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State-Run News Agency Seeks Clarification from editors for disseminating news; Govt's utmost misuse of State media, coordinated move to gag FoE, media in Nepal

Nepal government has been earning disrepute because of its blatant attempts one after another to stifle freedom of expression and press, panicking journalists for nearly a year.

Whether it was the gross effort to turn quasi-judicial body- Press Council Nepal- to a fully judicial one to whip journalists with huge punishment as -imprisonment and fine of up to 10 millions, or the the move to control citizen's space on internet with stringent IT Bill and the arrest of journalists merely for writing news and sharing on online media, the government seems fully prepared to gag FoE and press freedom in a coordinated manner, thereby collapsing a pillar of democracy in Nepal.

The latest attack on free media comes with the seeking of clarification from editors at the State-run news agency named Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) for disseminating news on April 28 in Kathmandu. Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal, which lies in Province 3. 

Freedom Forum's representative for Province 3, Ashok Dahal, reported that the news agency sought clarification from its editors for translating and dispatching news related to exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama. Editors including senior one Somnath Lamichhane, and Mohini Risal and Jeevan Bhandari were asked by RSS management to furnish clarification for disseminating the news on Dalai Lama in the wake of President Bidya Bhandari's visit to China.

Quoting RSS staffers representative Dahal informed, "A probe committee has been formed 'apparently to intimidate' journalists involved in translation and dissemination of the news on wire with the pressure from Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Banskota."

News about Dalai Lama's discharge from hospital was initially carried by the Asian News International (ANI), which the editors translated into Nepali for the RSS. 

Dahal further shared that the Minister's blatant interference on the news agency with the issuance of threat to sack editors involved in the translation has panicked all journalists in the news agency, thereby brewing fear and self-censorship.

Following the incident, Nepal's English daily, The Kathmandu Post, reported that the Minister took the decision to seek clarification with editors 'following the objection from the Chinese Embassy officials on the news.'

"The incident is not only the violation of press freedom, but a sheer misuse of State media. Growing meddling in the State-run media by the government is the signal that editorial freedom is dying. With the censure, the country's news agency is likely to be mere mouthpiece of the government, which is detrimental to freedom of expression of citizens. It is mockery of democracy to make coordinated moves to gag FoE, press freedom in the recent times in Nepal, "observes Executive Chief, Taranath Dahal.

Such harsh atmosphere for freedom of expression, and hostile behaviour to journalists must come to an end, FF concludes. FF strongly urges the government to stop intimidating media and journalists and put into practice the guarantee of press freedom.

It is noteworthy here that recent Annual May 3 Report recorded 104 incidents of press freedom violations in Nepal- nearly double the last year.

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