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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2005, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Nepal radio stations resume news
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Nepalis in Kathmandu
FM radio reaches many more Nepalis than any other media
Several independent FM radio stations in Nepal have resumed news broadcasts despite a government ban imposed six months ago.

A Supreme Court order on Wednesday suspended government moves to shut down a private radio station in Kathmandu.

Responding to a petition by the radio station the court said the ban violated the public's right to information.

The ban was imposed when King Gyanendra took direct power and imposed strict censorship six months ago.

FM radios reach more Nepalis than any other news media in the country.

When the monarch took absolute power in February, he continued to allow newspapers and television to broadcast news.

But the FM stations, apart from the official Radio Nepal, were silenced.

Party activity

The stations were ordered to broadcast no information at all - only entertainment.

Nepal's King Gyanendra
The king imposed sweeping censorship on seizing direct power

But the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Nepal FM, a private channel that has defiantly been airing social and development issues for over a month.

Last week, the ministry of information sent the station a letter threatening to close it down.

But the top court ordered the ministry to suspend the closure until it reached a final verdict.

The court order has led to several regional stations resuming news programmes.

A well-established community station in Kathmandu says it will resume broadcasts about the government from Thursday evening.

The station, however, said it will avoid reporting political party activities for now.

It used to carry the BBC Nepali service, and it hopes to start it again in a few weeks.

Even if the ban on private radio news is eventually lifted, many journalists here, particularly outside the capital, are likely to continue facing difficulties.

Both government officials and the Maoist rebels will continue to apply pressure.

A ban on any independent reporting of the conflict in Nepal remains in place.

The Nepalese authorities accuse FM stations of encouraging Maoist rebels, who are carrying out a bloody campaign to replace the monarchy with a communist republic.


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