Monday, November 28, 2005

Night raid on Sagarmatha FM,journos in custody

Kathmandu, November 28-Policemen and officers from the Ministry of Communication and Information tonight raided the studio of Radio Sagarmatha, a community FM radio station run by Nepal Federation of Environment Journalists(NEFEJ). This is the second night raid by the ministry in FM stations after the Media Ordinance was promulgated. The incident took place when Sagarmatha was about to air the BBC programme, being up-linked by the FM station. BBC Nepali Service was scheduled to broadcast Maoist leader Prachanda’s interview with BBC. “At 9.20 pm a group of government officials, who arrived at the studio with policemen, seized raided some equipment and arrested five of our staffers,” said Bhupendra Basnet, the general secretary of NEFEJ.

Officials with the F. M. station told that armed security personnel also left behind two letters. One of the letters asked the F. M. to shut down its entire transmission until further notice. The other letter said the authorities were taking some radio equipment for investigation.

According to F. M. sources, Police gheraoed the station, asked the reporters and radio staff not to use phone, seized transmission equipment and took five journalists and technical staff into their custody.

Those arrested include radio journalists Ms. Durga Karki, Dipak Babur Aryal, Dipak Raj Pandey, Punya Bhandari and technician Rajendra Bhandari.

The team reporters Punya Bhandari, Dipak Aryal, Dipak Raj Pandey and Durga Karki and a technician Rajendra Rijal and have been taken to Lalitpur District Police Office. Karki was released being a female and also because the police station did not have a separate room to lodge women. General Secretary of Federation of Nepalese Journalists Mahendra Bista said .Reports said police later released Ms. Karki.

That the incident is another example of state terrorism, done on the pretext of implementing the so-called media ordinance. He said that the journalists were arrested on he charge of “supporting the terrorist” even when the FM station had discontinued broadcasting the BBC programme. “This is another example of the state’s mid-night terrorism. The government

has attacked another free radio and taken away its equipment. The government must return the equipment,” he said. He also added that FNJ would soon announce a protest programme.

On Sunday, BBC Nepali Service carried an exclusive interview with Maoist chairman Prachanda alias Pushpa Kamal Dahal—the first radio interview given by him in the last ten years-- in its edition today. He spoke about recent understanding between the seven party alliance and his party.

The radio station had, however, aired music instead of Prachanda’s interview.

Reports said some seven F. M. stations outside the capital, Kathmandu, were forced to drop their transmission of BBC Nepali today by the local authorities.

The authorities also suspened the transmission of BBC World Service over 103 F. M. owned by the state-run Radio Nepal from this evening.

Reasons were not immediately known. The state-run Radio Nepal has been blocking the news broadcast of BBC over 103 F. M. since the royal takeover in February this year.

At around mid-night on October 21, 2005, police had raided the station of Kantipur F. M.a leading private radio station in the country—and seized its equipment used to uplink its transmission. The authorities are yet to return those equipment.

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