Nepal is a country which has been living under a so-called ‘state of emergency’ and its extended anti-constitutional aftermath decreed in Nov. 2001 by the corrupt and despotic monarchy, an absolutist regime which is now exercising control directly through the military and police while fighting (with great and indiscriminate, if ineffective, brutality) a Maoist insurgency which has de facto control of almost two-thirds of the country and the support of vast sectors of the rural poor.
Parliament was disbanded in the name of the ‘war on terrorism’ (which is how the fight against the insurgency is described) and now people who simply exercise Constitutional rights are arrested as ‘terrorist sympathizers’. Many who are merely critical –or thought to be critical — of the regime are jailed, tortured, killed in jail or summarily executed on the spot.
The press censorship which has led to the jailing of over three hundred journalists and many deaths of established writers and media workers since the November 2001 suspension of press freedoms, has actually escalated in advance of upcoming rigged municipal elections (being staged by the King for the benefit of the international community and being boycotted by all seven major political parties).
Recently, the Royal government’s forces raided the privately-owned FM radio station Kantipur FM and confiscated its equipment. Since radio is the main source of news for most Nepalis, this constitutes an attempt at complete blackout of real professional news service in advance of the staged elections. This was met by an immediate response by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and other democratic forces, a large demonstration in Kantipur, but this defiance has gained little international press coverage. Lost trekkers last week got a hundred times more international coverage than the demo and its causes. The journalists of the FNJ told me that they expected a further and quickening escalation of repression against the press and despaired of the lack of interest by all but few international organizations when, they believed quite rightly, it would take wide public, popular protest and pressure from outside Nepal to prevent the complete decimation of the media there and of all remaining democratic institutions.
The international community should come to the aid of the Nepalese and protest in the most vigorous manner the attacks on freedom of the press, intellectual freedom, freedom of assembly and the rights to petition for the redress of grievances there, as well as protesting the arrests and mistreatment of professional journalists.
The Federation of Nepalese Journalists has requested this assistance. This needs to be both an immediate and sustained effort. Contact me directly for further information or to volunteer to help. Email: email@example.com
American Library Association Councilor at large
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