Update: In a separate agitation program today, police detained over 35 journalists from the southern gate of Singha Durbar, the central administrative block as some scribes were protesting against the recent Maoist attack on the press. Demanding reinstatement of 49 scribes who were sacked from state-owned Gorakhapatra, press freedom, among other, the journalists were staging a sit-in at the south gate of Singha Durbar today. (more)
In a pleasant development in the struggle for press freedom, Nepali media emerged victorious yesterday after the Maoists backed off from their strikes in media houses. Meanwhile, prominent editors of the country have come under a common umbrella called Editors’ Alliance. Here’s the summary of the development:
Court Issues Stay Order: The Patan Appellate Court on Wednesday (15 Aug) issued a stay order requiring a Maoist-aligned trade union not to obstruct the printing and distribution of The Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post dailies. The court noted that the obstruction has infringed people’s constitutional and legal right to information.
Mahara Urges Dialogue: Minister for Information and Communications Krishna Bahadur Mahara has urged the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and other media organizations to resolve the present crisis seen at media houses through dialogues. “We have a special request to the FNJ and other organizations to take positive initiative to resolve the dispute between working journalists and the managements of media organizations,” Mahara said in a statement. “The government is seriously concerned due to the uncomfortable situation at Gorkhapatra Corporation, HBC FM , Annapurna Post, The Himalayan Times and other institutions in recent days,” Mahara said. (source)
Shalikram Jamarkattle, Chief of the Maoist trade union, has said that his organization wouldn’t obstruct the publications of newspapers from 15 August. He issued a statement on 15 August saying that while launching agitation for the rights of workers, his trade union wouldn’t close down offices and disrupt printing and circulation of the newspapers. He also said that other forms of agitation would be opted. He also requested his union’s branch in the Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post not to obstruct the publication of the dailies, Annapurna Post reported in its 16 August edition.
APCA Thanks: “We in the APCA family worldwide are extremely happy at this turn of events. It has once again vindicated our faith in Nepal’s democracy and the democratic institutions in the country, especially its fearless and extremely fair judiciary. We are also very glad to see the responsibility with which leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and its affiliated union have behaved to resolve the deadlock. At this moment we would also like to express our deepest admiration for democratic political parties in Nepal, the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, the Nepal Media Society, all our contemporary publications, as also various independent television and radio stations of Nepal, Editors Alliance, Nepal Bar Association, diplomatic community, Nepal’s civil society and business community.” –from a Thank You note published in today’s The Himalayan Times.
[Disturbance on fifth consecutive day: The workers continued to disrupt the printing and distribution of The Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post for the fifth consecutive day today (15 August), the Times reported. “They also prevented the staffers from entering the newspapers’ offices for an hour in the afternoon. The workers barred printing and dispatch staff of the Sama Printers (printers of the THT and AP) from entering the office premises in Bhaisepati last night and this morning (15 August).”]
Editors Alliance Formed: A group of editors of Nepal’s national newspapers, magazines and television have set up an alliance to fight what they called a “concerted and deliberate” spate of attacks on press freedom. Ten members of the Editors’ Alliance said on Wednesday they have come together because they saw a sinister pattern of intimidation and threats against journalists by Maoist-affiliated organizations.
“We didn’t have such a serious attack on press freedom even during the direct censorship of media after the king’s coup in February 2005,” the Alliance said in a statement. The Alliance is made up of editors of The Kathmandu Post (Prateek Pradhan), Nepal Samacharpatra, (Pushkar Lal Shrestha), Kantipur (Narayan Wagle), Image Channel (Vijay Panday), The Himalayan Times (Ram Pradhan), Sudheer Sharma (Nepal), Shree Acharya (Annapurna Post), Yubaraj Ghimire (Samaya), Shiva Gaunle (Himal Khabarpatrika) and Kunda Dixit (Nepali Times). [Kunda Dixit is the chair of the Alliance.]
A release issued by the Alliance on 15 August stated: The publication of The Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post have since 11 August been obstructed by a Maoist-affiliated labour union. Members have even entered the news room to physically threaten journalists. Production at Nepal Samacharpatra, Kantipur, Kathmandu Post, HBC FM, Drishti Weekly have also been disturbed in recent weeks.
“We ask that the Maoist leadership, including Information Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, honour its stated commitment to protect press freedom and not to incite attacks on the media,” the Editors’ Alliance stated. The Alliance also drew the attention of UNMIN and the international community to these assaults and threats on the media and the impact this will have on the peace process and its potential to disrupt the environment for free and fair elections.