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Government Gags Press Freedom Again

To the gross violation of press freedom, the government led by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) has grilled the state-run Nepal Television (NTV) management about the live broadcast of a programme of opposition parties.

Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai himself inquired General Manager of the NTV Deepak Mani Dhital and Director Rajendra Dev Acharya saying, "Why did you broadcast live the programme organized by 22 opposition parties?"

The Prime Minister made such inquiry just a day after the 22 political parties out of the government organized a joint mass gathering in the capital city on June 8, 2012 in protest of government's allegedly unconstitutional move of dissolving Constituent Assembly and announcing election unilaterally.

"Inquiry to the media house by the Prime Minister about the live broadcasting of peaceful gathering of the opposition parties is a direct attack on free press. It is an autocratic practice of the government to suppress press freedom and deprive people of their right to information. Also, it is the move to control every view opposite to the government thereby rendering opposition's role insignificant. It is undemocratic," said Taranath Dahal, Chairperson of the Freedom Forum.

Of course, the Prime Minister has blatantly ignored the role of opposition which is detrimental to democracy. The government has gradually making efforts to bring the media under its control which is a serious threat to democracy in Nepal.

If there was anything wrong in the media content, it was not government but a separate body- Press Council Nepal-to oversee this. But, there was no such content either.

It is clear that government violated the press freedom by attempting to suppress public opinion and right to criticism.

Noted here, the Ministry of Information and Communications had written to the Image Channel on May 20, 2012 about the Jana Chaso (People's Concern), a radio programme run in Image FM urging to make it unbiased.

Therefore, it can be said the recent move of the government has come as a series of attack on press freedom. Freedom Forum vehemently condemns the incident.