November 28, 2005

Nepali police raid radio station, detain reporters

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Armed Nepali police stormed a radio
station, detained four reporters and seized equipment to block
a BBC interview with Maoist chief Prachanda, the company said
on Monday.

The late Sunday raid on independent Radio Sagarmatha (the
Nepali name for Mount Everest) is part of an ongoing crackdown
on media since King Gyanendra took power in February.

Radio Sagarmatha regularly relays the BBC Nepali Service,
which broadcast a rare interview with Prachanda on Sunday, but
the Kathmandu station has not so far relayed the interview.

"They gave us two letters from the government asking us to
hand over our broadcasting materials to an official and to stop
transmitting news bulletins," Radio Sagarmatha station chief
Lakshman Upreti told Reuters.

The station had already decided not to play the Prachanda
interview and switched to music when it ran on the BBC service,
he said.

Ratna Raj Pandey, a spokesman for the Information and
Communications Ministry, said the move was to enforce a ban on
news broadcasts on private FM stations.

Last month, the government banned news on private stations
and introduced harsher fines and prison terms for defamation.
It also banned criticism of the royal family.

Criticism of the King and independent reporting of the
anti-monarchy Maoist revolt have been banned since King
Gyanendra fired the government on February 1, a move that
sparked global criticism and the suspension of some military

The King says his action was the only way to end the
nine-year-old Maoist revolt that has cost more than 12,500
lives and shattered the economy.