Nepal: journalists protest censorship

More than 400 members of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) staged a rally in Kathmandu March 29 to demand an end to press censorship imposed by King Gyanendra when he seized power last month. Unlike other anti-monarchy demonstrations in the past two months which have been quickly broken up by police, the journalists’ protest was allowed to proceed uninterrupted as a strong deployment of armed police looked on.

Organizers said the march, during which protestors carried placards reading “Release all detained journalists,” “Restore press freedom” and “Lift press censorship”, also marked the golden jubilee of the FNJ’s founding. So far, nine journalists have been detained by the government since the king suspended civil government Feb. 1.

Around 50 political and student activists were arrested that same day for protesting in Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal, the Nepali Congress (NC) party claimed.

“The security men arrested over four dozen party cadres and students affiliated to the Nepali Congress and other parties for holding peaceful demonstrations in at least four parts of the country to protest the king’s direct rule,” it said in a statement. (Qatar Peninsula, from wire sources)

On March 31, eastern Nepal was almost entirely shut down by a general strike called by Maoist rebels to protest the state of emergency. Schools and businesses were closed, and roads blockaded. Reports claimed many residents stayed home to avoid reprisals from the guerillas. (AP, April 1)

The guerillas do seem to be using some ugly tactics, if the state media is to be believed. At least nine civilians, including two children, were injured in the southwestern town of Butwal March 29 when three guerillas exploded a bomb hidden in a pressure cooker in a local shop, state-run radio said. (Qatar Peninsula)

See our last blog post on the Nepal crisis.