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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
S Asia media rallies for freedom
Nepal journalists' rally
Nepalese journalists say restrictions on them remain
About 1,000 journalists have marched in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, to demand the restoration of press freedoms following the royal takeover.

Severe restrictions, including media censorship, were imposed after King Gyanendra seized control on 1 February.

Protests to mark World Press Freedom day were also held in Pakistan.

Global media watchdog Reporters without Borders attacked the media's treatment in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

'Free detained journalists'

Although a state of emergency has been lifted in Nepal, the restrictions remain.

The press in Nepal is still under severe restrictions
Taranath Dahal
President, Federation of Nepalese Journalists

Police watched Tuesday's rally by journalists but did not intervene, despite a ban on demonstrations in several parts of Kathmandu.

"Free detained journalists, reinstate press freedoms," the journalists chanted.

Since the royal takeover, the media has been barred from criticising the monarch or the government and security forces.

Independent radio stations have also been banned from broadcasting. Correspondents say the ban has left more than 1,000 journalists unemployed.

"The press in Nepal is still under severe restrictions," Taranath Dahal, president of the Federation of Nepalese journalists, said.

He said many journalists were being harassed and intimidated throughout the country.

Press under attack

In Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, police briefly detained more than 20 journalists who marched on the prime minister's office as part of protests demanding greater press freedom.

Tuesday's protests coincided with a report released to mark World Press Freedom day by the media watchdog, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF, Reporters Without Borders).

It criticised the treatment of journalists in Nepal where some 400 journalists had been arrested or questioned but also strongly condemned the state of media freedom in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

It said:

  • Nepal's journalists are caught in the crossfire between Maoist rebels and government forces
  • Bangladesh was the country with the largest number of journalists physically attacked or threatened with death
  • The government there showed no interest in combating violence against the press
  • In Sri Lanka, violence by Tamil factions most threatened journalists' safety and freedom of expression

Last week, a pro-Tamil Tiger journalist was abducted and killed in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

Dharmaretnam Sivaram, 46, was a senior editor of the TamilNet website.

Bangladesh came under fire not only from RSF, but two other media freedom groups.

The International Federation of Journalists said hundreds of journalists in Bangladesh had been threatened, assaulted or tortured for reporting on crime and corruption.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Bangladesh was among the five most dangerous countries for journalists worldwide.

The Bangladeshi authorities said violent incidents against journalists were being investigated. It said the RSF's description of the country as a kind of hell for the independent press was baseless.

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