Joe Hendren

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Violent suppression of independent media in Nepal

Interesting first hand account of recent events in Nepal by a Korean journalist, detailing how the Nepali army and police (no doubt under orders from the King) are attempting to suppress negative media coverage, by beating up journalists and refusing to issue a 'curfew pass' to media not thought to be sympathetic to the King.

Dear, All

It’s Lee (I am leaving out last names until I hear from him/her), a Korean journalist, your friend or comrade, currently covering the ongoing people’s movement in Nepali soil. As you all probably informed, things have been terrible here in Nepal over the last more than 2 weeks, though some calm period has passed for a few days. The armed force, whoever the police or the army (but more police till now in terms of the number) have suppressed the peaceful demonstrators by beating terribly, fire hundreds of tear gas and shot at them with rubber bullet as well as live one. It’s routinely seen that a demonstrators who desperately appeals with extreme fear was beaten more than 4-5 police surrounding him (or her). Journalists (both Nepali and Foreign media), aid workers, human rights activists are not exception from the brutal action. Especially for local journalist, they got daily arrest and much harassment.

No press freedom respected. Whenever journalists take photo of brutal actions by police, he or she could be beaten or get threatening being beaten at least. Since the police start to beat the people, they care almost no one. Yes it’s their job! The other day, one American doctor who did volunteer for the injured was also beaten by the police and arrested on 12th and the next day deported to Bangladesh, where he lives. It’s done indiscriminately. But I must clarify that those who’s been worst dealt are demonstrators in general.

On April 20, when another biggest rally was held all over the country as the seven political parties’ alliance(SPA) decide, the authority declare a day curfew again and doesn’t issue ‘curfew pass’ for anyone, such as medias (there’s a rumor that only some Indian media that reportedly is favorable King, got it. but let me confirm it later soon), aid workers, human rights activists, who all got it last week curfew. Less journalists, therefore, could manage to get the venues with some questionings or harassment to cover it. I, myself faced that situation, in which my camera was “almost” taken by the police and told I must be taken to their place, ie..police staion. But I managed to avoid it. Human rights activists who used to watch the human rights violation in protest (but, honestly, it looks powerless before the armed force), and even the UN staffs couldn’t be issued a ‘curfew pass’. Logically, the suppression was highest ever on that day with less witness. In Kalanki, the west-south of Kathmandu, 3 were declared to be killed. But rumor says it’s 6 people as of this writting. In Gongabu, the northern part of the capital and once called a ‘war-zone', the police harassed journalists more than ever. I got threatened (reads “positioning to beat in a very threaten manner” by the cop) to be beaten 3 times when I tried to take photo of one poor guy beaten terribly with bloody by 5-6 police. A Japanese journalist told me the similar experience in the same area.

Now, I’d like to urgently & kindly request you to try to organize some solidarity movement, message or whatsoever which is badly needed at this moment for the Nepali people struggling against the autocratic King, Gyanendra and his royalist government. Please, keep watching the news from Nepal. This is “priority”. Thanks.

This morning I emailed Lee to pass on a message of solidarity and kai kaha from New Zealand. I have also asked him/her where people would be best to send messages of support for the pro-democracy movement and independent media currently reporting from Nepal. If he/she gets back to me I will post his/her suggestions.

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