Sunday, May 29, 2005

Kathmandu orders closure of radio centre

AFP[ SUNDAY, MAY 29, 2005 07:35:49 AM ]
KATHMANDU: Nepal's government has ordered the closure of a radio programmeproduction centre in the latest crackdown on the media since the kingassumed absolute power almost four months ago, the centre said Saturday."The Ministry of Information and Communications sent a letter to us Friday(telling) us to shut down our centre," said Gopal Guragain, managingdirector of the Communication Corner which operates with a team of 12journalists. The ministry said the centre, which provides programming to 14of the 50 private FM radio stations across the country, was operatingillegally, Guragain said.King Gyanendra ordered a halt to all radio bulletins, the main business ofthe Communication Corner, when he dismissed the government and seized poweron February 1.Since then the centre has been producing programming dealing with socialissues such as health, community development and religion, according toGuragain, who insisted he would defy the closure order issued by thegovernment, appointed by the king."We have done nothing wrong. We have not done anything illegal. We have beenworking as per the government's directives," he said."We will not obey the government's 'close down' order and we will challenge(it) in the supreme court. Unlike the government, we believe in the rule oflaw. The (order) has made it clear that rule of law has ended in thecountry. "We will go to the supreme court on Monday and I am talking to mylawyers now," Guragain said.It is the first time the government has ordered the closure of a unit of theNepalese media since the re-establishment of democracy in the country in1990.The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) criticised the government'sorder against the Communication Corner."The order is a well-planned attack against the media. This is a crackdownon the Nepalese media by the government," FNJ secretary Balaram Baniya said."It is an illegal and undemocratic move."He said journalists would on Sunday stage a protest in the capital Kathmanduagainst the closure order. They were expected to be joined by hundreds ofradio journalists who have lost their jobs since the ban on FM radiostations broadcasting news bulletins came into effect.The FNJ said this month that at least six journalists remained in detentionfollowing the royal coup and noted that several newspapers had been shutdown by the authorities or had closed due to financial problems. It saidmore than 2,000 reporters had lost their jobs since the royal crackdown.The king repeated in a televised address late Friday that the royal takeoverhad been necessary to end an increasingly bloody Maoist revolt. The Maoistrebels have been fighting to overthrow the monarchy in Nepal since 1996 in aconflict that has claimed more than 11,000 lives.

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