting has been scheduled), we were all unanimous that India do not want to share the same dais with the King as it would mean ‘support of coup’.

Indian newspapers, although were not available here, called the move coup, according to AFP and urged their government to go strongly against it. The UN, UK, Amnesty International all condemned the move in strong words as well as United States.

One of my friend at Kantipur daily told me, when we met on the road, that his office looked like a military barrack with army vehicles coming and going frequently and army men roaming around freely. They had made a visitor room in the TV building their office and are censoring everything. He called it a ‘psychological warfare’ against the biggest publishing house of the nation.

I heard that the state has asked the FM stations to stop broadcasting news bulletins however, the BBC Radio FM which was not broadcasting yesterday started service today. TV news are being closely monitored (‘they are looking every word’ is what the friend at KTV liked to call).

Annapurna Post didn’t put pictures as they used to in the airpanels which we earlier thought was a way to protest. But we were wrong, the official in charge of it didn’t like any picture above the picture of the King and they were gone. The censorship so far has been subjective of the officials in charge. The army in Nepal Samarcharpatra even forced them to put the news about closure of the weeklies and eveningers (in fact there were several eveningers in the market today).

The condemnation from all ensured that the King move was not backed by any neighbors and was therefore a foolish one. If India comes out against it strongly, then there would be no other option for the King other than to surrender.

Just before writing this, I watched Nepal Television News that showed all the ministers and their quotes. Minister for Information and Communication Tanka Dhakal told the reporters that it was the time of crisis and everybody should help the King. He said there would be no loosening in media ‘until a step further for the end of crisis’.

The first thing that his ministry did today was issuance of a directive prohibiting any articles, news, view, even personal view against the theme of proclamation for next six months. The journalism which was flourishing well in democracy all looked pale and notwithstanding the charm. What will we do without the right to expression, information and with the censorship.

I am curious about what might the King has been thinking about the internet. It can not be blocked for long and if it’s open there is no meaning of blocking foreign newspaper and channels in Nepal. And all the things will be out in the internet through emails.

It’s very difficult to live without communication.

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